Warren Sapp's messages to Commanders' D-line were spot on


Warren Sapp, a man who made it to the Hall of Fame based largely on his ability to interrupt his opponents, got in the way of the question well before it was finished.

Last Wednesday — which marked the second-straight minicamp session for the Commanders that featured Sapp stepping in as a temporary tutor for the team's defensive line — the ex-Buccaneer and ex-Raider was asked if getting messages across to Washington's front was difficult, seeing as the group is made up of many talented individuals.

In the middle of that query, Sapp sharply responded with one of his own.

"Where's the gold jacket?" he said.

That kind of bluntness might be exactly what the Commanders' edge rushers and run stoppers need as they prepare for 2022, seeing as the group overall largely failed last year thanks to injuries and the inability to generate consistent chaos. 

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Aside from Jonathan Allen, the rest of the line must step up, and in some cases, must take multiple steps up. Chase Young and Montez Sweat, for example, have to be more available and far more productive, while more help from the second- and third-stringers would surely be appreciated.


In the hopes of getting all of those players to increase their impact as a whole, Sapp harped on a couple of themes in particular, beginning with the value of being in sync.

"It's a pack," he said. "If y'all are going to hunt together, y'all will eat good. But the lone wolf dies."

"No wolf eats by himself," he reiterated later. "But the pack? You don't want it nowhere near you."

Sapp, who has connections to Washington General Manager Martin Mayhew and assistant defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, was enthralled by the size and gifts of Allen, Sweat, Daron Payne and others.

However, he wanted to emphasize to them that those pieces don't guarantee a completed puzzle.

"The worst three words in football are, 'We got it' or, 'I got it,'" Sapp said. "You ain't got [expletive] in this game, you better work on it."

"I thought it would be a great idea," Ron Rivera said of bringing in Sapp to chip in at minicamp. "The really neat thing about watching it, too, is there are some things that guys that have done it, it gives them a little something extra in terms of when you can get guys' attention."

Sapp relayed to reporters that he believed the Commanders were "very receptive" to his remarks and that a few actually told him they could hear his voice in their head as they were in the midst of their rushes. Hopefully he's right on that, because the unit's hype has lately outpaced its sacks, tackles and game-changing sequences.

"They're big, mobile, agile, hostile," Sapp said. "Now it's just: do you have the commitment to do it every day? It's an everyday thing."

"Maturity, growth, understanding our system," primary defensive line coach Sam Mills said last Thursday about where his bunch is focused on improving, areas that align with what Sapp seemed to hone in on. 

There are a host of factors that suggest Washington's defensive line could be due for an uptick this year. Better health would be a huge box to check, as would more touchdowns from Carson Wentz and the offense.

But the cohesion that Sapp was dwelling on with his "lone wolf" advice and his related teachings is quite poignant, since Rivera himself mentioned in 2021 that he was upset with how disorganized and undisciplined the club's charges were at times in the trenches.

Maybe Sapp's voice will ultimately get through to the Commanders and they will feast in the coming months. Sometimes, a different authority is all it takes for a point to click. Yet if it doesn't, expect their foes' offenses to be the ones feasting instead.