Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece examining what a “best case scenario” might look like for the Washington Commanders this coming season. This is intended to do the opposite, which, unfortunately is a far more manageable exercise given this franchise’s history over the past two plus decades. If you want to keep your pre-season buzz going, I’d suggest that you stop reading here. Good luck.
While Scott Turner has had very little to work with over the past two years, things don’t get significantly better in 2022. As in 2021, his veteran QB, who appears well situated to execute Turner’s vertical offense, goes down in the first game of the season. Late in a tight game against the Jaguars, Wentz rolls out to try to scramble for a short touchdown and is absolutely blown up by linebacker Foye Oluokun. The resulting concussion and shoulder injury are sufficiently severe to keep Carson out for the rest of the year.
Convinced that Washington must be cursed, at the end of the season Turner asks Rivera to release him from the remaining years on his contract. Rivera agrees, and Turner is quickly picked up by the Los Angeles Chargers, whose offense underperforms in 2022. Ultimately, settled in to a more stable situation, Turner helps guide Justin Herbert and the Chargers to several deep playoff runs and a Super Bowl appearance over the next 7 years.
With Wentz out for the season, Taylor Heinicke is again tapped to play a starting role. Heinicke picks up where he left off, playing respectably, but lacking the arm strength to create a reliable enough deep threat to open up the offense fully. After going 1-4 in starts, Heinicke’s uncharacteristic healthiness comes to an end. A brutal blindside hit dislocates his shoulder, ending his season prematurely.
The next man up is Sam Howell, the rookie QB from UNC. Howell is still extremely raw, and shows flashes of his powerful arm throughout the rest of the season, but he’s just too inexperienced to put the team on his back. The good news is, he finishes out the season for the team at QB. The bad news is, he goes 3-8 over the remainder of the season, and looks a long way off from being a true NFL starting option.
Brian Robinson’s torn ACL in the second pre-season game throws an enormous monkey wrench into Turner’s plans at RB for the year. Jonathan Williams is added to the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season as a potential replacement, but the reality is that he just doesn’t have much left in the tank.
As a result, Antonio Gibson is force fed the ball throughout the early part of the season, accruing between 20 to 25 touches per game through the first four weeks. Tired from overuse, his fumbling issues return and Gibson begins to get banged up, forcing the team to cut back dramatically on his use throughout much of the rest of the season.
JD McKissic and Jaret Patterson end up being eaten alive by defenses as the rookie Howell is not reliably dangerous enough to keep them honest. The team puts up its lowest rushing totals per game in years.
Not only is Logan Thomas not ready to return by the beginning of the season, his rehabilitation keeps him out through October. When he does return, he’s a shadow of his former self, tentative in his cuts, and significantly slower than before the injury.
John Bates puts in another workmanlike performance and has a very respectable year, with over 400 yards receiving. His future looks bright as a reliable TE2 in the league.
Pressed into service earlier than he should have been, Cole Turner misses the chip block that allows Heinicke to be crushed from his blindside.
The Antonio Gandy-Golden experiment ends before the season begins. He fails to make the transition to TE and the eventual 53-man roster. He’s eventually picked up by the Chiefs and becomes a surprise depth value at TE for the team, given another year of development.
The good news is that Terry McLaurin makes it through the season and ends up being the lone bright spot on offense, once again going over 1,000 yards receiving. The bad news is, that’s the only good news.
Curtis Samuel’s groin injury lingers into the 2022 season, and he ends up missing almost all of the season on IR. Beyond frustrated by Samuel’s situation, Rivera makes the decision to cut bait on him during the 2023 offseason.
Dyami Brown rekindles his connection with Sam Howell briefly, but defenses quickly learn to disrupt his deep game with so few threats elsewhere on the field.
Jahan Dotson has a fairly average rookie WR season, collecting over 400 yards, but struggling to adapt to NFL defenses that play a much more aggressive brand of football, particularly at the line of scrimmage.
For all the hope that Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell would step right in and take over for Ereck Flowers and Brandon Scherff, it turns out that both players don’t have much tread on their tires. Wes Schweitzer takes over for Turner early in the season, and they put up average guard play in an offense that grows more anemic as the season wears on. Saahdiq Charles fails to take the next step in growth and is ultimately released after the season.
Chase Roullier’s broken leg and associated ligament damage ends up being worse than initially reported, and he spend much of the season trying to get right, leaving a combination of Tyler Larsen and Keith Ismael to cover the center position.
Both Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi play respectably throughout the season, but with the considerable weakness in the interior offensive line, the overall performance of the group is middle of the pack in the league.
Dejected by the failure of Turner and Norwell to perform well during the season, John Matsko decides to tender his resignation at the end of the year, preferring to spend more time with his family.
Jack Del Rio’s stubbornness continues into the 2022 season, characterized by a failure to adapt his talent to their circumstances and an unwillingness to employ creativity in terms of his scheme. A defense that, on paper, has the talent to be a top 10 group, finishes in the bottom third of the league for the second year in a row.
The most notable issue with the defensive line is that Chase Young misses the first two months of the season continuing to rehab his injured knee. Faced with blocking James Smith-Williams/Efe Obada or Montez Sweat, offenses choose Sweat every time, and his frustration begins to mount, as he only collects two sacks until Young’s return.
Jon Allen and Daron Payne play admirably, but it turns out that Phidarian Mathis is no replacement on the rotation for Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis. Settle, incidentally, thrives in Buffalo, given the opportunity to compete for a starting role. His consistent interior pressure and upbeat personality in the locker room end up being discussed as significant factors in the Bills’ Super Bowl run.
Defensively, one of the biggest bright spots ends up being Cole Holcomb’s development. Given the chance to play MIKE full time, he makes the most of his opportunity and has a career year. Unfortunately, passed over for an extension in the offseason, Holcomb prices himself out of the market in DC. The Steelers are happy to pay him before the 2023 season begins.
Despite hope that Jamin Davis would play better with less on his plate, he doesn’t. He’s given several games to show himself, but by the end of the season, David Mayo has taken more snaps at LB than Davis has.
Even with the struggles in the unit, Shaka Toney is not given a shot at WILL and fails to make the team as an EDGE. He is grabbed off waivers by the Cowboys at the insistence of Micah Parsons and becomes a fascinating depth piece in their defense.
Kendall Fuller plays well again in 2022 - or at least appears to play well - but that’s primarily because opposing QBs are feasting on William Jackson III who continues to be forced into zone coverage schemes that don’t align with his skillset.
Ben St-Juste looks good early on in the slot, but he suffers two more concussions in the middle of the season that necessitate an IR assignment through the end of the year.
Surprisingly, Channing Stribling gets called up from the practice squad and puts up enough good film to get a serious look in 2023.
With the loss of Landon Collins, the coaching staff struggles to rotate through players who might be able to fill the void. Recognizing the value of Kam Curl at strong safety, they place 6’, 191 lb rookie Percy Butler in the role to start the season. Butler holds his own until he is trucked by Derek Henry in game 5, against the Titans. Butler suffers broken ribs and a shoulder separation and goes out for the season.
Curl is shifted into the role in Butler’s absence and plays adequately, but gets knicked up over the course of the rest of the year. The decision about whether he will play in that role permanently becomes a key part of his contract negotiations in the offseason.
Curl looks good in his time at strong safety before being shifted into the Buffalo nickel role. His replacement, Darrick Forrest, does not. Things get bad enough that even Troy Apke sees time at the position before the season ends.
Bobby McCain reverts back to his “pre-New York Giants” form as an average to below average free safety, and without the consistent pressure from the defensive front, ends up being torched for several deep passes throughout the season.
With Wentz and Heinicke going down early in the season, the team struggles to muster almost any offensive production. The defense continues to looks disorganized and underperforms, given its talent level, for a second year in a row. Ultimately, the team ends up 5-12, and has to look for a starting QB in the 2023 draft.
Though not forced out by Dan Snyder, Rivera decides that he has had enough, with Turner leaving for greener pastures and his good friend John Matsko deciding on retirement. He waives the final year of his contract and gives his full endorsement to turning over the head coaching reins to Jack Del Rio for 2023.
How realistic do you think this scenario is?
I give it 50/50 odds.
You’ve ruined my weekend.