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Why Montez Sweat's length, explosiveness gives offenses so many problems

It didn't take long for Montez Sweat to make his presence known in team drills during last Wednesday's OTA. 

On the first pass play of the session, Sweat blew past Sam Cosmi and rushed towards Carson Wentz before letting up long enough for the quarterback to complete his pass. The play ended up being a win for the offense, but had things unfolded on a Sunday, it would likely have resulted in Sweat racking up a sack. 

It was a reminder that Sweat, who missed seven games last season, is still one of the more talented young defensive ends in the NFL, despite finishing the 2021 season with a career-low five sacks and 24 tackles. Now, the former first-round pick is back on the field, and while last season didn't end as he intended, there were flashes of the elite skill set that he possesses. 

Team analyst Logan Paulsen and former Washington defensive back Shawn Springs broke down some of those examples during the latest episode of "Command Center." 

"Athleticism, speed and power," Paulsen said. "That's what he brings to you in a dynamic way." 

One of Paulsen's favorite plays from Sweat came during the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. On a second-and-goal from Washington's 7-yard line, Sweat used his 35-inch arms to push his way past backup Storm Norton to get a clear path to Justin Herbert. 

Sweat didn't get there in time, but the pressure he generated was enough to force Herbert to get rid of the ball earlier than he wanted, resulting in an incompletion to Jared Cook, who was open in the end zone. 

"[It was] The fact that he was able to use his speed, use his long arms to affect the throw," Springs said. "It's not necessarily a sack, but he was able to affect the throw, so therefore, it wasn't a completed touchdown."

Paulsen highlighted another sample of Sweat using his length to his advantage, and this time, it did result in a sack. The play came against the Green Bay Packers, and with Aaron Rodgers looking to plow further into Washington territory at their own 29-yard line, Sweat shoved the right tackle's hands off him and took Rodgers for a 10-yard loss.

It turned a second-and-1 into a third-and-11.

"When you are that athletic, people talk about, 'You don't have a lot of good moves. You don't have a lot of good technique,'" Springs said. "Often times, you may not have to, because you're able to do what we just saw on the play."

Sweat's length isn't just useful in the passing game; it's also an asset against the run, and he put that on display twice against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons ran in Sweat's direction in both clips highlighted by Paulsen, and each time Sweat used his arms to push his blockers into the backfield.

Because of that, the running backs had little room to work with, resulting in minimal gains.

"Those are the plays that go unnoticed...but when you're watching that tape, you understand how important that is," Springs said. "Now you got an outside edge defender getting up the field, making the ball bubble. It allows the linebackers to be able to scrape and run. So, now the whole defense can play because of one man's sacrifice and awareness on the play."

The Washington Commanders begin their final week of Phase 3 before the start of mandatory minicamp. Check out the best photos from Monday's OTA. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)

Sweat is entering his fourth season, and according to coach Ron Rivera, the key to maintaining his growth is understanding how to use his skill set to his advantage.

From what Rivera has seen this offseason, he expects the flashes he showed in 2021 to be more frequent this season.

"He's got a tremendous skillset, he really does," Rivera said. "And as he continues to grow and learn and understand how to use it, he becomes more and more dynamic as well."

You can check out Paulsen and Springs' full breakdown of Sweat in the video above.

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