Ranking the Commanders' defense and special teams against NFC rivals in 2023

Looking at how things stand for the Commanders on defense and special teams.

Montez Sweat
Montez Sweat / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders position groups vs. NFC East - LB

1. New York Giants

Positioning taketh away, and positioning giveth. With Kayvon Thibodeaux now counting as a linebacker, it vaults this unit to the top.

Truth be told, every team in the division has major questions at linebacker. But with Bobby Okereke joining Thibodeaux, and with Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximines contributing a lot of minutes, the New York Giants have the most talented collection of linebackers in the division.

They have jettisoned some dead wood in Jaylon Smith and Tomon Fox and will be hoping that second-year player Darrian Beavers can step into a starting role after missing his rookie season with an ACL injury.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles do something with their linebackers that is kind of rare these days. They have three guys who all slot into the classic linebacking positions.

Haason Reddick is a classic strongside linebacker who has developed into one of the best pass rushers in the league. Philadelphia still doesn’t blitz very much, but the former Temple star gives them a formidable weapon when they chose to employ him. And Nicholas Morrow is a classic weakside backer who is very good in coverage.

The huge question mark this year will be in the middle where they lost the emerging star D.J. Edwards to free agency. Nakobe Dean, another ex-Georgia Bulldog, steps into that role. He is undersized but extremely active, and I expect that playing behind Carter, Cox, and Davis, he will thrive.

But it remains a question. Rookie Nolan Smith – one more former Bulldog – waits in the wings.

3. Dallas Cowboys

And positioning taketh away. Micah Parsons is a lineman now, which leaves the Dallas Cowboys' linebacking corps bereft of star players. Leighton Vander Esch appears to have gotten past the injuries that almost caused him to retire early on. He is the best pure middle linebacker in the league.

The Cowboys drafted DeMarvion Overshown and if he hits the ground running, this defense gets a lot better. They have a lot of young players with talent, but apart from Vander Esch, none have shown consistent production in the NFL.

4. Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders enter this season without their only steady linebacking presence over the past five years. This is a result of losing Cole Holcomb to the Pittsburgh Steelers in free agency.

They are hoping that Jamin Davis continues his improvement and that Holcomb’s replacement, Cody Barton, is an active all-field presence. Behind those two, there isn’t much.

Some have high hopes for Khaleke Hudson this season. But I suspect the Commanders will run one and two-linebacker sets most of the time in 2023.