Along with a change in culture in Washington, coach Ron Rivera also improved the production of the defensive front.
Trent Williams, who spent his first nine seasons in Washington, is very familiar with their defense. Having practiced against them before being traded to the 49ers, he has noticed a marked difference since Rivera took over in 2020. The left tackle believes what Rivera implemented has helped the defensive line’s production, utilizing them more effectively.
“I think honestly putting those guys in a four-point stance instead of them just standing up and dropping half of the time, I think it fits their skill set better,” Williams said Thursday. “Everybody has benefitted from being able to penetrate.”
Washington ranks at the top of several defensive metrics including being ranked second in first downs allowed per game (18.1) and fourth in yards allowed per game (310.9). Williams knows facing his former teammates will be a tough challenge for the 49ers' offensive line.
Washington has racked up 36 sacks this season, led by Montez Sweat who is responsible for six of them. The sophomore defensive end worked with Kris Kocurek at the 2019 Senior Bowl when the 49ers were the coaching staff for the South team.
Chase Young, who was Nick Bosa's teammate at Ohio State, also has contributed this season with 4.5 sacks. Williams sees a few habits in Young that remind him of the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“I do see some similarities,” Williams said. “Obviously their body types are different, so little things shine through on each person. They are very active with their hands, always active, always moving, Not an easy target to hit.
“Chase just has a lot of athletic ability that you can’t teach and it’s literally just a gene-pool lottery and I think he’s going to be a heck of a player in this league for years to come.”
Williams is ready to face off with either defensive end but has noticed Young has spent more time lined up opposite left tackles. He sees a cohesion within the defensive group that Washington feeds off of.
“I think by Ron Rivera opening those guys up, you see more production and you see those guys play at a high level,” Williams said. “They are pretty much the nucleus of the team, the defensive front.”