Washington defensive end Chase Young was widely considered the best player in the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s added to a unit that was already considered a strength of the team. With perennially underrated Ryan Kerrigan and 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat, they make up a strong first unit. In addition, Washington has impressive reserves in Ryan Anderson, Nate Orchard, and several high upside late-round picks. At the end of training camp, who will be Washington’s defensive ends? Here is who I think makes the roster and who I believe misses out?
Washington Defensive Ends
The longest-tenured Washington player, Kerrigan is just eight sacks away from becoming the Washington Football Teams’ all-time sack leader. He’s a staunch run defender and will likely operate as the strong side defensive end. He doesn’t possess the same athletic ability as the other Washington defensive ends, but he’s still one of the most consistent pass rushers in the NFL.
Washington’s top defensive rookie last year, Sweat was a dominant run defender and really started to develop as a pass rusher late in the year. By Week 17, against a very good Cowboys defensive line, Sweat looked like one of the best players on the field. If he can continue to develop as a pass rusher with his elite physical tools, he could become an All-Pro level player. Sweat and Young should be an elite pass rush duo for the next decade.
Washington’s highest draft pick since Robert Griffin III, Young is widely considered a future star. He was the top player in the country last year and was unstoppable all-season leading the nation in sacks, despite missing two games. He has dominant burst off the line of scrimmage and has an in-depth pass-rush plan. His active hands keep tackles off of him, and it’s easy to project how his game translates to the NFL. Young is so good, that well-respected draft analyst Jon Ledyard thinks Young will be a top-five edge rusher in the NFL by 2023.
Anderson will likely be spending some time at defensive end and strong side linebacker, or “SAM.” He’s arguably the best run defender on the team, with excellent play strength and leverage. He lacks burst off the line of scrimmage and possesses no bend or flexibility to speak of. His pass-rush upside is limited, but he has a nose for the ball and provides a physical edge.
The former second-round pick, Orchard had some okay years in Cleveland but never lived up to his draft status. He bounced around from team to team until he landed in Washington, where he became a very good rotational edge rusher. He’ll likely never be a six or more sack guy, but he can be a productive reserve. Three to five sacks off the bench would be a huge boost for the team.
Washington’s final draft pick of this last, Smith-Williams is an impressive physical specimen, but he has a very concerning injury history. In a five-year college career, he played six or fewer games in four of them. If he can stay healthy, he has a decent chance of finding either a final roster spot or maybe, a practice squad spot.
A seventh-round selection from 2019, Brailford was a very productive collegiate pass rusher. He was very good at the Senior Bowl and was decently impressive in camp. Brailford has impressive bending capabilities, and his upside as a pass rusher is very good. I like Brailford’s chances of making the roster if he can stay healthy in camp and show off his pass-rushing skills. However, I can only see the team keeping one of Brailford or Smith-Williams.