May 30, 2024

VASSBURN, VA When Chase Young and Montez Sweat of the Washington Commanders departed, KJ Henry experienced his first Welcome to the NFL moment.

The rookie selected in the fifth round said, “This doesn’t happen in college, in reference to teammates being traded.Not being here today are two guys that you bonded with and who helped you launch your career. Undoubtedly a strange sensation.

Henry has only spent a few months with his defensive end teammates. Terry McLaurin, who played collegiately at Ohio State with Young, was drafted into the league in the same 2019 class as Sweat. The wide receiver found out on social media on Tuesday that the pass rushers were no longer teammates. In the locker room on Wednesday, his eyes and ears confirmed the situation.


Until something happens, you can never be sure it will be real. When you walk in here and you can’t see them or hear them, it kind of hits you, according to McLaurin. It’s difficult to miss these two big guys because they walk around here.


Within the locker room of the Commanders, the same sentiments pervaded the air 24 hours after Washington traded away half of its highly anticipated starting defensive line. The players, maybe sensibly, refrained from commenting on the decisions made by managing partner Josh Harris and head coach Ron Rivera.


Second-year quarterback Sam Howell stated, The players aren’t really involved in many of those conversations. For us, it’s just about trying to control what we can and trying to help this team win football games every day.


Most predict that Washington (3–3) won’t win many more games this season. The season win total over/under for BetMGM is 6.5. Many, even the big-picture thinkers, questioned if it was worth it to trade Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2024 compensatory third-round selection and Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick.


Why not stick with Sweat and Young, who were regarded as the team’s positional strengths along with defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne?


Rivera provided a twofold explanation. When he spoke late Wednesday afternoon, the coach and head of personnel talked about the decision to deal Sweat ahead of the league’s trade deadline, even though they were unable to discuss Young’s departure because the trade was not yet official.


Although Rivera acknowledged that trading Montez was a difficult choice, they felt it was best for the football team.


According to a report published by The Athletic on Tuesday, Washington was planning to hold onto its top sack rating of 6.5, but was unable to decline the Bears’ offer of a projected No. 35 pick. Washington moved the still-developing Young, who sustained a serious knee injury in 2021, with less reluctance. Despite Young’s five sacks, which trail only Sweat’s, a team source described the trade of the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year as addition by subtraction.


Young and Sweat took part in a number of franchise-related promotional campaigns. If Rivera is right, Howell will become the team’s new face, along with McLaurin and Allen.


Though he had only made one NFL start at the time, Rivera had no qualms about declaring that he sees a bright future with the player he effectively anointed QB1 in January. However, he was unwilling to speculate about the various what-ifs that preceded the trades.


“I know this franchise has been searching for a while, and I believe that guy might be here for the first time in a long time. I truly do,” remarked Rivera. “I’m happy with where we are, but I don’t want to get into (hypotheticals) because it really does feel like we might have found the quarterback.”


Getting a long-term starter would put an end to any thoughts of a season wasted after decades in the quarterback desert. Finding a playable quarterback sooner could have preserved the defensive line.

Rivera stated, “We never got to that point, but if you get there and you have your (QB) sooner, then maybe things turn out differently.”


Howell is coming off a four-touchdown performance against Philadelphia last week that set a career high. Because quarterbacking is so important, he will have plenty of time to earn a spot in the starting lineup or elsewhere in the league. Others won’t have the same freedom, so athletes like defensive end Casey Toohill took the shock of the trade in stride before turning back to their work.


Very astonished. I’m sad because I have two wonderful friends who are also excellent players,” Toohill remarked. But, when you really think about it, you have to acknowledge that this is just a very cruel aspect of the industry. then you must concentrate on this week.


The projected starting lineup replacements for Sweat and Young are Toohill and James Smith-Williams, who are both scheduled to become free agents in 2024; Efe Obada will probably also see more playing time. All three have filled that role during the starters’ injury absences. At some point, Sweat and Young would make a comeback. The key reserves now have the opportunity to demonstrate why they ought to be retained.


The situation is as it is, Smith-Williams, a reliable seventh-round pick in Young’s 2020 class, stated.

The close friends, who without warning converted a one-on-one talk at Toohill into a joint interview when Smith-Smith-Williams mentioned it, agreed that neither the extra reps nor outside sceptics would change their weekly preparation.


Speaking on Wednesday, Payne, the second of the four defensive linemen selected in the first round between 2017 and 2020 (before Sweat and Young), appeared unfazed by the trades. Before the deadline, he said, he assumed the organisation “wanted to make some moves.” After agreeing to a four-year extension in March, the 2022 Pro Bowler expressed how much he enjoyed playing with Sweat, the end with whom he usually ran stunts on the left side of the line.


Payne had not yet said goodbye to either former teammate when the deals were made, having left the team facility on Tuesday. Chicago saw the introduction of sweat on Wednesday. Later this week in San Francisco, it will be Young’s turn. Payne was on the drill field with the other Commanders that remained.

Toohill and Smith-Williams prepared for their more important previous roles.


Payne remarked, “You can see them on tape… flying around and making plays.”

Henry, who missed the first eight games due to injury, prepared for what would likely be his NFL regular-season debut. The main areas of contribution for fellow rookie Andre Jones Jr. have been special teams. This week, that will probably change. Prepare yourself. Nobody is spared during the NFL season.

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