One would think a roster heading into year four under head coach Ron Rivera would be well past the development phase. However, that is not the case in 2023, as gross positional neglect, starting at quarterback and trickling down through the rest of the roster, has really left more questions than answers.
Rivera mentioned a plan that started with re-building the culture here in DC. Many will definitively say he’s accomplished that, however his roster building has left a lot to be desired.
Below I’ll take a look at each positional group and give thoughts on both starters and depth heading into the offseason. I will follow that up with a positional grade for each group.
For what seems likes decades (wait, it has been), Washington will go into yet another season with question marks at the most important position. Sam Howell showed signs of competency in the team’s season finale against the Cowboys, but this staff so grossly mismanaged the position over the past two seasons that no sane fan can believe what Ron is trying to sell here. What we’ll need to see is actual results.
The question remains, will Rivera bring in competition for Howell, or is this truly his job to lose? There are quarterbacks out there who could be available for trade or signed as free agents, but will the Commanders stay the course and continue to develop Howell while bringing in a backup that knows new coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s system.
If there is a bright light at the end of this proverbial tunnel, it’s that Bieniemy will now have control of this offense and hopefully the players who are asked to execute his scheme - quarterback being one of them.
- Sam Howell(?)
Current Grade: D+
This is one of the stronger overall units both on the team and within the division. Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson return to lead a two-headed rushing attack. The hope is J.D. McKissic can return healthy and provide that third down, change-of-pace weapon that we saw the Chiefs use under Bieniemy.
The former running back-turned-coach should be able to maximize Gibson’s strengths both as a runner and as a receiver. If he can play more of that Cordarrelle Patterson/Deebo Samuel-type role here, things should be looking up for this positional group.
All that said, it would be smart for this staff to look into the mid-to-late rounds of the draft for a young running back to begin developing.
- Brian Robinson/Antonio Gibson
- J.D. McKissic
Current Grade: B+
The Commanders are loaded at wide receiver. The top four of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown rival any top four in the NFC.
In Kansas City, the offense ran through Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. When Hill was traded, Kelce was still one of the go-to guys. The point here is Bieniemy likes to have “that guy” his offense can go through. “That guy” here in DC is Terry Mclaurin. I expect Eric to find creative ways to get Terry the football and that should be music to the ears of Commanders fans.
While Terry is getting fed, it will also open up things for others as defenses will try to scheme to take Mclaurin away. Both Dotson and Samuel should see plenty of one-on-one coverage during the season and each has the ability to exploit that.
X: Terry McLaurin
Z: Jahan Dotson
Slot: Curtis Samuel
- Dyami Brown
Current Grade: A-
This is a room where you see a lot of warm bodies but just not much proven talent. The only guy on this roster who has done much of anything in this league (and even that is a small sample) is Logan Thomas. Thomas returned from a knee injury last year and just didn’t look like the same player. There is a solid case to be made that Logan should be released this offseason.
Behind Thomas you have more one-dimensional options that are just average at best. John Bates is a blocker who will not command much attention as a receiver. Cole Turner has upside but needs to show he can stay healthy. Former collegiate quarterback Armani Rogers has potential, but to this point, that’s all there is.
This offense needs a better pass-catching threat who can be a big presence in the red zone. finding one this offseason should be a priority for the team. Free agency and the draft can be pivotal to the make-up of this room come summer.
- Logan Thomas(?)/Cole Turner(?)
- Armani Rogers(?)/John Bates
Current Grade: C-
The 2021 unit that Ron tore apart, then re-assembled in 2022 with pieces from The Island of Panthers Misfit Toys, was a complete embarrassment! Washington saw one of the better pass-protecting units from the prior season drop to a bottom three overall group last year. There were times where it was so bad that the quarterback could barely get the ball into his hands from the snap and the rush was upon him. This has to change in 2023 if we want to see any sort of progress from Sam Howell and an offense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in points per game.
There are several cut candidates among the group still under contract here, including Andrew Norwell, Charles Leno and Cornelius Lucas (who all started at least 12 games in 2022). Lucas was by far the worst of this group, allowing a 7.5% blown block percentage (third worst among all tackles in the NFL) in pass protection last season. Leno had the sixth-most total blown blocks in the NFL in 2022 with a staggering 37. Norwell ranked in the bottom third of all interior lineman in blown blocks with 27 and showed limited movement in space.
There is yet another concern along the line, and that is with the health of center Chase Roullier (who is one of the better players at his position when healthy). If Roullier can return from another season-ending injury to be the player he was in 2021, that will be a great boost to the group. If not, it leaves yet another hole to fill along an already porous unit.
LT: Charles Leno(?)
LG: Andrew Norwell(?)
C: Chase Roullier(?)
RG: Sam Cosmi(?)
- Chris Paul(?)
- Cornelius Lucas(?)
Current Grade: F
Along with wide receiver, this is the strongest unit on the team, and quite possibly one of the best positional groups in the NFL. Now, much of this depends on what happens with Daron Payne, who is set to become a free agent, but as of this writing the franchise tag is expected to be applied, keeping Payne here at least another season.
The bigger questions can be asked about picking up the fifth-year option for Chase Young, eventually extending Montez Sweat and how 2022 second round pick Phidarian Mathis will return from injury.
Regardless of the above questions, this unit should continue to perform at a high level throughout 2023.
EDGE: Montez Sweat
DT: Jon Allen
DT: Daron Payne(?)
EDGE: Chase Young
- Phidarian Mathis(?)
- John Ridgeway
- James Smith-Williams
- Casey Toohill
Current Grade: A
There is Jamin Davis...and a bunch of guys. To me, it’s a complete embarrassment that we have two former linebackers leading this staff, and this is the best they can do. But, if you want to look on the brighter side of things, Washington did just bring back David Mayo for another year - so there is hope!
It’s almost a given that Washington looks to free agency to solidify this unit. There are some big names out there, including local product Tremaine Edmunds, Leighton Vander Esch, T.J. Edwards and Devin Bush to name a few.
ILB - Jamin Davis
ILB - NONE
- Khaleke Hudson (RFA)
- David Mayo(?)
Current Grade: D
This is a group with a lot of questions surrounding both starting ability and depth. It’s hard to believe Kendall Fuller just turned 28. It feels like he’s been in the league for a decade. Fuller played well on the outside after the back-end got straightened out six games into the season. The William Jackson III era ended in Washington as quickly as it started and once he was removed from outside cornerback, Benjamin St-Juste thrived - until injury derailed a very promising season. This is the second season in a row he’s missed significant time to injury and that has become a major problem.
Behind Fuller and St-Juste, the depth is severely lacking - almost non-existent. Bobby McCain was moved from free safety to slot corner and did a nice job in the second half of the year there. Danny Johnson is set to become a free agent, and behind him we really only have second year corner Christian Holmes.
The draft in the first two rounds really sets up nicely for the Commanders at corner, so it will be interesting to see what direction they go and when.
CB: Kendall Fuller
CB: Benjamin St-Juste(?)
Slot: Bobby McCain
- Christian Holmes(?)
Current Grade: C-
For the first time in what seems like an eternity safety is a strength of this football team. There were significant question marks heading into the 2022 season, but Darrick Forrest really stepped up along with Kam Curl to give Washington’s back end a formidable one-two punch. The great part is both players can be viewed as interchangeable, and this allows Del Rio to move his chess pieces around and disguise coverages.
Many feel Curl does his best work down inside the box as a Buffalo Nickle, however he showed great ability as part of the two-high deep tandem last year. The late-season emergence of Percy Butler could allowed Del Rio to use many more three-safety looks in 2023.
FS - Darrick Forrest
SS - Kam Curl
- Jeremy Reaves
- Percey Butler
Current Grade: B+
As is the norm here in Washington, the Commanders head into another offseason with questions at kicker. Joey Slye tied for 20th in the NFL with an 83.3% field goal percentage. However, he missed four extra points, and that 85.7% mark was the second worst in the league. This team deserves better and Slye should see competition this summer. Tress Way is one of the best punters in the league, and Camaron Cheeseman has become much more consistent with his snaps.
K: Joes Slye(?)
P: Tress Way
LS: Camaron Cheeseman
Current Grade: B-
What positional group are you most concerned with heading into the 2023 offseason?
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What is the strongest positional group on the team?
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Where would you place this current roster heading into the offseason?
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Middle of the Pack