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Washington at Bills: Matt Ioannidis OUT; Can Roster Move Help?

Chase Young and Montez Sweat are currently playing at different levels

The Washington Football Team has a pair of very talented, young pass-rushers in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Both are previous first-round NFL Draft picks, but right now that’s where the similarities end. 

While Sweat is the NFL’s current leader in consecutive games with a sack, Young has yet to get to the quarterback this season.

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While Young has struggled to make an impact in the stat box, his coaches have been busy fielding questions about his early development, and the defensive unit’s overall inability to keep opponents in check in the first two weeks of the season. 

Meanwhile, the WFT is having to make a roster move due to another D-line issue: Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (knee) did not make the trip to Buffalo and is out on Sunday. Washington has elevated Daniel Wise from the practice squad to the main roster for Sunday’s game.

Coming off a Thursday night win over the New York Giants last week, the WFT got a pseudo-bye week thanks to the extended time between that game and this Sunday’s against the Buffalo Bills. 

This means more time to prepare, and some added chances to self-scout. It’s also led to more opportunities for people outside the organization to question if Young specifically is really as capable as led to believe when the team made him the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Perhaps it was winning the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well, or the fact he was named a team captain as a first-year player. Or maybe it was all of those things combined. Whatever it is, some feel Young isn’t living up to his billing entering Week 3 of this current season. 

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“People don’t want to be wrong,” Rivera said when asked about talent evaluators having to move past initial evaluations of players from time to time. “That’s just the truth of the matter.”

This doesn’t mean the team was wrong about Young, of course. As evidence has also been brought up to support Rivera’s stance that both Young and Sweat are seeing more double teams, play-action passes, and chip blocks to start the year. 

The Bills already present a contest referred to as a ‘measuring stick’ of sorts multiple times this week. 

For Young and Sweat it could mean more, from an individual and team aspect. As a team, it means another chance to return to the defense being its biggest strength. 

Individually, getting critics off one’s back while the other is trying to extend a very impressive run of games. All of these factors only add pressure, and it’s easy for players to sway with those external factors at times. 

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“They get frustrated. They want to make plays,” Rivera said about his pass rushing duo. “These guys are high impact players. They know it. but the thing that comes with it is a responsibility of people paying a little more attention to understanding what they’re going to try to do to create time for their quarterbacks there…That’s the things that our guys have to understand.”

A solid performance against Josh Allen’s Bills offense will gain the defense, and the faces of the unit, some reprieve from the bright lights of expectation. Another week of uncharacteristic defensive lapses, however, will only bring more critics, and add to the collective frustration.