Commanders should challenge LBs Cody Barton and Jamin Davis
For going on a decade, the Washington Commanders have seemingly been unable to find any semblance of consistent above-average play from the linebacker position. Not since the days of London Fletcher, Perry Riley, and Rocky McIntosh have the franchise had a truly deep stable on the defensive second level.
While players like Cole Holcomb, Jon Bostic, Will Compton, Mason Foster, Zach Brown, and Keenan Robinson each saw short spurts of statistical success, none were truly legitimate game-changers.
With head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio both being former NFL linebackers themselves, most would think that solidifying the position with elite talent would be a priority. It seems not.
Washington's current rotation features third-year man Jamin Davis and veteran newcomer Cody Barton, who spent the previous four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks as mostly a part-time player and special teams standout before breaking out as a starter on defense in 2022.
The Commanders signed Barton to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million, hoping to pair him with the athletic Davis, who enters his third professional season looking to fully cement his status as one of the NFL's top young linebackers after a promising second year for the 2021 first-round pick.
While not yet posting gaudy tackle numbers, Davis has been involved in a few big plays during the first two weeks, making a tackle for loss in Week 1 versus the Arizona Cardinals. Last Sunday, the former Kentucky star forced a critical fumble that helped change the momentum in Washington's thrilling comeback road win against the Denver Broncos.
The Commanders need that game-changing ability to consistently show up for Davis. This will in turn help free up Washington's pair of elite safeties, allowing them to roam the secondary making plays instead of having to constantly cheat down into the box to help the linebackers.
Barton, on the other hand, has been an eyesore as the lead signal caller on Washington's defense. He's constantly getting swallowed up by offensive linemen and seemingly struggles to get off every block.
Like Davis, Barton's performance so far hasn't been all bad, as he led the Commanders in tackles against the Broncos and even recovered the fumble his running mate forced. But the player performed particularly poorly in coverage and nearly all of his stops were made after significant gains.
If Barton continues to look like a liability in his new surroundings, it may be time to see if Khaleke Hudson or Jabril Cox can bring more to the table.
After a lukewarm beginning to the season for both linebackers, Washington desperately needs an impact game from their two starters in the middle to further elevate an increasingly intimidating defense.