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The WFT defense seems to have found its footing in the three games since the team’s week 9 bye. Sure, they are still prone to the occasional Bobby McCain brain fart but, for the most part, they have held opposing offenses in check.
The tinfoil hat-wearing side of my personality (which is roughly 100% of my personality) can’t help but notice that the resurgence of Jack Del Rio’s group has coincided with the loss of its two superstar bookends on the defensive line, Montez Sweat and Mr. Generational Talent himself, Chase Young. We learned during the bye week that Sweat would be out for at least a month with a broken jaw suffered against Denver and Young suffered a season-ending ACL tear against Tampa Bay.
News broke during the bye week (never a good thing) that coach Ron Rivera wasn’t happy with Young’s free lancing and apparent unwillingness to not do more than asked. Maybe there was something to that?
Now, I’m a huge fan of both players and can’t wait to see them terrorizing opposing offenses for years to come, but maybe, just maybe, they were hindering the defense by trying to be individually great instead of focusing on their roles in the defense. Maybe slightly less talented players who go where they are supposed to go and play within themselves are better for the defense overall than superstars doing superstar things.
Would I rather have Young and Sweat instead of James Smith-Williams and Shaka Toney? Absolutely. But what I would really rather have is Young an Sweat doing their jobs instead of chasing greatness.
Much like Taylor Heinke on the other side of the ball, Young and Sweat need to learn how to strike a balance between being themselves and playing within the confines of the scheme. When they figure that out, their superior talents will allow them to do their jobs more effectively and the greatness will come.