The one area the Commanders are actually really good


They’re not very good at many things. They are very good at one.

The Washington Commanders are 27th in pass defense, 20th in passing offense, 25th running the ball, 26th in turnover margin, 26th in scoring.

But that defensive line is legit.

“They’re probably the best (we’ve faced so far),” Jason Kelce said. “Their two interior guys (Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen) have been good for a long time in this league, they’re physical and they’re athletic and they’re smart, that’s usually a good combination for a FB player.

“(Edge) Montez Sweat is probably playing better than he’s played ever. They’ve got some really, really good players, no doubt about it.”

The Commanders have won three of their last four games after a 1-4 start, but even during this four-game stretch they’re only averaging 17.3 points per game.

Taylor Heinicke has given the Commanders a lift since replacing injured Carson Wentz, but when Washington wins, it’s generally because of its defensive front.

The Commanders overall are ranked ninth by Pro Football Focus in pressuring the quarterback, and they're 10th in rushing yards allowed per game.

Washington is one of only two teams in the NFL – both in the NFC East – that has five players with at least 3.0 sacks. The other is the Cowboys.

Payne (5.5 sacks) and Allen (4.5) are Washington’s sack leaders, and Sweat and linebackers Jamin Davis and Efe Obada have 3.0 each.

And that’s all without Chase Young, the second player taken in the 2020 draft.

Young hasn’t played in a year after suffering a torn ACL against the Bucs last Nov. 14, but resumed practicing last week and could make his 2022 debut Monday night against the Eagles.

Young had 7.5 sacks in 2020, most by any NFL rookie, and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. He had 1.5 sacks against the Eagles on opening day in his first NFL game and another in the season finale against the Eagles.

“We're just going to prepare like he's playing and just keep watching the tape, see how he plays,” Jordan Mailata said. 

“It's kind of hard because he hasn't played in a long time, but we respect the hell out of him. He’s a hell of a player, very skilled and so we've got to go back and watch the film, from the 2020 season and 2021 as well, before he got hurt.”

Add Young to Washington’s already imposing group of rushers, and you see why the matchup between Washington’s defensive front and the Eagles’ offensive line is going to draw so much attention Monday night.

The Eagles’ O-line is ranked fourth in pass blocking by PFF, but largely because of the way Jalen Hurts plays, they have allowed 22 sacks – ninth-most in the league.

Washington doesn’t have a lot of different ways of controlling a game. But when they win the matchup between their defensive front and the opposing offensive front, they can play with anyone.

“They're really good,” Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said. “It starts with Allen, Payne, Sweat, and then obviously if Chase Young comes back, it's a really good group. They're very powerful inside. You have good play strength up front. They're good against the run and they can rush the passer. 

“I think with any football team it starts up front with offensive and defensive lines, and that's how they set the tone defensively with their defensive line. And the good thing is we have a great offensive line to counter that that we feel good about, too. 

“We know it's going to be a heck of a challenge every week, especially when you are playing a division opponent. You get to play them twice a year, so they know about us, we know about them, but it's a challenge that we're looking forward to.”

Davis had two sacks and Obada one in the Eagles’ 24-8 win over Washington at FedEx Field back in Week 3.

In all, the Commanders had six QB hits, seven pass knockdowns and seven tackles for loss in that game, but Hurts was still very good, throwing for 340 yards with touchdowns to A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith.

“You’re always trying to improve,” Kelce said. “We played them, what, third week? So they’re continuing to evolve and get better as a team, as are we.

“There’s going to be familiarity because we play them twice every year and they have some familiar faces over there, but every team’s changing throughout the season. So there’s going to be little nuances that are going to be different and you’ve got to be ready to adapt.”

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