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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Bryan Manning

Commanders DEs Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams ready for opportunities after trades

Heading into the 2023 NFL season, the Washington Commanders had their top five defensive ends headed for free agency in 2024. Chase Young, Montez Sweat, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and Efe Obada were all playing in the final year of their respective contracts.

Now, Young and Sweat are gone after the Washington traded the duo earlier this week ahead of the NFL trade deadline.

Fortunately for the Commanders, they have some depth at defensive end. While no one will confuse Toohill, Smith-Williams, or Obada for Sweat and Young in regards to talent and athleticism, the trio has plenty of experience and has each experienced success.

Toohill, despite limited snaps this season, is third on the team with four sacks, just one behind Young. The fourth-year defensive end from Stanford is eager for an increased role.

“It’s always, in this business, it’s always sad to see people you spend a lot of time with, people you have a lot of respect for, go,” Toohill said. “Obviously, Chase and Tez are incredible players, good friends of both (Smith-Williams) of ours, so that was, sad to see them go. It always is, and that’s a part of the business that never gets easier. So that was a hard day for everyone involved.”

While Toohill will miss Sweat and Young, he understands he and Smith-Williams have a job to do, and they’re prepared.

“I don’t think anything changes in terms of, like James and I, our preparation,” Toohill said. “We’ve been here before, our rookie year, when they were both hurt. Nothing changes; I don’t think you make it a bigger deal than it is. And you just come to work every day and do your absolute best to prepare.”

Toohill is certainly ready for the increased role, but his preparation will not be any different.

“It’s always exciting, but you can’t focus too much on that,” he said. “I don’t think, like I said, much changes, like, I don’t think my preparation changes, whether I was playing 10 reps, or 30 or 40, whatever it is. So, just keeping that same mindset, just enjoying every day here and preparing the best I can, and that’s all I’m focused on.”

What about his good friend Smith-Williams?

“You always want to play as much as you possibly can, right?” Smith-Williams said. “Looking forward to that and preparing the same as I have all year.”

Much like Sweat and Yuong were close, Toohill and Smith-Williams are also close friends. Now, both players have a chance to show the Commanders they should be around in 2024.

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