Pete's Post Office: What level of the defense is the most concerning?

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Pete's Post Office: What level of the defense is most concerning? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Every Tuesday, Pete Hailey will answer questions from Commanders fans about their favorite and always-interesting team. From inquiries about the depth chart to random ones about what it's like to cover Washington, he hopes to provide insight one whatever is on the mind of those who care so much about the organization.

In this edition, Pete touches on the defense's glaring weakness, non-Terry McLaurin fan favorites and what Jahan Dotson may do in 2022...

Steve gets the privilege of being the first person to ever garner a response in the existence of Pete's Post Office. Steve, go tell everyone you know about the history you made and watch as they react with legitimately zero excitement.

To me, the linebackers are the most worrisome of the three levels on Jack Del Rio's defense. Honestly, I'm not exactly thrilled about the front, the 'backers or the secondary, but the middle of the unit is the direst situation.

At OTAs and minicamp, Jamin Davis was still ceding reps to David Mayo. That doesn't mean his second campaign is doomed before it begins, but it could indicate that he's still underwhelming coaches and, in their minds, not ready for more work. At the very least, it was a disappointing and sobering sight.

As for Cole Holcomb, he's dependable, yet he's now being asked to take over at middle linebacker, and while he served in that role for much of 2021, doing so full time will still be a step up in responsibility. He's the Commanders' best linebacker, but on a more stacked defense, he'd be a second or third option.

And after those three, there's the undersized Khaleke Hudson and... a group of defenders you haven't really heard of before.

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It's quite possible — and I'd argue pretty necessary — that Washington will snag a veteran who's on the market or will be on it after training camp concludes, but that prospective signing will likely be more of the supplementary variety as opposed to a huge force.

The defensive line's depth behind the starters is sketchy, but the starters have some pop to their game. The secondary, meanwhile, is returning its top four names and has a couple of decent backups to turn to. Linebacker, unfortunately, appears shockingly thin, and if Davis doesn't develop quickly, things may get ugly.

I appreciate that for so many conversations related to the Commanders, it's necessary to eliminate McLaurin from the discourse. Just last week, Ethan Cadeaux and I did just that when discussing what the squad's offensive skill guys can do in 2022. He is so clearly in his own category that he must be set aside to make various debates worthwhile.

The Allen pick is definitely a solid one, seeing as he's a captain, went to high school in Virginia and is ascending as a player. Also, his football-first-then-second-and-also-third mentality is definitely appealing to supporters who are so desperate to see Washington get back to winning. I think Mike is correct in identifying him as the guy.

Of course, for a chunk of NFL franchises, the answer to this is the quarterback, but with Carson Wentz's tenure just beginning and his career in a decent amount of flux, he's not in the running and won't be unless he strings together a couple of redemptive seasons.

To me, however, Allen — and perhaps even McLaurin — could soon be supplanted by Chase Young, should Young successfully recover from his torn ACL and return to his Rookie of the Year form.

While Young's stock is clearly down right now, a game-wrecking, No. 2 overall pick with local ties of his own is ready-made for universal adoration. He's nowhere near McLaurin presently and has fallen behind Allen on the defensive line, but double-digit sacks and more iconic lines in press conferences would put him right back in the running for most beloved Commander.

I am trying my absolute freaking best to stay measured when it comes to my enthusiasm for Jahan Dotson, but damn, the rookie is making it difficult to do so.

Though I maintain my fear of the Dotson selection being second-guessed in the future if Jameson Williams and/or Kyle Hamilton blossom (the Commanders could've grabbed either at choice No. 11), Dotson was a complete stud in the first portion of his first pro offseason.

After one particularly impressive practice, I texted a member of the Commanders' staff to express my admiration for how the first-rounder was looking. "He's been like that every day," was the message I got back.

So, with the acknowledgment that Dotson must show he can keep getting open in pads (and most notably do so when pressed by bigger corners) and compete with McLaurin for targets (something he hasn't had to do yet), I'll put him down for 58 catches, 783 yards (that's 13.5 yards per grab) and four receiving touchdowns. Since I'm feeling sassy, I'll also throw in a punt return for a touchdown.

While those numbers wouldn't be on the level of Ja'Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson's debut years, they'd be very encouraging and represent an excellent beginning to his time in Washington.