The roster has been set, and the Washington Commanders are down to 53 players along with 17 on their practice squad. Now we get to the question of who will be starting for the team, and what positions they will be playing in the new offense/defense. Washington updated their depth chart as the roster is mostly locked in going into Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Starting QB has been set with Carson Wentz getting the job when Head Coach Ron Rivera traded multiple picks to the Indianapolis Colts. The team kept 3 QBs this year, with last year’s starter, Taylor Heinicke, in the #2 spot. He is in the final year of his contract, and could be auditioning for another team if he is needed on the field this season. Sam Howell slid to the 5th round in this year’s draft, and the Commanders drafted him to develop. His preseason performance got a lot of people excited for his future with the team, but he will be on the bench learning until then.
Terry McLaurin is Washington’s unquestioned number 1 receiver. Ron Rivera and Scott Turner brought in a familiar face in Curtis Samuel to give the team another speedy target last year, but injuries derailed his first year with the team. Jahan Dotson was the team’s first round pick this year, and is expected to get extensive playing time in his rookie season. Dyami Brown and Dax Milne made the team this year, and will continue to fight for playing time with returning vet Cam Sims.
Antonio Gibson essentially lost his #1 RB spot to rookie Brian Robinson, and was expected to be used as more of a weapon on offense(and special teams). Robinson’s unfortunate injuries due to being shot twice during an attempted carjacking have put him on the Non-Football Injury list to start the season, and forced Washington’s offensive coaches to quickly adjust. J.D. McKissic is expected to be a big part of the offense again, but Jonathan Williams has earned a spot and could get more work than he has in years due to recent events.
Washington kept five TEs on their initial roster, but Curtis Hodges has already been placed on injured reserve to be called up next month. Logan Thomas is the team’s TE1 when healthy, but he’s still not sure if that will be Week 1, 2, or later. The rest of the TEs have bee banged up all offseason, but were on the field for practice yesterday, and will hopefully be active on September 11th. John Bates turned some heads last year when he was called into action, and rookies Cole Turner and Armani Rogers were offseason hype darlings. A hamstring injury kept 5th round pick Turner from playing in the preseason, but the converted QB Rogers took advantage of his opportunities to earn a spot.
The offensive line has gone through some changes since last year. Both of last year’s starting guards are gone with Brandon Scherff finally reaching the end of the tag game with Washington, and Ereck Flowers getting cut to help pay for Carson Wentz. Ron Rivera brought in two familiar faces from his Carolina days to replace them, but both Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner have dealt with injuries since being signed. Chase Roullier is returning to Center and amazingly has no one listed behind him as a backup. Keith Ismael was just released from IR with an injury settlement, and Wes Schweitzer would be the next man up if Roullier isn’t ready to start the season after returning from leg surgery. LT Charles Leno and RT Sam Cosmis return as the bookend tackles with Cornelius Lucas as their primary backup, and Saahdiq Charles there to fill in a spot.
Carson Wentz | Taylor Heinicke | Sam Howell
Terry McLaurin | Dyami Brown
Curtis Samuel | Dax Milne
Jahan Dotson | Cam Sims
Logan Thomas | John Bates | Cole Turner | Armani Rogers
Antonio Gibson | J.D. McKissic | Jonathan Williams
LT: Charles Leno Jr. | Cornelius Lucas
LG: Andrew Norwell | Chris Paul
C: Chase Roullier
RG: Trai Turner | Wes Schweitzer
RT: Sam Cosmi | Saahdiq Charles
The defensive line should be the strongest unit on the team after the numerous 1st round picks spent there, but last season was a wake up call for them, the fans, and prognosticators who were counting on a repeat, or better, performance from 2020 when Chase Young burst onto the scene as the #2 overall pick. Starting DEs Montez Sweat and Young were both injured last year, and Sweat dealt with the murder of his brother. But before that, they were both underperforming, and a lot of fingers were getting pointed by players and coaches. Young starts the year on the Reserve/PUP list, but Sweat is healthy and looking to return to form. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne continue to man the middle, but Payne is entering the final year of his contract, and made it known before training camp that he wasn’t happy with his contract status. The Alabama Wall got a new member when Phidarian Mathis was drafted in the 2nd round this year. He joins FA signing Efe Obada and the returning Daniel Wise as the team’s DL depth.
The linebacker position has been one of the most confusing to figure out on this team. You have the top two defensive coaches who made their bones in the NFL by playing the position, but no one can figure out what they hell the plan is at the LB position in Washington. Jamin Davis and Cole Holcomb are the team’s top LBs, but they have swapped positions on the depth chart compared to this time last year. Davis was shoehorned into the Mike role to start 2021, but was clearly not ready for that responsibility. Jon Bostic is the vet there, but he was lost last year to a pec tear. He was signed again and joins David Mayo and Milo Eifler as reserves for a 2-man squad.
Washington kept 4 CBs on their initial 53-man roster. Three of them were on the team last season, with 7th round rookie Christian Holmes rounding out the group. That number was never going to be that low going into the season, and the team claimed two more CBs after last week’s 53-man roster cuts. Rachad Wildgoose and Tariq Castro-Fields were both 6th round picks with limited playing time who are now at the bottom of the depth chart here.
Washington’s depth at safety could be tested very early in the season as Kam Curl deals with a thumb injury from Week 2 of the preseason that required surgery. He has been downplaying the injury but he is still in a cast, and is in danger of missing Week 1. If he can’t go, or is limited in the first game, Darrick Forrest would likely step up. He has been getting some offseason love from reporters and coaches, but will need to show his improvement from a special teams ace to defensive contributor on the field. Bobby McCain leads the pack at free safety, with 3rd round rookie Percy Butler and Jeremy Reaves behind him.
DE: Montez Sweat | Casey Toohill
DT: Daron Payne | Phidarian Mathis | Daniel Wise
DT: Jonathan Allen | Efe Obada
DE: James Smith-Williams | Shaka Toney
OLB: Jamin Davis | Jon Bostic | Milo Eifler
MLB: Cole Holcomb | David Mayo
Kendall Fuller | Rachad Wildgoose
William Jackson III | Christian Holmes
Benjamin St-Juste | Tariq Castro-Fields
SS: Kamren Curl | Darrick Forrest
FS: Bobby McCain | Percy Butler | Jeremy Reaves
The three big roles in special teams were locked up last year. Washington drafted LS Camaron Cheeseman in the 6th round, and moved on from Dustin Hopkins midseason. The kicker change was a disaster until Washington was able to sign Joey Slye. Tress Way is still the MVP of the team and his job is never in question.
Kick and punt returner were the only real areas with any question marks going into the season since no competition was brought in for the specialists. Several WRs and RBs were competing for the slot, including Alex Erickson who is now on the practice squad. Dax Milne is listed as the #1 guy for both returner spots, with Antonio Gibson as the backup KR and Jahan Dotson as the backup PR.
KR: Dax Milne | Antonio Gibson
PR: Dax Milne | Jahan Dotson