In 13 NFL seasons, Redskins left tackle Donald Penn has gone up against all kinds of defensive ends and outside linebackers.
Penn isn’t making any brash predictions. But he knows a good thing when he sees it. And outside linebacker Montez Sweat, one of Washington’s two first-round draft picks in 2019, has looked the part during his first training camp.
For the past month, since signing with the Redskins on July 31 in the absence of seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, Penn has seen plenty of Sweat, selected No. 26 overall in the draft after Washington traded up to get him there. The veteran has liked what he’s seen. And it’s helped Penn himself get acclimated to a new team at age 36.
“I got this young kid that’s pushing me, too, over there. No. 90 [Sweat],” Penn said. “I can’t let up if I want to because I got to get him ready, too, for Sundays. I was holding the s--- out of him today. Holding him, holding him. Even late after a play. He’s getting mad, but I’m like ‘They’re going to let go in a game, but I’m going to hold in practice because they’re not going to call it. So in a game it’s easier for him.”
Sweat didn’t play in the first preseason game against Cleveland, but was on the field against Cincinnati in Week 2 and again last week against the Atlanta Falcons. It seems unlikely he will play in the fourth preseason game this Thursday against Baltimore at FedEx Field.
Penn is simply trying to pass on the knowledge that a 22-year-old from Mississippi State doesn’t have in his arsenal yet. If that means holding him at will during practice, so be it. Life in the NFL is tough. It’s all about getting Sweat ready to play in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
A team that needed to revamp its pass rush after losing one-time second-round pick Preston Smith in free agency, figured it had a good one in the 6-foot-2, 262-pound Sweat. He is big and was the fastest edge rusher at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last March. He has long 35 ¼ inch arms that “could let him scratch his knees standing up,” Penn joked. But there is much to learn still.
Penn remembers being the left tackle in Oakland when the Raiders drafted a rookie from Buffalo in 2014 named Khalil Mack with the No. 5 overall selection. Great things were expected and great things were achieved. Mack had a modest four sacks as a rookie, but in 2015 blossomed with 15 and has been one of the NFL’s best pass rushers ever since.
Penn battled Mack day in and day out at practice for four seasons. They made each other better. Sweat is a much different player, of course. Penn compared him in size and quickness to another all-time great pass rusher in Julius Peppers, who had 159.5 sacks in 17 NFL seasons.
That’s comparison is too much to put on any rookie, but Penn believes Sweat can become a force sooner than later. For now, he’s showing the rookie the tricks of the trade no matter how mad it makes him.
“Little things like that to try to get in his head,” Penn said. “He gets what I’m trying to do.”
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