The Washington Commanders are entering another season with a lot of question marks, and they will once again be going into Week 1 with a new quarterback under center. There have also been some major news stories that have been happening off the field that will affect the franchise this year, and moving forward. Dan Snyder has finally sold the team, and the Josh Harris group has officially taken over the franchise.
The team also made a big coaching change by firing offensive coordinator Scott Turner and replacing him with former Kansas City Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy. Ron Rivera is entering his fourth year with the team and is still trying to get a winning record here. Did the team make enough changes to compete in the NFC East and return to the playoffs, or is Rivera coaching his last season in Washington?
The Washington Commanders tried to fix the QB problem again last year by trading for Carson Wentz. This was another failed attempt that resulted in a loss of draft picks, cap space, and another year without a playoff appearance. Wentz was released after the season, and his backup, Taylor Heinicke, joined the Falcons in free agency.
Washington entered training camp with last year’s fifth-round pick Sam Howell as QB1, and free agent Jacoby Brissett was signed as his backup/mentor/competition. The Commanders also have a new QB coach to work with Howell and Brissett. Stanford’s Tavita Pritchard joins the team as the new QB coach and former QB coach Ken Zampese moves to a new role as pass game coordinator.
The offensive line has been an issue under Ron Rivera, and he made a coaching change this offseason, moving on from long-time OL coach John Matsko, and replacing him with his assistant Travelle Wharton. Juan Castillo coached the tight ends last season, but will be elevated to a run-game coordinator role and will be helping with the offensive line.
Washington signed two former Carolina Panthers offensive linemen last year. Trai Turner wasn’t re-signed and Andrew Norwell was released after passing his physical before the start of training camp. Eric Bieniemy made his former right tackle in Kansas City, Andrew Wylie, a priority free agent signing, and he will finally move Sam Cosmi inside to guard full time this season. The Commanders also signed Nick Gates in free agency, and he will compete with third-round pick Ricky Stromberg and veteran Tyler Larsen for the starting center job. Left guard will be a battle between Saahdiq Charles, and second-year player Chris Paul.
The skill positions will look the same going into this year. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel are the top WRs. Logan Thomas, John Bates, and Cole Turner are the top TEs. Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson are the top RBs, with Chris Rodriguez added into the mix via the draft. Gibson is expected to fill the third-down back role that J.D. McKissic had held for the last few seasons.
Washington’s defense continues to be the strength of the team, and Jack Del Rio returns as its coordinator. He got help for his secondary with the two top draft picks, adding CB Emmanuel Forbes and DB Quan Martin. Washington swapped out departing LB Cole Holcomb for free agent signing Cody Barton. Chase Young’s fifth-year option wasn’t picked up, and he will be playing for a new deal along with Montez Sweat and most of Washington’s DEs this season. Daron Payne got his big payday after having a career season, and will be re-joining Jonathan Allen to anchor the defensive line. Phidarian Mathis was a second-round pick last year, but was lost for the season during the first game. He returns this year with his former college teammates to continue the Alabama Wall tradition in Washington. Second-year DT John Ridgeway tore his pec at the end of last season, but was a solid waiver wire pickup from the Dallas Cowboys last year, and is expected to continue fighting for playing time.
Washington’s special teams unit looks like it will continue with the same trio. Tress Way is locked in as the MVP of the team and is not expected to have any competition for the punting job. Camaron Cheeseman is also a lock as the team’s long snapper. Joey Slye was entering another preseason without another kicker on the roster, but Washington signed former Lions kicker Michael Badgley, and Rivera said the position needs competition.
The Washington Commanders’ odds to make the playoffs haven’t changed since the end of last season (+270) according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Their odds to win the NFC East have actually dropped since they opened (+800), and they didn’t move after the draft (+900). These odds will change as training camp and preseason kick off. Injuries will happen, and position battles will give the oddsmakers a better idea of what the teams look like heading into the new season. Washington has had one of the best offseasons in team history, but will that excitement translate to wins on the field?
Free Agency Signings
- OL Nick Gates - 3-year deal
- RT Andrew Wylie - 3-year deal
- LB Cody Barton - 1-year deal
- QB Jacoby Brissett - 1-year deal
- DT Abdullah Anderson – 1-year deal
- WR Marcus Kemp - 1-year deal
- WR Byron Pringle - 1-year deal
- K Michael Badgley - 1-year deal
- RB Derrick Gore - 1-year deal
Free Agency Departures/Cuts
- QB Carson Wentz - Released
- QB Taylor Heinicke - Signed with the Falcons
- OL Chase Roullier - Released/Retired
- OL Wes Schweitzer - Signed with the Jets
- OL Trai Turner - Signed with Saints; torn quad; IR - out for the season
- OL Andrew Norwell -Released
- OL Wes Martin - Signed with the Browns
- WR Cam Sims - Signed with the Raiders
- RB J.D. McKissic - Released
- LB Cole Holcomb - Signed with the Steelers
- LB Jon Bostic - Released
- CB Bobby McCain - Released, signed by the Giants
- TE Armani Rogers - IR (torn Achilles)
Washington Commanders 2023 draft picks
- First round: No. 16 - Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State
- Second round: No. 47 - Quan Martin, DB, Illinois
- Third round: No. 97 (compensatory pick) - Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
- Fourth round: No. 118 - Braeden Daniels, G/T, Utah
- Fifth round: No. 137 - KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson
- Sixth round: No. 193 - Chris Rodriguez Jr, RB, Kentucky
- Seventh round: No. 233 - Andre Jones, LB, Louisiana