Gabe Ward: Montez Sweat was among many fans pre-draft favorites at selection 15 for the Redskins. When he participated at the combine many fans assumed he would be long gone by that pick. Even when his medial flag came up I think a lot of people were skeptical just how far he could drop. When the team traded back into the first round and took him with pick 26 it was exciting and a lot of people were ecstatic that the Redskins were able to select him. Was there any prior knowledge of his medical condition while he was at Mississippi State? Have you seen any evidence or other reporting that says that it might affect his play down the road?
Collin Wilmes: There was prior knowledge of this condition, yes. He was originally diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy when he arrived at Mississippi State. As far as I know, he was told by every doctor that it was a condition he could play with. I do not believe it will affect him. Mississippi State doctors and Redskins doctors have said they don’t believe it will be an issue moving forward.
Gabe Ward: The excitement about Sweat largely comes from the fact that the Redskins have not had a true speed rusher off the EDGE since Brian Orakpo. We know about Sweat’s athletic gifts but can you talk about a skill or trait outside of athleticism that you think will help him be successful at the next level?
Collin Wilmes: Competitive toughness is a trait that I think will serve him well at the next level. You could question his flexibility or hand strength, but one thing you can never question is his physicality, toughness and effort that he will bring every time he’s on the field. He’s a work horse and will do everything he can do to make a play until the clock strikes zero. Rushing the passer, stuffing a run, chasing down a screen pass, you name it and he’s going to work until the whistle is blown.
Gabe Ward: The Redskins run a 3-4 base scheme and semi-frequently ask their OLBs to drop back into coverage. Could you speak to Sweat’s ability to pick up and execute that responsibility? He could be put into very tough positions with some of the playmakers in the NFL do you think he can keep up?
Collin Wilmes: Coaching will certainly help, but I think this notion that he must strictly be a pass rusher is inaccurate. A 4-3 scheme is maybe ideal for him because I think he might have a bigger impact right away with his hand in the dirt, but that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed in a 3-4 scheme. Is he as polished as you’d like to see? Probably not, but he has experience dropping into coverage in 2017 when MSU ran some 3-4 schemes. I think he also did very well during coverage drills at the Combine. I think his familiarity with the 3-4 defense combined with his athleticism and play recognition will prove that he can be successful in the in the Redskins’ defense.
Gabe Ward: One knock on sweat is that he doesn’t have the preferred flexibility or bend around the EDGE like you would want your OLBs to have. It is certainly possible he struggles against some of the NFC East’s LTs (Dillard/Peters, Soldier, Smith). How do you think he can ensure his testing numbers translate eventually on the field? Its is a matter of just getting more coaching from a linebacker perspective?
Collin Wilmes: I guess I touched on that a little bit earlier. Flexibility is indeed a knock on him. Coaching will certainly help. I think his play recognition and instincts can maybe help with this. Just being in the right place at the right time combined with his insane length will allow him to make some plays despite this flexibility weakness.
Gabe Ward: Sweat will likely split time with current Redskins OLB Ryan Anderson who is more an edge setter than pass rusher. Could you tell us a bit about how Sweat handled playing the run in the SEC and if you think he has the skill set to take on and shed blocker consistently to get to the ball and or take away rushing lanes?
Collin Wilmes: I think Sweat’s rush defense is underappreciated. In my opinion, it’s a strength of his. His explosiveness allows him to set the edge and fill the gaps. Add the fact that he possesses great length and an insane wingspan, he can definitely have success stuffing the run.
Gabe Ward: Redskins fans are expecting great things from Sweat and we all hope he is not just a workout warrior in the NFL. Could you compare him to any NFL edge rushers and tell us what you think his player comps are for his floor and ceiling?
Collin Wilmes: I’m from Minnesota, so I see a lot of the Vikings. One guy I’d compare him to his Danielle Hunter. I thin they have that same athleticism of length, speed, and explosiveness. I’d like to think he has the ceiling of Jason Taylor because they are the same size and have great athleticism. A floor for me would be someone like Manny Lawson. He, like Sweat, possessed insane athleticism. I think Lawson fell a bit short of his potential because he relied too much on his athleticism. He wasn’t bad by any means, but he just never lived up to his potential.
Gabe Ward: If you could only use a few words to describe Sweat to let Redskins fans know what they are getting as a player what would they be?
Collin Wilmes: A few words to describe Sweat would be athletic-freak, high-motored, and passionate.
I want to thank Collin again for his time spent answering my questions about Montez Sweat. Sweat certainly looks to be a steal on paper and has the potential to transform the Redskins OLB group into something we haven’t seen for a while. It will be interesting to see how under a new position coach and (I assume) a slightly different defensive philosophy how much playing time he gets early on and how he’s used. As a formatting note, I would have liked to include Collin in the main byline, as I have done with other authors from other blogs in years past, but the new editor restricts permissions to do that in a new way. This is, at minimum, a 50/50 endeavor, with the bulk of the thinking and writing coming from the people gracious enough to answer questions, and I want to make sure they get their credit. I’ll likely be including this note for the rest of the series.