Earlier this week, Hogs Haven published a poll asking its readers to express opinions on coaching changes, expectations for the defense in 2022, and which player is next in line for a contract extension.
I was a bit surprised at the strength of this number when I first saw the results, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. In our last poll, 56% of respondents picked the Commanders to win the NFC East in 2022. This week’s result in which 73% of those answering the question expressed confidence in the direction of the team is consistent with that.
The confidence numbers for our division rivals are not quite what I expected, with both the Philly fans and NY fans registering a 95% confidence rate, while Dallas fans brought up the rear at 58%.
The question about confidence will be asked regularly through the season, and we will track the level among the fan base as the team goes through its ups and downs, and we will report back.
The Sam Mills III sacking
With the poll questions being posted on Wednesday, just a day after Ron Rivera announced that he had fired the DL coach, Sam Mills III, it seemed like a topical question to ask how fans felt about the decision.
It appears as if 85% of respondents felt as if the coaching staff needed to be held responsible for last year’s underperformance, as well as for whatever has happened in training camp this offseason.
58% seemed to believe that Ron Rivera got it right with the decision on Coach Mills, but another 27% think that the head coach should have been aiming a little higher up the organization chart, with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio being the object of sacrifice instead of the position coach.
Expected defensive performance in 2022
Speaking of Jack Del Rio’s defense, the reason that more than a quarter of fans surveyed believe he should be fired is because his defense not only couldn’t pass the eye test in 2021, statistics backed up what we saw on the field. Whether you focus on traditional statistics like yards allowed or advanced metrics like DVOA, the Washington Football Team was among the statistical leaders in 2021, but ranked in the 25-29 range for the full 2021 season.
Asked what to expect out of the Commanders defense in the coming season, nearly half of the poll respondents took the conservative answer — that the defense will be better than 2021, but not as good as 2020.
The poll had an optimistic tilt, however, that is consistent with the confidence results and last week’s expectations about the division championship in 2022. With 51% of survey respondents picking one or the other of the extremes, 44% said that the defensive squad would return to its 2020 top-5 form, while only 7% predicted a repeat of last year’s debacle.
The team has at least four young defensive players who are either eligible for a contact extension now, or will be next offseason.
The final poll question asked which of the four would be the first to get a new deal. I found it surprising that Sweat was the most popular answer because Cole Holcomb is in the final year of his contract, while Sweat, who was drafted in the first round of the same draft, has the fourth year of his rookie deal ahead of him in 2022, but the team has exercised his 5th year option for 2023.
The Jonathan Allen experience indicates that the team will likely wait until next year to extend Sweat, while Holcomb could well be a priority extension between now and Week 1. I guess the expectation is that Ron Rivera will take a wait & see approach with his young mullet-headed MIKE linebacker.
My only surprise about Daron Payne being last in the survey was the fact that 10% of Hogs Haven readers think that he’ll even be extended, much less that he will be the first of this group to get a new deal. Washington fans have known for years that the realities of the salary cap meant that the team would not be able to retain all of its first-round defensive line draft picks, and it appears that Daron Payne is the odd man out.
All the signs (as I read them, anyway) point to Payne playing out his 5th year option and leaving in free agency, with the team hoping to collect a compensatory pick in return. I just don’t see any scenario (absent a career threatening injury to one or more key defensive players) that brings Payne back as a Commander in 2023. It appears as if at least 10% of you disagree with me.
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