Say what you want about Ron Rivera’s first two seasons in D.C. - it wasn’t very pretty. However, when he was hired, he did speak of a plan to not only turn the culture around (which I believe he has done), but to guide this team back to respectability on the field (this part is still TBD).
This quote from coach after the conclusion of the 2021 season sums it up nicely:
“At the end of the day, we have some holes that we want to fill. We have some players we want to make sure are the right kind of guys that are going to be out on the football field. But that’s all part of the process I believe in.”
When you look at the changes that have occurred on this roster, it’s pretty easy for even the most casual fan to get excited for what is being built for the future.
The book is still out on newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz, but let’s deal in facts here - he’s the most physically talented quarterback Washington has had since RG3, and he’s proven he can win in this league. At 29 years of age, he’s still very much in his prime, and he is under team control at a manageable salary for the next three seasons. If Wentz fails miserably this season (which I do not think he does), it likely means the Commanders will have a high pick heading into the 2023 NFL Draft...AND, we have Sam Howell, who many projected as a high round pick heading into his 2021 collegiate season, waiting in the wings. For the first time in a LONG time, the outlook at quarterback appears very positive.
The past few seasons, Washington’s skill positions have been an area that has lacked difference makers. Outside of Terry McLaurin, who Rivera inherited, the cupboards were rather bare. Heading into year three of his tenure, Ron had flipped the script. Third year running back and weapon Antonio Gibson leads a talented backfield that also boasts one of the best third down backs in the NFL in J.D. McKissic and Alabama rookie Brian Robinson. The three-headed monster is the best in the division and likely top 10 in the league.
Wide receiver went from a weakness to a strength in the offseason. The Commanders wisely locked up McLaurin for the foreseeable future with a well-deserved contract extension and drafted the talented and versatile Jahan Dotson out of Penn State in round one. Dotson will immediately take pressure off of McLaurin to shoulder the entire load of the passing game, and should open up opportunities for his teammates and the run game. Second year speedster Dyami Brown, who had some difficulties adjusting to the NFL as a rookie, looks much more comfortable in year two so far this training camp, and veteran Cam Sims has flashed when given the opportunity. Despite Curtis Samuel’s inability to stay healthy so far during his tenure in D.C., he’s still a young, dangerous weapon who can be deployed all over the field, and I assume OC Scott Turner will use him as such if he can keep his ailments in check once the season begins (fingers crossed).
Tight end remains a bit of a question mark this preseason, but there is both talent and versatility in that room. If Logan Thomas can return to form after knee surgery, he could become that security blanket Carson Wentz loves to target in the passing game. Behind him is in-line blocking standout John Bates, and rookie MOVE tight end Cole Turner, who has caught the eye of the coaches early on in training camp for his length, athleticism and hands. Sammis Reyes and Curtis Hodges are two other names to watch this preseason.
The offensive line boasts a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. Last year, newly acquired left tackle Charles Leno played very well for coach John Matsko. He returns this year, and teams up with veteran left guard Andrew Norwell and The Command Center, Chase Roullier, to form a very talented trio. There is a battle at right guard brewing to replace Brandon Scherff between Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer. Whoever doesn’t win that spot will serve as a primary backup to both guard positions. Right tackle Sam Cosmi is the biggest, and maybe brightest player to watch on this unit, as he has the athleticism that makes coaches salivate and the work-ethic to become one of the best in the game under Matsko’s tutelage. Rookie Chris Paul has held his own in camp thus far, and offers position versatility as both a guard and tackle.
The front 4/5 should be the strength of this defense, and the foundation to build on both present and future. Pro Bowler Jon Allen leads this talented group up front, and running mates Daron Payne and rookie Phidarian Mathis should form one of the most prominent units in the NFL. The Commanders are likely to be without defensive end Chase Young for a few games to start the season while he rehabs from offseason knee surgery, but Montez Sweat, Efe Obada, Casey Toohill (who is having a very good training camp), James Smith-Williams and Shaka Toney offer plenty of ability and versatility.
The linebacking corps remains the weakness of the team, but Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis are both young, talented players who just need to put it all together. Depth behind them is concerning, as Khaleke Hudson and David Mayo are more reserve/special teams-type players, but there is still time for the staff to pluck a veteran off the free agent market and even watch the waiver wire as cuts are made in a few weeks.
The secondary is an area fans should be excited to see perform this season. The back-half returns all four starters from last season (Fuller, Jackson, Curl and McCain), and has two second-year players (Forrest and St-Juste), who are really turning heads early in training camp. Add in rookies Percy Butler and Christian Holmes (who have both splashed this camp), and you have a group with talent, versatility and youth, with some decent depth counting veterans like Danny Johnson, Jeremy Reaves and Corn Elder (who has looked good so far this camp).
Many say year three of a coaches' tenure is the make-or-break year, and this should hold true for Ron Rivera in 2022, however, it’s very evident how different this roster looks from when he arrived until now, and I mean that in the most positive of ways. He has certainly done a lot in a short period of time to turn this team into contenders within the division...and hopefully beyond that.
This roster is littered with both talent and youth and is starting to shape up nicely both now and for the future. Year one of Washington Commanders football should be a fun one to watch for fans of the Burgundy and Gold!
How would you grade the overall talent on the Commanders current roster?
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What is the weakest area on the current roster?
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