By Adam Aniba
The story this offseason for Washington, has been the ongoing Terry Mclaurin contract talks, along with the refusal to offer Daron Payne a long-term contract. Like Payne, Rivera elected to utilize the fifth-year option for Montez Sweat.
The third year pass rusher is now on the books thu '23. Sweat rounds out a talented frontline, comprised of multiple 1st-round selections. Much of the attention has been on Allen, Payne and Young, but Sweat might just be the best of the bunch.
Sweat has played in 42 games since being drafted 26th overall in the '19 draft. In fact, until breaking his jaw on a freak play last season and contracting COVID-19, Sweat has been extremely durable.
The pass rusher missed 6 games in '22, but still managed to record 5 sacks during a disappointing year for the defense. Over his short career, Sweat has been on the cusp of dominance with 21 sacks, 8 passes defended and a TD thru three seasons (16 sacks & 8 PDs during his first two seasons).
Some have debated if Del Rio's system is archaic and doesn't effectively utilize the strength of his players. Others have pointed to a lack of player discipline, contributing to the average play from Washington's front line. The truth of the matter is the issues could be a little bit of both.
Defensive Coordinator Jack Del RIo has come under fire as of late and was fined $100K for his recent political comments. Players have mentioned that the distraction isn't an issue and they'll have until July 26th before Training Camp begins to decompress.
In the 8 games Chase Young was active for in '21, in six of those games he was on the field for 80%+ of the game snaps (played in 90% of the snaps twice). In comparison, during Sweat's 10 game season, he only played in 80% of the game snaps once (under 72% five times).
In order for Washington's pass rush to be at it's best, Sweat will need to be on the field a lot more. The loss of Ioannidis/Settle is notable, since they added to the pass rush and production will need to be found elsewhere.
Sweat's 4.42 second NFL Combine forty yard dash time still stands as the fastest time among defensive ends. Fans have only seen glimpses of Sweat's second gear, thus he'll need to show more consistency and discipline this season. Rivera had the following to say during the team presser when asked about Sweat.
"I think as far as his skill set goes, it's understanding how to use it. He's got a tremendous skill set. As he continues to grow and learn and understand how to use it, he becomes more and more dynamic as well."
Putting it altogether early on will be key, with Young recovering from ACL surgery and likely to start training camp on the PUP list. Although Jonathan Allen is the captain and leader of the frontline, Sweat has the most upside as an overall game changer heading into camp with Young on the shelf.
The former Mississippi pass rusher was primed for a career season in '21, before it was derailed. Moving Sweat around the defensive line and giving him more opportunities to attack on stunts would be wise.
Year 4 should be the season that the coaching staff and Sweat put it all together, finally getting the 15+ sack season from the former Bulldog pass rusher that many envisioned when he was selected in 2019.