By Adam Aniba
Washington's starting defense has been less than impressive during the pre-season. The news that former DROY Chase Young will be out until at least Week 5, after being moved to the reserve PUP list is a blow to the defense. Young missing more time, has just compounded concerns, especially when it comes to getting off the field on 3rd downs.
It was expected that Young would start the season on the reserve PUP list. Many fans on social media voiced their disappointment of the news, calling for Young to be traded, even being referred to as a "Bust".
Although fans will have to wait until October to see Young on the field again, Montez Sweat is quietly having an impressive offseason. His preseason statistics aren't much of a measuring stick, but the statements made by his teammates and coaches left a lasting impression.
After signing a 1-day contract to retire in the Burgundy & Gold, former Washington DE Ryan Kerrigan stuck around and worked with the pass rushers during training camp. He recently spoke with ESPN's John Keim on his impression of former teammate Montez Sweat this offseason.
"He's really taking a leadership role. He's a dominant force".
The 2021 defensive captains were Young and John Allen. With the former Buckeye on the shelf, Sweat seems ready to carry more on his shoulders and could be a candidate along with Kam Curl for a defensive captain.
The praise didn't stop with Kerrigan, left tackle Charles Leno Jr believes the pass rusher has taken his game to another level this offseason.
As Leno mentioned, you can't be "a one-trick pony" and Sweat has taken on the challenge. In 3 seasons, Sweat has been relatively productive and consistent, registering 21 sacks, 7 FF and 8 passes defended. I
In '21, Sweat first dealt with a broken jaw on a freak play vs Denver and missed more time after contracting COVID. In total, Sweat would only play in 10 games, after starting 16 games in back-to-back seasons.
During his time at Mississippi State, Sweat lined up all over the defensive line. Known for his patent bull rush, Sweat has reportedly developed an impressive rip move. He's also dedicated more time on utilizing a swim move, which will help him be even more effective when asked to stunt.
Sweat has become more vocal, in fact he has reportedly become one of the biggest trash talkers on the defense and continues to make plays all the filed.
Washington elected to offer Sweat the 5th-year option for '23, paying him $11.5 million ('22 base salary $3.7 million cap number). Sweat is the next in line to receive a lucrative long term contract, especially if he can put together a dominant year and the defense excels. It's been well documented that even though Washington elected to give Daron Payne the 5th-year option, it's doubtful Washington offers to extend him after paying fellow defensive tackle Jonathan Allen.
Sweat will likely get more attention early on and more double teams with James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, Shaka Toney and Will Bradley-King vying for time at the other end spot. DC Jack Del Rio will be using a lot more 5-man fronts, so a lot of pressure will have to come from the front line, particularly from Sweat.
Washington's defensive success will require Sweat to have a productive and disruptive season. Their Week 1 matchup vs Jacksonville, will be an ideal opportunity for Sweat to show off his new pass rushing arsenal and set the tone for the season.