The Washington Football Team enters training camp this week with arguably the NFL’s top defensive line.
Washington spent four consecutive first-round picks on the defensive line, and those investments began to pay off in a big way in 2020. The Football Team would end the season ranked No. 2 overall in team defense.
Washington returns its entire defensive line rotation, except for the franchise’s all-time sack leader, Ryan Kerrigan, whose role was already diminished last season. The WFT gets back Matt Ioannidis, who missed all but three games last season.
As players are set to report to training camp this week, we now preview Washington’s outstanding defensive line.
The defensive line
Sep 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Washington Football Team defensive tackle Daron Payne (94) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
DE David Bada: 6’4″, 293 DE William Bradley-King: 6’3″, 254 DE Jalen Jelks: 6’5″, 256 DE James Smith-Williams: 6’4″, 265 DE Montez Sweat: 6’6″, 262 DE Shaka Toney: 6’2″, 238 DE Casey Toohill: 6’5″, 254 DE Chase Young: 6’5″, 264 DT Jonathan Allen: 6’3″, 300 DT Matt Ioannidis: 6’3″, 310 DT Devaroe Lawrence: 6’2″, 295 DT Daron Payne: 6’3″, 320 DT Tim Settle: 6’3″, 308 DT Daniel Wise: 6’3″, 285 DT Gabe Wright: 6’3″, 305
Who makes the roster?
LANDOVER, MARYLAND – NOVEMBER 22: Tim Settle #97 of the Washington Football Team celebrates against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField on November 22, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Football Team defeated the Bengals 20-9. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
How many defensive linemen will Washington keep on the 53-man roster? Let’s start by naming the players we know are in. Young, Sweat, Allen, Payne, Ioannidis and Settle are all locked-in and key players. The Football Team will likely keep one or two additional pass-rushers. The biggest competition on the defensive line is who will back up Young and Sweat at defensive end? Last year, it was Kerrigan and Ryan Anderson. Both are gone. Second-year defensive end James Smith-Williams seems to have the inside track on one roster spot. Smith-Williams performed well in his limited opportunities last season. He has good size, and it is stout against the run. The next battle comes down to a pair of seventh-round rookies in Shaka Toney and William Bradley-King. Toney has an exciting upside. He is slightly on the smaller side but would give the WFT a quick edge rusher off the bench. Bradley-King was a productive college player who should at least stick on the practice squad. Washington doesn’t need help at defensive tackle. Allen, Payne, Settle and Ioannidis are as good as it gets.
What can we expect from Chase Young and Montez Sweat?
LANDOVER, MARYLAND – OCTOBER 11: Montez Sweat #90 of the Washington Football Team celebrates with teammate Chase Young #99 after a play in the second half against the Los Angeles Rams at FedExField on October 11, 2020 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
The dynamic young pass-rushers combined for 16.5 sacks last season. Sweat improved to nine sacks after recording seven as a rookie in 2019. Young finished with 7.5 sacks en route to winning NFL defensive rookie of the year. Now, what can the pair do for an encore? If both players can stay healthy, it’s not unreasonable to believe Young and Sweat can record 10 sacks or more in 2021. Washington’s secondary should be even better in 2021, giving Young and Sweat even more time to get after opposing passers.
Washington is loaded at defensive tackle
MIAMI, FL – OCTOBER 13: Tim Settle #97 of the Washington Redskins high fives Jonathan Allen #93 after sacking Josh Rosen #3 of the Miami Dolphins (not pictured) during the first quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Allen is already one of the best interior defenders in the NFL and is up for a big contract extension. Payne is right behind him. Both players continue to get better each season with Allen having his best NFL season in 2020. The return of Ioannidis does not get mentioned enough. He is one of the better interior pass-rushers in the NFL. His return will keep Payne and Allen fresh. Before his injury, he was a heavy part of the rotation. Settle is another stud inside for Washington. He could start for several teams. The team likely will not be able to keep him around after his contract ends. Settle was Washington’s top interior rusher last season after Ioannidis went down.
Check out our other previews
Jun 2, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) walks onto the field with Washington Football Team running back J.D. McKissic (41) and Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel (M) prior to drills as part of an OTA at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterbacks Running backs Wide receivers Tight ends Offensive line
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