3 ways to fix the Commanders defense after woeful start to 2023 season

Jack Del Rio
Jack Del Rio / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders defensive scheme

I thought before the season that the inability of Cody Barton and Jamin Davis to make plays against the run would be a problem and one way to address it would be using more five-man defensive fronts. I have been a little surprised that the Washington Commanders have not tried this more so far this season.

I suspect that the absence of both Efe Obada and Phidarian Mathis has been one reason for this.

Abdullah Anderson has been a pleasant surprise as a backup defensive tackle. He has appeared to move ahead of John Ridgeway as the first backup for Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne as a result.

Jack Del Rio has been careful about overworking those tackles, and I suspect Payne is already logging too many minutes. But I would still expect to see more five-man fronts as the season goes on, perhaps using a player like James Smith-Williams on the inside as someone who can shoot gaps and disrupt plays behind the line of scrimmage.

If they play more 5-1-5 defenses, I would also expect to see Davis and Barton split those snaps more evenly.

So far, Barton has been the only linebacker on the field, but I think Davis needs to be out there more to see what he can do. The former first-round pick has improved from his rookie season to the point where he is a good player - the only Commanders linebacker who can make disruptive plays.

Davis may still be considered an underachiever if you take into account his first-round draft pedigree, but that really doesn’t matter at this point. He has developed into a decent player.

But if decent isn’t good enough for you, here’s my more radical solution to Washington’s defensive woes. A zero-linebacker strategy.

Run a 5-6 on early downs, and a 4-7 on passing downs. Put Quan Martin and Percy Butler on the field and let them wreak havoc.

If the linebackers are not going to step up and make stops on running plays within six yards of the line anyway - and if they are going to be shaky in coverage - why not try these fast, aggressive hybrid safeties?

Opposing offenses will just attempt to pound the ball at an undersized defense. That might be interesting to watch in this day and age when even the most conservative minds can’t seem to resist flinging the ball all over the field.

Unless the opposing coach is Bill Belichick, I’d wager they will not stay disciplined enough to just run the ball play after play.

Worth a try, no? I mean, it’s not as if Adam Archuleta is coming out of the broadcast booth to save the day.