The Washington Commanders have a very good defense...make no doubt about that!
In 2022 Washington had the third best defense in yards allowed per game at 304. They were seventh in points allowed at 20.7. What’s even more remarkable when you look at these two rankings is that Jack Del Rio’s unit was tied for fifth-worst in turnovers (18).
Just imagine how good this defense would have been if they had taken the ball away with more frequency.
The 49ers and Eagles, who ranked number one and two respectively in fewest yards allowed per game last year, were both top five in the NFL in takeaways - with the 49ers (30) tied for second and the Eagles (27) tied for third.
Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio set out to improve this already dangerous defense in the offseason in both free agency and the draft, and really put an emphasis on guys who can create turnovers.
They signed Seahawks veteran Cody Barton to play inside linebacker next to Jamin Davis. In his first full season starting in 2022, he had 6 passes defended and two interceptions to go along with his 136 tackles and two sacks. He’s viewed as an upgrade to Cole Holcomb when it comes to coverage.
In the draft, the Commanders took Emmanuel Forbes at pick 16. The rangy cornerback had 14 interceptions in his three years with Mississippi State, and set the FBS record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with six.
In the second round Washington dipped back into the defensive back pool taking Illinois standout slot corner/safety Jartavius “Quan” Martin. Quan had a standout senior season in Champaign, with 11 passes defended, three interceptions and two forced fumbles to go along with his 64 tackles and a sack.
In round five the Commanders selected Clemson standout EDGE K.J. Henry. The 6’4” 250 pounder has 4.6 speed and the ability to make plays in the opposing team’s backfield. He could be an eventual replacement for either Chase Young or Montez Sweat if either hits free agency in 2024.
So just how much has this Commanders defense improved heading into 2023?
Well, considering that they really lost just one starter (Cole Holcomb), from their 2022 group, and ended up re-signing veterans Danny Johnson and Efe Obada, and the previously mentioned draft picks and free agent linebacker Barton, on paper, this is one of the most talented units in the entire NFL.
Unfortunately, the games aren’t played on paper, so this unit will have to produce, and do so out of the gate, against a much tougher 2023 schedule.
Here is the projected 2-deep:
EDGE: Chase Young, K.J. Henry/Efe Obada
DT: Jonathan Allen, Phidarian Mathis
DT: Daron Payne, John Ridgeway
EDGE: Montez Sweat, James Smith-Williams
LB: Jamin Davis, Khaleke Hudson
LB: Cody Barton, David Mayo
CB: Emmanuel Forbes, Cam Dantzler
CB: Kendall Fuller/Benjamin St-Juste
Slot CB: Quan Martin, Danny Johnson
S: Kam Curl, Jeremy Reaves
S: Darrick Forrest, Percy Butler
If this 2023 defense can create more turnovers and duplicate or improve on the level of play from 2022, they will be battling for the top overall unit in the NFL. Aside from having a stellar starting lineup, the Commanders boast solid depth at almost every position except linebacker.
Expect Del Rio to use more of the 5-man BEAR front we have seen in the past two years. On the back end, look for more 3-4 safety looks, with just one off-the-ball linebacker. Getting Curl, Forrest, Butler and Martin on the field together with give the secondary a lot of interesting options and more opportunities for turnovers.
Brace yourself folks - it could be a fun year on the defensive side of the ball for YOUR Washington Commanders!
Where do you rank the Commanders defense?
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