With the near finalization of Washington’s 2022 roster this week, and the considerable hand-wringing that resulted in some quarters, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at where we were this time last year, and how things have improved - or not - after one more offseason, draft, and round of free agency.
What follows below is a side-by-side comparison, primarily focused on the starters, but including a discussion of the depth within each unit as well.
2021: Ryan Fitzpatrick
2022: Carson Wentz
At the most important position of them all, Washington clearly upgraded from 2021 to 2022. While there were some optimistic projections for Fitz going into last season - including my own - they were largely based around the idea that a career journeyman had finally found the right situation to take full advantage of his talents and that he would rise to the occasion. Whether that would have happened or not, we’ll never know, as he went down with injury midway through the first game.
With Wentz, on the other hand, we’ve seen his ceiling, and it’s legitimate NFL MVP caliber. Will he return to that form this year? I wouldn’t bet on it, but I would bet that he has a better season than Fitzpatrick ever did, particularly given that he’s surrounded by the best group of offensive weapons he’s ever played with.
Kyle Allen and an unproven Taylor Heinicke versus a battle-hardened Heinicke and the rookie Sam Howell? The 2022 QB depth is a clear upgrade from 2021 with a glimmer of hope that it may actually contain a prospect for the future.
Running Back (Upgrade)
2021: Antonio Gibson & JD McKissic
2022: Antonio Gibson & JD McKissic (with Brian Robinson & Gibson as eventual starters)
Before Brian Robinson’s wounding in an attempted robbery, this unit looked like it had the potential to be one of the best in the NFL, and significantly improved from last year, when it was already pretty solid. With Robinson out for at least four weeks, it defaults back to the same starting personnel as last year, with an expectation that, if Robinson’s recovery goes well, he could come back in October.
This year, Jonathan Williams takes over Jaret Patterson’s spot as RB3 - though Patterson remains on the practice squad - indicating a clear preference by the staff for one over the other. It may not be a huge upgrade, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
Tight End (Upgrade)
2021: Logan Thomas and John Bates
2022: Logan Thomas and John Bates
Though the starters at tight end haven’t changed year over year, Bates has an impressive rookie season under his belt and will likely become an even bigger part of this offense in 2022. Thomas suffered an ugly knee injury last year, but most indications are that he’s on the mend, and should be available early in the season.
Sammis Reyes and Ricky Seals-Jones are both no longer with the team, replaced by rookies Cole Turner and Armani Rogers. Rogers will likely end up being inactive most games - unless someone gets injured - but the indications are that Turner could actually see a decent amount of playing time this season. In terms of potential alone, the 2022 TE depth is a dramatic upgrade at the position.
Wide Receiver (Upgrade)
2021: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, & Cam Sims
2022: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, & Jahan Dotson
Jahan Dotson > Cam Sims is the primary takeaway here. The other issue, of course, is that Samuel entered last season injured and never really had any impact. Assuming Samuel is healthy this year, this is a wildly upgraded unit. Even if he’s not, it’s still improved.
Dyami Brown, Dax Milne, and Adam Humphries have been replaced by Brown and Milne (with another year of experience) and Sims, who was bumped out of the starting three by Dotson, a clear upgrade.
Offensive Line (No Change)
2021: Charles Leno, Ereck Flowers, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Sam Cosmi
2022: Charles Leno, Wes Schweitzer, Chase Roullier, Andrew Norwell, Sam Cosmi
With the loss of Brandon Scherff, some will surely assume the offensive line talent has decreased from 2021 to 2022, but recognizing that Scherff only played in around 66% of the games over the past 4 seasons may right-size that expectation a bit.
An additional curiosity is that Wes Schweitzer actually had the highest PFF score (78.7) of any of the guards in the mix for Washington over the past season (Scherff (73.6), Flowers (72), Norwell (66.7), Trai Turner (69.4)).
Leno and Roullier return as starters, and second year right tackle, Cosmi, should be expected to improve this season.
Depth guards Schweitzer and Charles have been replaced with veteran Turner and rookie Chris Paul. Charles remains as G/T depth and Cornelius Lucas returns as a swing tackle as well.
Many observers expect Washington’s offense to be the team’s strength this year, and this side-by-side demonstration of the group’s improvement across the board largely explains why.
Defensive Line (Downgrade)
2021: Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, Chase Young
2022: Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, James Smith-Williams (until Young returns)
Even without Chase Young’s injury, the loss of depth pieces Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis in the offseason results in a downgrade to this unit year over year. That said, even without Young, coached properly, this should be one of the better d-lines in the league.
Settle and Ioannidis have been replaced by rookie Phidarian Mathis and Daniel Wise, with Shaka Toney and Casey Toohill - both of whom made the team last year - providing depth at defensive end with Efe Obada at least until Young returns from IR.
2021: Jon Bostic & Cole Holcomb
2022: Cole Holcomb & Jamin Davis
As much consternation as there has been about Washington’s linebacking situation this offseason, I still think it’s been upgraded. While Davis was played out of position much of 2021 at middle linebacker, the coaching staff eventually seemed to recognize that was a mistake, moving him back to WILL, where he appears much more comfortable. With the opportunity to start the season at MIKE, Holcomb is a clear upgrade - at least in athletic terms - over the aging Bostic.
To start the 2021 season, Davis and Khaleke Hudson were the team’s linebacking depth. Hudson didn’t make the 53-man roster this year, and Bostic, David Mayo, and Milo Eifler are now the team’s depth at the position. It may be a minor upgrade, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
Cornerbacks (No Change)
2021: Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Ben St-Juste
2022: Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Ben St-Juste
The starting cornerbacks this year are the same as last year. One would think that with a year in the system under their belt, play would improve for Jackson and St-Juste, but I’m not going to bank on it for these purposes. The potential to surprise this year does exist with this group, however.
Are Christian Holmes, Tariq Castro-Fields, and Rachad Wildgoose better or worse than Torry McTyer, Troy Apke, and Darryl Roberts? You tell me, as I honestly have no idea.
2021: Landon Collins & Bobby McCain
2022: Kam Curl & Bobby McCain
Mercifully, the Landon Collins experiment at safety was eventually cut short last season, but not before an enormous amount of damage had been done. Curl and McCain is a substantial improvement over Collins and McCain by anyone’s measure, even if it took Jack Del Rio 6 or 7 games to figure it out.
Deshazor Everett and Collins have been replaced by rookie Percy Butler and Jeremy Reaves, while Darrick Forrest remains with the safety group this year and looks like the odds on favorite to assume the Buffalo nickel role.
The defense contains the one unit that appears to have experienced a fairly obvious downgrade (defensive line), but elsewhere, like the offense, it appears to have undergone net upgrades, even without dramatic personnel turnover, for the most part.
Special Teams (No Change)
2021: Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, & Camaron Cheeseman
2022: Joey Slye, Tress Way, & Camaron Cheeseman
The only shift from last year to this year is the full season addition of Slye for Hopkins. In 2021, Hopkins hit 88% of his field goals and 91% of his extra points, while Slye made 92% of his field goals and 82% of his extra points. At the end of the day, it was probably a pretty even swap.
Do you think the Commanders’ offense is upgraded this year from last?
This poll is closed
Do you think the Commanders’ defense is upgraded this year from last?
This poll is closed
Overall, do you think Washington’s roster is upgraded from 2021 to 2022?
This poll is closed