LAST year the Commanders (armed with their latest name), finished 8 – 8 – 1 overall, 2 – 3 – 1 in the division, and dead last in the NFC East. With the league essentially firing Washington’s owner during the offseason, there was no one to fire their coach. Sooo, he’ll be back. This team entered 2022 with a lot of questions, none of which seemed to get answered.
Let’s get a look at the 2023 Pre-Draft Commanders roster, to get an idea of who this team is today.
QB: They jettisoned Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, and held onto this guy,
Sam Howell, who was a 5th round rookie last year. Howell had just 19 attempts, but currently owns a 1 – 0 record as a starter. Washington is apparently so high on him, they signed Jake Fromm (NYG), and threw 8M$ at Jacoby Brissett (CLE). Brissett is essentially Tyrod Taylor 2.0. He’s a decent journeyman passer, and is likely only on the roster to teach Howell how to be a pro. Problem is, Washington needs someone to show Howell how to be The Man, and Brissett has never been that. The season is already starting off badly for this team. (-)
RB: Brian Robinson seems to be who the Red- sorry, Commanders- are hanging their hat on, as the basis of their 2023 attack. Robinson’s a physical, between the Tackles runner (797 rushing yards, 3.9ypc). Those traits played a role in him taking away the starting job last year, from Antonio Gibson. Gibson is a niftier runner, but his lack of physicality is hard to ignore. Especially for a 220 pounder.
Jonathan Williams started the last two games of the season and was absolutely forgettable in both games. Jaret Patterson and FB Alex Armah are also on the roster. All these players were here last year, and were totally unremarkable. Perhaps the coaching staff is looking to fine tune their approach, because all signs point to not adding anyone. (-)
WR: Terry McLaurin is the only player on this team’s offense, that defensive coaches feel a need to gameplan for. On just 13 more catches, McLaurin’s 1,191 receiving yards, were 535 yards better, than the 656 posted by Curtis Samuel last year. Last year’s rookie, Jahan Dotson led the team with 7 TD’s and added 523 receiving yards of his own. So perhaps the Reds- The Footb- Are they still the Commanders this year? Do we know that yet??? In any case, maybe “This group of people” are expecting Dotson to take a big step in 2023.
The second tier represents almost no substantial depth. Dynami Brown averaged 28.6 yards per catch last year, and 18.1 during his two year career. However his 43.6% catch rate, means he won’t be trusted with many targets. Dax Milne is a return man. The other three on the roster are just camp bodies. (+)
TE: This team has to spend a high pick here. Maybe a round one pick. Logan Thomas (39 – 323 – 8.3 – 1) is the top of the order here, and not a soul is losing a wink of sleep over matching up against him. He’s good for the run game, but otherwise he’s no threat. John Bates and Cole Turner aren’t causing anyone to worry either. Armani Rogers is QB trying to transition. There is also a guy named Curtis Hodges.
This is what it is. I’m not holding out on you. I’m not under-reporting in order to be funny, or make a point. You see Logan Thomas’s numbers? This is what they have. They didn’t add to it. Given their feelings on 5th round QB Sam Howell, it’s entirely possible that Washington could go into 2023 with this same group, like they did in 2022. Fucked if I know why though. (-)
OT: For the second year in a row, LT Charles Leno didn’t miss a start. That said, giving up a career worst 8 sacks after signing a three year extension last January, was probably not what Washington had in mind. Surely they were hoping for a star, when they stole him from the Bears.
RT Cornelius Lucas isn’t an All-Pro, but he’s better than decent.
As far as depth, Sam Cosmi was called on to start 6 games last season, but played at least 40% of the snaps in 6 other games. That means he saw time at other spots. He may have given up 4.5 sacks last year, but with that much movement in a second year player, the experience will only pay dividends down the road.
Free agent Trenton Scott was recently added to the team. This means players like Drew Himmelman, Alex Akingbulu, and Aaron Monteiro don’t really have deep shots at sticking around long. (-)
G: Andrew Norwell signed with Washington last year, and proceeded to give up a career high 3 sacks in 16 starts. The line was pretty inefficient running the ball as well. They ranked 12th in the league, despite the 4th most attempts, ranking 28th in average yards per carry.
They lost Wes Martin to Cleveland, so they replaced him with KC’s Andrew Wylie who surrendered 8 sacks and was penalized 5 times for 36 yards last year. They already had Saahdiq Charles on the roster, and spent a fourth round pick on him a few years ago. Still they chose to go get Wylie instead. Yikes.
Chris Paul had a start here last year, and didn’t embarrass himself. There are two other guys behind him, but that fourth spot should belong to Paul. (-)
C: Nick Gates fled the giants and joined a division rival for a three year deal paying him 5.5 per season. This automatically gives him the inside track on the starting gig. Tyler Larson got 8 starts last year, but Washington still felt they needed and upgrade. Chase Roullier got 2 starts and wasn’t awful. He’s actually been pretty solid no matter where Washington has used him during his career. Seems weird that they went so far out of their way, just to circumvent their roster. (+)
In A Nutshell: Washington isn’t a place that’s going to attract much top free agent talent, which is why they couldn’t do much to upgrade their offensive line. Unless they surprise everyone, they also don’t have a QB. You can’t win in the NFL without one of those. (-)
DE: Chase Young has played in 27 of a possible 50 games over his three year career, netting a totals of 75 tackles and 9.0 sacks. I doubt the team will pick up his fifth year option. Montez Sweat is a passing down specialist, who has been asked to play too many snaps for most of his career, due to injuries to Young. Sweat isn’t a liability against the run, but his 6’6 frame doesn’t help him win many battles in the trenches.
James Smith-Williams in addition to stealing all the last names, has grabbed himself a regular role as a starter, despite being a seventh round pick who plays like one. Efe Obada is coming off probably his best year after defecting from Buffalo. He matched his career-high 24 tackles, and added 4 sacks to boot.
Casey Toohill, and William Bradley-King all have at least a year in Washington’s system, so as depth they’re at least “scheme sound”. (+)
DT: This position is the beating heart of this teams defense, as two of the NFL’s best play side by side, as they did in college. Jonathan Allen posted his annual 60+ tackles and posted 7.5 sacks, as well as a career-high 16 tackles for loss, along with his first interception. Daron Payne earned a new contract buy posting career-highs in tackles (64), tackles for loss (18) and a team-leading 11.5 sacks. He also bagged his first safety. There’s a ton of fight in these two.
Of the reserves John Ridgeway’s 280 snaps (4 starts) far exceeded any other back-up. His number aren’t great, but to his credit, the team was 2-1-1 when he started. That only loss being to San Francisco. Phidarian Mathis was drafted in the second round last year, but in his first game, he tore the meniscus in his knee, and was put on I.R.
Benning Potoa’e (not Potatoe, Mr. Quayle) and David Bada were so good last year, that Washington went out and signed well-traveled Abdullah Anderson, most recently from Atlanta. Anderson finally saw real playing time last year (8 starts) and responded with 40 tackles and a sack. (+)
OLB: Washington is a muddled read here. Last year they had Jon Bostic and Cole Holcomb. Neither is (nor will be) on the roster this season. They added a free agent, and they have a couple of players they could elevate. It remains to be seen which route they’ll take.
Free agent Cody Barton had 136 tackles (5 TFL), 2 sacks and 2 interceptions last year for Seattle. That stat line gives him the inside track on starting, but he’s only signed to a one year deal. Indicating that Washington has someone waiting in the wings. Not exactly an internal vot of confidence for Barton.
Of the three guys who were on the roster last year, no one seems like a favorite to win the job. Khaleke Hudson started 1 game, playing 67 of the 72 snaps he’d play all season. Milo Eifler and Nathan Gerry combined for just 6 defensive snaps all season long. All 6 belonged to Eifler. (-)
MLB/ILB: Jamin Davis can chase and make tackles. Given the line in front of him, you’d expect him to be more of playmaker. David Mayo is just a guy, but he’s been around long enough to know what’s required of a pro, whenever he gets out there. So he’s depth. De’Jon Harris is also on the bench. (+)
S: In just 11 starts Darrick Forrest managed 88 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Kamren Curl put up 83 tackles (6 TFL), and 1 sack, but is pickless for a second year in a row. Percy Butler is the third man. It’s not pretty, but it’s stable. (+)
CB: Alright. Washington has nine players at this position, but I’m only going to mention six, because the remaining three are hot, roasted trash. Kendall Fuller started every game, grabbed 3 interceptions, deflected 13 passes, and scored twice. But unless you’re a Commanders fan, you’d have to be me to know that. Benjamin St-Juste took over the starting spot in Week 5. While he didn’t make many plays on the ball, he did record 2 sacks. (Not that pass rush is what most seek in a DB.) Danny Johnson also had a sack. And an interception.
Looking to upgrade their secondary, the Commanders ran out and added Cameron Dantzler. Off of waivers. From Minnesota. (-)
In A Nutshell: They’re still solid down the middle, but they’re years behind the division, on the edges. For years Washington has relied on it’s defense to keep them in games, and maintain some semblance of respectability for the franchise. After years of the same coaches, running same system, with more talent going out than coming in, that will all come to an end in 2023. (-)
K/P: Joey Slye is the Kicker right now, but another season like last year could change that. Actually it’s hard to believe that there isn’t already a second Kicker on the roster. His 25/30 (83.3%) mark only looks worse when you factor in, him being 12/16 from 40+. Even his extra points were an adventure at 24/28 (85.7%).
Where he shined was his 60 touchbacks on 77 kickoffs (77.9%). All season long, opponents only had 15 KO returns in 17 games. That’s helps win the hidden yardage battle and sets the defense for success. (-)
Punting for Washington is Tress Way. Returners felt encouraged to make hay on 34 of his 83 punts (40.9%), but the coverage team gets down there fast enough to preserve 43.0 yards of Way’s 46.8 yard average. (-)
In A Nutshell: There are no clutch performers here, just grinders. This unit is treated like it’s an extension of the defense. It isn’t geared to making a sudden plays. Instead, it makes a creeping difference in games, with regard to field position. It’s a playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. Which shows up in an 8 – 8 – 1 record. (-)
BOTTOM LINE: Barring a couple of miracles in next week’s Draft, this is a 5 or 6 win team for 2023. Which could be great for 2024.
Offensively, letting a 5th round draft pick QB the team is brilliant. He’ll either be a revelation; or he’ll lead them to a top pick in the 2024 Draft. Their best weapon is WR, but with a leaky offensive line and a questionable QB, they may not get a chance to use him like they need to.
Defensively, they’ll just be on the field too much, and wear down in games where their offense can’t keep up. The defense won’t be awful talentwise, but they may end up being statistically awful.
As a team, there just aren’t enough difference makers in any unit. They have a WR, and two DT’s to be concerned about. That’s it. Most everything else is stuff you’d find at a yard sale.