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As Baker Mayfield rolled out in the third quarter of Sunday's game, he seemed to take his time scanning the field and was gearing up to throw. It was almost as if he underestimated the speed of defensive end Montez Sweat, who exploded off the right edge unblocked and was quickly closing the gap.
As Mayfield cocked his arm back, Sweat threw his hands around Mayfield's waist and started pulling him to the ground. Desperate, Mayfield attempted an underhand pass towards the sideline, but he was called for intentional grounding because the ball did not make it back to the line of scrimmage. In the end, the only thing Mayfield prevented was a sack for Sweat in the box score.
Forcing that penalty was one of several plays Sweat made during what was perhaps his best career performance. As a pass-rusher, he hit Mayfield four times and brought him down on the next drive. In the run game, he tied his career high with two tackles for loss.
With injuries to the Washington Football Team's defensive line, Sweat stepped up in a big way.
"Montez showed that he is going to be a force to be reckoned with," head coach Ron Rivera said after the game.
A 2019 first-round pick, Sweat flourished once he started developing a rush plan during the second half of last season. Five-and-a-half of his seven sacks came in the final eight games, as did nine of his 13 quarterback hits and both of his forced fumbles.
After a standout training camp, Sweat stuffed the stat sheet in the regular season opener and has continued to thrive starting opposite No. 2 overall pick Chase Young. Through three games, Sweat leads the team in quarterback hits (six) and tackles for loss (four) and is tied for second with 2.0 sacks.
Young left Sunday's game with a groin injury, and it's uncertain when he'll return. Washington is also without defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, who suffered a torn bicep and is out for the season. Sweat's output will be crucial in their absence, especially for a defense that relies on its front to get constant pressure.
"He really played well last week," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "I think he's getting an understanding of D-line play, having his hand in the dirt going forward a majority of the time and being disruptive -- I think not just in the passing game, but in the run game as well with some [tackles for loss] and setting an edge for the defense and doing some of the things he's done a nice job of. The arrow's up. He's improving. He's understanding better and better what we're asking him to do and where he can help our defense."
-- Settle prepares for expanded role: Washington's defensive coaches praised third-year pro Tim Settle throughout training camp, but until now, he's been limited to a reserve role. That will change with Ioannidis on Injured Reserve.
"We think he's a good player; he just happens to be stuck behind three really talented guys. Obviously with Matt going down, he's going to get a chance to play a little bit more. It's up to him to take advantage of it. But I like the way he's working. I've liked the way he's worked at it the whole way long. I'm excited for him to get this opportunity to get out there and play more."
-- Haskins knows he must be better: After taking care of the ball for most of his young career, Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw three interceptions that led to 21 points, which was all the Browns needed in an eventual 34-20 victory. Haskins has a 24-hour rule when it comes to pouring over the previous game, so he has moved onto Sunday's matchup with the Ravens. He's looking forward to growing from his past mistakes.
"I just want to be better at everything. I'm still young. I can't just sit here and act like I arrived or I made it. I mean, I made it, but there's a long way to go. I want to be a Hall of Fame quarterback one day. By God, that's not going to be easy. I want it to be hard, hard as hell, just so I can show that I can do it and prove to myself and to my teammates that they believe and trust in me."
-- McLaurin "going to be great": Those were the words of veteran Dontrelle Inman when asked about the second-year wideout Wednesday. Inman highlighted Terry McLaurin's curiosity and his willingness to learn, which are two traits that Inman said typically allow young players to play a lot longer than their counterparts.
"He's going to be great. He's young, he has a lot to learn -- as a lot of young receivers do -- but he will be in this league for a long time as long as he continues to get better and better each day."
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