Commanders

Player-by-player eval of Commanders' defense before final stretch

Commanders

The Commanders, finally, are on their bye. After their late-season break, they'll return for four vital games against the New York Giants, the San Francisco 49ers, the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys.

Before the team begins that stretch, which will determine whether the squad advances to the playoffs, here's a player-by-player evaluation of the most important defensive players...

Interior defensive line

Jonathan Allen: Thanks to his performance over the past few years and his no-nonsense personality, Allen has become an unassailable cornerstone for the franchise. 

Daron Payne: As Allen did in 2021, Payne is fully breaking out in 2022. His goal this past offseason was to become a better finisher of plays and his 8.5 sacks in 13 games shows that his work in that area is absolutely paying off.

John Ridgeway: When Ridgeway isn't being whistled for silly 15-yarders, he's giving quality snaps as a space-and-block-eater up front. The waiver claim from Dallas looks like quite a steal for the franchise's front office.

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Defensive end

Montez Sweat: Sweat presently has seven sacks to his name, which is what he was averaging coming into the year. Therefore, he should end up outperforming his usual output in that category, while his efforts versus opposing rushing attacks continue to impress and should not be overlooked.

James Smith-Williams: Washington's final selection in the 2020 NFL Draft has developed into a solid pro. Smith-Williams is currently lining up on more than 60% of defensive plays and has helped mitigate the extended absence of Chase Young.

Casey Toohill: Toohill doesn't see the field as much as Smith-Williams and hasn't produced a lot of raw stats in 2022, yet he's often in good spots — his two fumble recoveries speak to that — and is also working at his Griddying.

Efe Obada: Obada's gone cold in the sack department — his last one occurred in Week 6 — but he's still a viable piece of the Commanders' rotation up front.

Linebacker

Jamin Davis: Davis' second season in the league is going infinitely better than his first. While weaknesses still remain, his rare athleticism is more and more evident, his processing is speeding up and he hasn't come off the field in four straight contests.

Jon Bostic: With Cole Holcomb not coming back, Bostic will likely stick in the second linebacker role ahead of David Mayo. Washington doesn't need him to be great, especially because coordinator Jack Del Rio often deploys three safeties at the expense of two linebackers. Fine would do, in all honesty. 

Cornerback

Kendall Fuller: Fuller, who looked slow and unsure of himself for much of the season's first half, is in excellent form these days. His pick-six in Houston and sealing interception versus Atlanta were massive and his preparedness is shining through on a handful of reps in each game.

Benjamin St-Juste: St-Juste's health is one of the more pressing issues facing the Commanders on their bye. When he's opposite of Fuller, the secondary functions at a high level. Unfortunately, he has been sidelined since Week 11.

Danny Johnson: If St-Juste is held out following the break or is hurt later on, Johnson might've overtaken Christian Holmes in the pecking order to replace him. The 27-year-old was aggressive in the tie with the Giants, registering a sack and a clutch pass breakup.

Christian Holmes: Holmes started against New York but was benched in the second half in favor of Johnson. The seventh-round rookie, who's a standout on special teams, simply might not be ready for major responsibilities on defense.

 

Safety

Kam Curl: Curl probably won't get national attention until he is more of a turnover creator. However, those in the organization value his smarts, his sure tackling and his vast versatility. The fact that he was available with the 216th pick back in 2020 is absurd.

Bobby McCain: Like Curl, McCain is tough and a guy who can line up in multiple places. His smaller stature holds him back when it comes time to compete at the point of the catch, but he makes up for that with noticeable anticipation that's particularly useful in the flats.

Darrick Forrest: Davis' and St-Juste's growth, while pleasant, was somewhat expected because of where they were drafted. Forrest, on the other hand — a 2021 fifth-rounder — has surprised with how much he's doing; he leads Washington in interceptions with three, has forced two fumbles and scooped up one. His future is very promising. 

If you're curious to compare, here's a similar post that was published after the Week 9 Vikings game, which was played about a month ago.