James Smith-Williams - Commanders DE
Ron Rivera seemed pretty confident in those further down the pecking order after trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young before the deadline. A few individuals flashed on the rotation. This was their big moment to step up and prove worthy of starting involvement long-term.
There was a lot to like about James Smith-Williams' chances of shining with increased responsibilities. The Washington Commanders were banking heavily on the player, but injuries and poor performance mean these expectations haven't been matched.
Smith-Williams missed four weeks at the worst possible time. Since his return to the lineup, he's registered one quarterback hit and zero sacks. This means Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys represents a final audition for the pass-rusher to thrive.
With one sack from 43 percent of Washington's defensive snaps in 2023, one couldn't say with any great confidence whether Smith-Williams can capitalize. The urgency is obvious, but even a good outing might not make much difference considering the dire need to replace two dominant defensive ends. Sweat made the Pro Bowl and Young was named as an alternate.
The same also applies to Casey Toohill and the two Commanders draft picks in 2023 - K.J. Henry and Andre Jones Jr. The stakes couldn't be much higher for those on the fringes. For Smith-Williams, he won't get a chance like this again if he fluffs his lines.