Commanders defense: Breaking down past seasons to project the future in 2023

Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera
Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 of 5

Commanders defense in 2020

  • (7-9 record, NFC East Champions, Wild Card Playoff Loss vs TB) 

The Washington Football Team was one of the feel-good stories of 2020, led by the iron will of courageous Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith at quarterback. This was backed by dynamic Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young and an exciting upstart defense.

Washington was the best of a terrible bunch that season, winning the NFC East Division title with a losing record of just 7-9.

Other than a down year for the whole division, the main reason for the surprise success was an aggressive and advantageous defense, led by Washington's stifling and star-studded defensive line.

Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and the aforementioned Young, routinely harassed opposing offenses into submission. Their dominance up front led to an abundance of opportunities in the secondary, as Jack Del Rio's defense finished as a top-10 unit in nearly every statistical category.


  • 4th in points allowed
  • 2nd in yards allowed
  • 3rd in first downs allowed
  • 12th in rush TDs against
  • 4th in pass TDs against
  • 7th in turnovers forced
  • 13th in penalties against


  • INT - Kendall Fuller (4)
  • Sacks - Montez Sweat (9)
  • Tackles - Jon Bostic (118)
  • Tackles for Loss - Montez Sweat (12)

Rivera and Del Rio had quickly assembled one of the NFL's top defenses and most Washington fans went into the 2021 offseason extremely optimistic after a thrilling wildcard playoff loss to Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brimming with young talent, Washington was widely viewed as a candidate to take the jump into contender status if Rivera and company could make instant improvements on offense the following season.