Commanders run defense is crucial
Even in the era of passing, defenses have to stop the run. If the Washington Commanders cannot, everything begins to suffer.
They will not get off the field because they are constantly facing third and short situations. As safeties Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest are required to creep up and make more and more tackles, the secondary will be susceptible to big plays at key moments. No matter how modern things have become, you still have to stop the run.
I have been advocating for a more traditional run-stopping linebacker for years now. Back in 2019, and then again in 2021, it was free agent Denzel Perryman. During the 2021 NFL Draft, I wanted offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw in the first round and linebacker Nick Bolton in the second – instead of Jamin Davis and Sam Cosmi.
Last year, I wanted Washington to go big for the Philadelphia Eagles' D.J. Edwards. I don’t know whether any of these players were seriously considered. I only know that Bolton would look awfully good patrolling the middle of the field for the Commanders in 2023.
Washington’s run defense last season ranked very high. But this is a classic example of how statistics can lie.
The run defense was extremely erratic. They played marvelous games against division opponents like Philadelphia and the Dallas Cowboys but were annihilated by the Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.
One thing became clear. Though the overall rushing numbers were steady - or as steady as can be with an inconsistent squad - the run defense got worse after Cole Holcomb went out mid-season.
In the seven games in which Holcomb played, Washington’s defense held opponents to an average yards-per-carry of under four in more than half the games. Four games were under this average, and three were over that threshold.
In the 10 games without Holcomb, those numbers were much more alarming. Teams rushed for more than four yards per carry in seven of those.
I think Cody Barton is a good player, but he doesn’t do what Holcomb did. The best run-stopper they have is David Mayo, who was a primary fill-in last season. He is an adequate run-stopper, but his limitations make him a potential liability if opponents choose to test him in coverage.