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Washington’s injury numbers improved in 2022, but they still weren’t great

Can things get better?

Washington Commanders vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

For the past couple of years now, I’ve been doing an annual look back at the injury numbers for Washington at the end of each season. I had originally hoped that with the arrival of Ryan Vermillion before the 2020 season, we would see an improvement in Washington’s games lost to injury, and things did improve from 2019 to 2020, if only because they hardly could have gotten worse. In 2019, Washington finished 31st in the league in games lost to injury, improving to 24th in 2020.

In 2021, the season in which Vermillion’s training facilities were raided by the DEA, the team regressed, falling back to 26th in the league. In April 2022, Washington hired Al Bellamy - after Vermillion was eventually fired - and Washington’s standing improved a bit, to 21st in the league.

That said, Washington is one of only two teams in the league (the 49ers are the other), that has ranked worse than 20th in the league for nine straight seasons on this health metric.

Tracking Injuries

The “gold standard” in determining the extent to which NFL teams have been hobbled by injury is Football Outsiders’ “adjusted games lost (AGL)” statistic.

Adjusted Games Lost is a great metric that helps to ascertain the real impact of injuries on a team. In short, it gives teams credit not only for the actual games missed by starters, but for the consequences of injuries in terms of lost practice time and diminished performance.

Anytime a starter is ruled out, a team gets credit for one game lost. The team gets partial credit for games in which a starter is ruled probable, questionable or doubtful based on averages for how often these players actually play.

The result is a list that corresponds very well with winning. Eight of the top 10 teams and 12 of the top 15 in AGL finished with at least a .500 record.

Washington’s Adjusted Games Lost and relative ranks since 2015 are laid out below:

2015: 119.1 (31st)

2016: 101.5 (28th)

2017: 121 (32nd)

2018: 99.3 (24th)

2019: 131 (31st)

2020: 97 (24th)

2021: 107.4 (26th)

2022: 88.8 (21st)

Over the course of the last decade or so, Washington has been - by a decent margin - the most impaired NFL franchise in terms of games lost to injury.

In 2022, there was a significant disparity in Washington’s games lost to injury between the offense and the defense, and the pattern reversed from the prior season. In 2021, Washington’s injuries disproportionately hampered its defense, who lost 72.1 games to injury (and ranked 29th). In 2022, the defense only lost 36.9 games to injury, ranking 18th in the league.

In 2021, the offense lost 35.4 games to injury (and ranked 15th), while that figure jumped to 52 games lost in 2022 (ranking 25th in the league).

Key injuries on offense included Chase Roullier (15 games), Wes Schweitzer (10 games), JD McKissic (9 games), and Carson Wentz (6 games), while defensive injuries to Phil Mathis (16 games), Cole Holcomb (10 games), and Ben St-Juste (5 games) took their toll as well.

Just like in 2021, Washington fell into the upper right quadrant in the graph below, which is - in effect - “lots of injuries to important players.”

Replacing Vermillion

Last year, as I wrote the companion piece to this one, Washington was in the late stages of hiring a new trainer. Ron Rivera’s teaser on the hire was the following:

All four candidates have prior NFL experience, Rivera said. Two of them are currently in the college ranks.

“The other four guys are young guys that are very accomplished, come very highly recommended,” Rivera said. “I’m telling you. This has been a very difficult process just because of the fact that all four were good interviews. … We want to make sure we get the right decision.”

True to his word, he hired a guy who had spent nine years as the Director of Athletic Training at Temple University, and - prior to that - had spent 25 years in the NFL, both with the Lions and the Redskins.

Since his hiring, there’s been very little coverage of what, if any, impact Bellamy may have had on the team, in terms of specifics.

The most insightful information I’ve been able to find has been gleaned from brief interviews with Rivera about player health. For instance, when asked about Curtis Samuel last June during minicamp:

“[Samuel]’s had a good off season. He’s been here for the whole program. We saw a lot of good things. He had a slip last week and so we shut him down,” Rivera said. “He’d come in, do the basic stuff as far as the individual. And then we didn’t put him on the field. We put him out on the field on Tuesday and felt really good about him. And in talking to Al Bellamy, Al just felt we’re in a good spot with him. We were being very careful, very smart with him. He’s a guy that we think would be very important to us.”

Subsequently, Samuel - who had been plagued with soft tissue injuries, and post-surgery issues in 2021 - played in all 17 games last season and had the second most productive season of his career.

After Brian Robinson’s brutal wounding in August, Bellamy was a key part of the team ensuring that the young running back was sufficiently recovered from his gunshot injuries to safely return to action:

Robinson would sit out the first four games and then put up nearly 800 yards over the next 12, never missing a beat, and authoring one of the most impressive physical comebacks in league memory.

Bellamy has also expanded his staff since last fall.

In October of 2022, Washington added its first full-time, female training staffer, Dr. Lindsay Gately, a physical therapist who had previously been an assistant football athletic trainer in the Wake Forest football program.

Just last month, Washington brought back assistant athletic trainer Doug Quon, who had been placed on administrative leave as part of the Vermillion investigation a year and a half before.

According to the team’s website, Quon was responsible for the ImPACT concussion testing database. He also helps with the treatment and rehab of players.


In 2021, Washington had the 13th oldest roster in the league. In 2022, that dropped significantly, to the 14th youngest, part of a multi-year youthening of the team.

That certainly could have had some impact on the team’s year-over-year improvement in terms of injuries, but there are also anecdotal reasons to believe that - at least in terms of rehabbing players from prior injuries - whatever Bellamy is doing appears to be working.

This season, watching the trajectory of formerly injured players like Logan Thomas, Chase Young, and Phil Mathis should provide additional insight into Bellamy (and his staff’s) restorative capabilities.

The one injury data point we have, from 2021 to 2022, is moving in the right direction. The question is, can Washington finally get out of the NFL injury gutter for good this year?


How do you think Washington will finish in terms of games lost to injury in 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Better than 2022
    (155 votes)
  • 4%
    Worse than 2022
    (10 votes)
  • 26%
    The same as 2022
    (60 votes)
225 votes total Vote Now