There is an NFC East defense that presses furiously on the quarterback, barely letting passers off the ground, and scoffs at the idea of the opposition effectively running football. And it came about as such a mean unit with no genuine household name.
The Commanders boast the best defense in the NFL that no one talked about this season. Be honest, you don’t. Hell, it took me a week of Thanksgiving to get serious about the beefy essence of Washington’s defensive unit. Oddly enough, it came after a dominant attempt against lowly Texans to have this realization happen in my thick skull.
Okay, most serious football fans know Jonathan Allen. He has been bringing the heat since the very first season in 2017. Despite Allen doing devastating acts every year, his name isn’t as well-known as some of the superstar quarterbacks in his own division. He quietly had another typical day in the office in Week 11 against the Texans with six presses and two sacks for 33 pass rushes. In defensive gear, Allen’s pressure building rate of 11.2% per season is pretty high.
Then there’s the often overlooked, former first-round pick Montez Sweet. With a 2019 draft class brimming with defensive front talent — Nick Boza, Jeffrey Simmons, Quinnan Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Ed Oliver, and Christian Wilkins — the Sweat was quietly buzzing in Washington.
His season is as monstrous as his combine training, when he ran 4.41 with a 36-inch vertical and 7.00 with three cones at 6’5″ and 260 pounds. To date, the former Mississippi State star has registered 45 hits on 315 throws. Although this does not correspond to the gigantic rate of pressure creation (14.2%), the nature of the large volume of these statistics makes it impressive.
Due to his outstanding athletic ability and imposing size, oftentimes when Pot wins, those victories are worthy of going viral. The sweat has been leveled at the right end of the defense here. Hold onto your asses.
Sweat and Allen may be anchors on the line of scrimmage, but they’re hardly the only reason Washington has become one of the most awkward defenses in the league to play. The safety duo of Camren Curl and Darrick Forrest have become one of the best in the NFC, if not all of football. Seriously.
Curl is the prototype of a strong 6-1 safety/linebacker hybrid at 200 pounds. It’s everywhere, especially against running, and it instantly filters any lower or mid-range action. The former Arkansas star averages over six tackles per game and has five tackles per loss in nine games. Forrest, the farthest of the two, already has three interceptions, six pass interruptions and two forced fumbles this season.
Curl was selected in the seventh round in 2020. Forrest was selected in the fifth round a year ago. This is probably part of the reason why they are so underestimated. They entered the league with minimal fanfare.
Check out how much Forrest overcame in this interception against the Texans in Week 11.
You can’t miss this piece: brilliant coverage and advice from Benjamin Saint-Just. As a third-round draft pick, he had more pedigree than either Curl or Forrest, but still lives up to the “no name” mantra of this Washington defense because he’s notoriously not recorded a single steal in three collegiate seasons. and had only one transfer failure in his senior year in Minnesota.
But he’s a rare cat on the corner, weighing over 6-3 and 204 pounds with nearly 33-inch arms. Saint-Just got used to the role of the choking perimeter defender. He hit seven passes before the Week 12 game against the Falcons.
The midfield duo of Jamin Davis and Cole Holcomb, a clear disadvantage in 2021, are on the rise. Davis played with more drive and quicker reflexes on the run, and Holcomb continues to beat his position in the fifth round of the draft, leading the team with 69 tackles.
As is the case with any high-class defense, commanders receive quality throws from rotational units. Seven front-backs Efe Obada, Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams shone as pass rushers in limited roles.
Clearly, I can’t admire the collective efforts of the Ron Rivera club enough, and the fact that it has almost no superstars makes this division all the more commendable.
The Washingtons averaged 20.3 points per game this season, 12th in the league. Since Taylor Heinicke became a starter, Commanders have lost only 17.6 points per fight. In that five-game stretch, they allowed an average passer rating of 84.2 and under 70 yards in every game.
The story of Heinicke finally earning the title of “starting quarterback” in the NFL is fantastic. But the Commander’s defense, with some undeservedly overlooked spikes and a gang of hard hitters, is the true basis for this club being in the thick of the NFC playoff race after winning five of its last six games.
Oh, and Chase Young, who has some serious superstar juice, should be back in week 12. HI.