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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Ivan Lambert

Why Commanders vs. Ravens is so important for rookie defensive ends

Monday’s preseason game for two defensive players could be huge.

The Commanders will host Baltimore Ravens in the preseason contest. For the Commanders, they have two rookie defensive ends for whom this game could be very large.

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Though drafted in the fifth round at 137 overall, K.J. Henry, a defensive end out of Clemson, was expected to push and make the team. Unexpected was seventh-round choice (and 233 overall) defensive end Andre Jones out of Louisiana.

Jones has, honestly, looked better in camp thus far. With only three preseason games, Monday’s against the Ravens could play a large role in the future of both players.

The Commanders can only keep so many defensive ends on a 53-man roster. NFL teams must trim their rosters from 90 to 53 players before the NFL league-wide deadline of August 29 at 4 pm.

Everyone knows the Commanders plan to start Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the defensive end spots. Next, come the primary backups. At the beginning of camp, there was no doubt those two were James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill.

How many defensive ends are the Commanders going to keep on their 53-man roster? If there are five defensive ends, this would indicate room for only one more.

Thus far, Efe Obada has been working primarily on the inside, and the Commanders have listed Obada on the depth chart at defensive tackle, but he does possess position flex; thus, he could play both tackle and end.

Is the final defensive end spot up for grabs between Henry and Jones? Both rookie ends are going to be watched closely Monday as the defensive coaches are looking for evidence regarding whom they should keep on the roster.

If the Commanders keep ten defensive linemen, the ability to play both end and tackle will be huge for guys like Smith-Williams and Obada. Those smaller and, thus, not asked to play inside at tackle, need to display both the ability to set the edge against the run and rush the passer.

Something coaches are not going to ignore is that Sweat, Young, Smith-Williams, Toohill and Obada are all entering the final season of their contracts.

If the Commanders determine to only keep four linebackers they could stash one or perhaps two linebackers on the practice squad. They could also keep an extra defensive end on the roster because they are quick enough to play well on the special teams. If they do keep an extra defensive end, could it mean they keep both Henry and Jones on the roster, utilizing both on coverage teams?

Speaking of defensive ends, this game against the Ravens could thus loom very large for the other defensive ends, underdogs looking for a roster spot, such as Joshua Pryor and Will Bradley-King.

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