The Commanders’ offense hasn’t had any sustained success since the Kirk Cousins era. This season, for so many reasons, is a very important one for Washington. Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner, like last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick, is heading into the season again with a competent starting quarterback in Carson Wentz. Turner has a mulligan to implant his offensive philosophy in a young unit and mold that side of the football into a team that can take advantage of their athleticism and speed. So how do you define a successful season for the Commanders’ offense? Let’s look into it.
Defining success for Washington
A well-balanced offensive line
The Commanders lost LG Ereck Flowers and RG Brandon Scherff this off-season, and their starting center Chase Roullier is recovering from a fractured left fibula injury that he sustained last season. Roullier hopes to be ready during training camp, though he is not entirely sure when exactly Washington will clear him to play. Washington acquired guards Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner following the loss of Flowers and Scherff, so there’s a familiarity there from a coach and player standpoint. However, this unit needs to become one that has run blocking and pass pro strengths.
The Commanders utilize a good balance of power and zone run concepts, but what will be this new unit’s strength? Is this a unit with the awareness and athleticism to dominate in the zone run game, or is it a more physical unit that can dominate at the point of attack to create lanes for the running back?
In pass pro, second-year RT Sam Cosmi had his ups and downs last season, and one of his best assets in Scherff is now gone. Scherff offered help to Cosmi on numerous occasions when he was left uncovered. Cosmi needs to continue developing as a pass blocker through his footwork and hand usage; he is an x-factor with this unit because if he can show that he can hold his own, the offensive line may be much better than we’d all anticipate. Another question is how well can the unit communicate and be on the same page in pass protection? It’ll ultimately come down to ability as well, so with the resume that Norwell and Turner have from their playing career, Washington should be in good shape.
Brian Robinson Jr. takes over primary run responsibilities
Antonio Gibson is the starter heading into the season, but Brian Robinson Jr. might be the stability the Commanders’ offense needs moving forward. Training camp will be the earliest indicator of what Robinson is capable of in Washington’s offense, but the preseason games will be able to showcase if he can handle an NFL workload. Robinson taking the majority of the carries is, in essence, benching Gibson. However, it’s important to note that Washington can maximize Gibson’s efficiency by reducing his role. If Gibson’s touches can be schemed by Turner, he can be a versatile weapon in the offense and unlock the playmaker potential that many believe he has. Robinson has the vision, quickness, and processing that this offense needs to maximize its zone runs. Furthermore, Robinson is also a true running back that did not have to spend time learning a new position like Gibson did, converting from receiver to running back.
Terry McLaurin establishes himself as an elite receiver
I firmly believe that McLaurin is still right outside the top ten for receivers in the NFL. Precisely in the 12-14 range. Now with the new extension, even more eyes will be on McLaurin. He now has a quarterback who can challenge a defense on all three levels of the defense, so his strengths and weaknesses will be on full display.
So for McLaurin, three questions have to be answered this season:
- Can McLaurin consistently create separation?
- Has he developed with his releases against specific coverage techniques?
- Can McLaurin completely take over a football game on any given Sunday?
Scott Turner and Carson Wentz avoid significant hiccups in developing their relationship
Turner and Wentz are both in similar situations because they need to prove that they belong. Wentz is heading into his last season as a projected starter for the new team he plays for if 2022 is a flop. Although he signed an extension in March, Turner is entering hot seat territory in the court of public opinion. In turn, it is in Turner and Wentz’s best interest to find what works in the passing game, and exploit that, often.
When examining Wentz’s part in this relationship, success in 2022 would be defined as understanding how to execute a play for any scenario that Turner would outline before game day. Can Wentz get the offense in the best position to succeed on each play based on the weekly film study preparation? If Wentz displays the trust in Turner’s offense and the weapons that he has at his disposal, he will likely be back as Washington’s starting quarterback next year.
For Turner’s part in this relationship, success in 2022 would be defined as effectively communicating what he wants Wentz to do in this offense. Secondly, another important factor is identifying Wentz’s strengths and finding a way to bring that out through his scheme. For example, can Turner's scheme create opportunities for specific playmakers on the offense to take advantage of Wentz’s aggressive nature as a quarterback? Alternatively, can Turner display the ability to dial it back when he believes that Wentz is straying away from the game plan? Turner has a lot to manage, but it’s go-time now.