It is not often that a team is so confident in an undrafted free agent that the team feels as if they got the equivalent of another draft pick. Yet, that is exactly how defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio feels about defensive tackle John Ridgeway.
"He's got that size and that ability to not just eat up space but come off blocks," Del Rio said after practice.
Ridgeway, who was claimed off waivers by the Commanders from the Dallas Cowboys in September, and his impact will not show up much in the box score. He only has five tackles in six games played this season, but his effect on the defense goes beyond numbers.
Where Ridgeway excels the most is when the Commanders line up with five defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, otherwise known as the "cinco package." Ridgeway and his 321-pound frame can hold up double teams, allowing linebackers to move more freely.
This was paid off in dividends last week against the Indianapolis Colts, as the Commanders were often in their cinco package to counter running back Jonathan Taylor.
"When you're playing with five [linemen], you need a guy in the middle that can do that," Del Rio said. "And he does it well."
That does not mean that Ridgeway is incapable of making key tackles. In fact, he had three against the Colts that showed how disruptive he can be. Facing a first-and-10, Taylor was engulfed by Washington defenders because Ridgeway was clogging up his running lanes.
Then, facing a second-and-7, he shed his blocker and wrapped his arms around Kylen Granson for a three-yard gain.
"He's been a great addition for us," Del Rio said.
The Minnesota Vikings' running back Dalvin Cook is just as talented as Taylor, although his skill set is better used in space. So, Ridgeway might not be seen as much as he was against Indianapolis, but if the Vikings do decide to run between the tackles, they will need to go through Ridgeway first.
And that has proven to be more difficult than opponents expect.
Here are some other notes from Thursday's practice.
-- Rookie Jahan Dotson and linebacker Cole Holcomb did not practice again on Thursday, putting their status for Sunday in doubt. Rivera did say earlier in the week that both players are progressing, but both players need more time before they can help the team.
-- Scott Turner said that Trai Turner looked more like himself against the Colts after dealing with a quad injury and being benched for Saahdiq Charles. Trai knew that he was not playing well, but against Indianapolis, he was better at picking up stunts and finishing blocks.
-- Curtis Samuel is used in a lot of unique ways for the Commanders, whether it is running jet sweeps or taking handoffs between the tackles. Running those concepts is fun for Turner because it is easy to get the ball in Samuel's hands. Turner said he still feels there are ways to get him the ball downfield, but Samuel has proven to be a reliable weapon because of how effective he is. Through eight games, Samuel has 496 total yards.
-- It is clear to Del Rio that Chase Young is excited to be on the field. "He is...chomping at the bit," Del Rio said, and the defensive coordinator looks forward to getting him involved in the rotation.
"This is a guy that really loves to play the game, loves being around his teammates so it's great to have his energy back on the field."
-- Del Rio also has some high praise for Benjamin St-Juste, saying that the second-year cornerback has matured over the past year.
"We saw growth and we moved him inside and didn't bat an eye. Really learned a lot. Now we moved him outside. Again, he just kind of goes about his business doesn't say a whole lot."