When the old Washington Redskins were great, their defensive ends were a big reason.
Dexter Manley made offensive coordinators sleepless trying to counter him and Charles Mann was right behind. Neither made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but they were the franchise’s best in earning five Super Bowl rings combined.
If the Washington Football Team is to ever become respectable, defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat will be the reason. The two buzzed Dallas quarterbacks regularly as Washington managed six sacks and eight QB hits.
Washington spanked its nemesis 25-3 on Sunday to close within a half game of the NFC East lead at a garish 2-5. A five-game losing streak ended as the team enters its bye week before facing the New York Giants on Nov. 8. The easiest part of the schedule comes in the next few weeks includes matchups against Detroit and Cincinnati plus a rematch with Dallas on Thanksgiving - and this time Ben DiNucci won’t play the role of Clint Longley.
The Washington offense finally showing a pulse is nice, but the defense took down Dallas. Without injured quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are rudderless. Despite beating Washington last week, New York is hopeless, too. So circle that season-ending game versus Philadelphia as the potential division title showdown if Washington’s defense can endure.
Young and Sweat were the stars they were expected to be, given both were first-round picks. Young made six tackles while chasing Andy Dalton for nearly three quarters and forcing an interception late in the second quarter. Sweat made two sacks and gave Dalton no relief from escaping Young.
Manley and Mann created a box in the old days. Now Young and Sweat are doing so against an era of more mobile passers. Dallas was basically limited to the middle of the field. Dalton managed a meager nine-of-19 for 75 yards before he left due to injury in the third quarter.
Ezekiel Elliott was well contained, running for just 45 yards and the Cowboys only 83 total. The only reason Dallas scored was a bad kickoff by Washington’s Dustin Hopkins allowed a 66-yard return to set up a field goal.
The Cowboys looked weary. A smashed orange offers more juice. But no matter. Washington found its rhythm for the first time since a collective eight sacks against Philadelphia on opening day. When Young and Sweat are free to go hunting, few quarterbacks can escape them.
After all, that was the plan when drafting Young with the second overall pick in April and moving up to take Sweat in the first round last year. Few plans seem to come together in Washington, but this one could be a difference maker.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks