Fresh concerns raised over Commanders defensive line strength in 2024

Have the Commanders done enough to offset two major departures?
Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Dorance Armstrong Jr. / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing such positivity from the Washington Commanders this offseason has been refreshing. Adam Peters gutted the roster and head coach Dan Quinn brought renewed focus to the practice field. These changes were necessary and positive in equal measure. But it only sometimes guarantees success.

There is a lot of hard work ahead and plenty of questions to answer. The Commanders are on the up in more ways than one. At the same time, their need to put out a better football product that can inspire fans is paramount during the 2024 campaign.

Quinn's presence immediately raised expectations for the defensive side of the football. His creative mind and the improved personnel mean the failures attached to last season's woeful efforts under Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera should be a thing of the past. But again, the Commanders need their top performers firing on all cylinders throughout.

Commanders have questions to answer within their edge-rushing room in 2024

This starts in the trenches. The Commanders' defensive line took a hit last season when those in power traded Montez Sweat and Chase Young before the deadline. Production suffered accordingly over the second half of 2023, but this was a risk Josh Harris' ownership group felt was worth taking for a more sustainable future.

The potential for a renaissance cannot be dismissed under Quinn's exceptional guidance. However, one analyst raised fresh concerns about whether the Commanders had done enough to fill the void left by Sweat and Young.

Sam Monson from Pro Football Focus listed the Commanders' defensive line at No. 19 in his league-wide rankings. He acknowledged that interior tandem Jonathan Allen and Daron Paynne could bounce back. He's a fan of rookie Johnny Newton, but the edge-rushing concerns prevented a higher standing when push came to shove.

"Last season resulted in unexpected down years from the interior duo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Allen led the team in quarterback pressures, with 49, but it was his worst PFF pass-rushing grade since 2019 and the worst overall grade of his career. Rookie Johnny Newton will hope to force his way into the rotation inside and make some noise, but the big issue for this team is on the edge, where new free agent Dorance Armstrong may be the most proven commodity."

Sam Monson, PFF

This shouldn't come as breaking news. The Commanders got some decent pieces through free agency, but nobody seems capable of taking the league by storm. The moves made were more like treading water than anything more ambitious. It remains to be seen whether the gamble pays off.

Quinn's one of the league's most respected defensive minds. He revolutionized schematic concepts during his time with the Seattle Seahawks. He turned the Dallas Cowboys into a dominant unit thanks to his shrewd development of young talent.

Hopefully, the head coach can have a similar impact in the nation's capital alongside no-nonsense defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. Having a productive defensive line takes the pressure off considerably. It's also worth remembering that the Commanders made significantly positive alterations to their linebacking corps to further assist.

Quinn and Whitt can find a way. Everyone in Washington is counting on it.