We have made multiple roster moves:— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 20, 2023
-- Signed DT Isaiah Mack and P Michael Palardy
-- Released K Michael Badgley and WR Jalen Sample pic.twitter.com/22X8NkmSXC
The Commanders seemed to come through the Browns game with the health of the roster largely intact. Chase Young apparently got a “bit of a stinger” in his neck, and Phil Mathis limped through a number of snaps in the Cleveland game and then was held out of parts of practice on the following Sunday. He was in a walking boot in Baltimore. There were a couple of new injury concerns that cropped up during practice this week — most notably the AC (shoulder) strain suffered by CB Danny Johnson when Ravens TE Mark Andrews picked him up and body slammed him into the ground when he lost his temper at the joint practice. A few injuries from before the Browns game are lingering, and Dax Milne reportedly left the practice field early on Saturday without any explanation given to the media.
It would appear, given that punter Colby Wadman was released, that Tress Way’s back tightness has resolved itself and that he is ready to resume normal punting duties.
I did a little bit of shuffling and minor re-grading of players on the depth chart following the first preseason game, but honestly, not much has changed.
TE Kaden Smith
When the Commanders released Wadman, they signed TE Kaden Smith.
Logan Thomas has been dealing with a calf injury and was not active for Friday night’s preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. Thomas did not practice against the Ravens, and Ron Rivera continued to employ the phrase, “an abundance of caution”, which is beginning to rival “position flex” for its frequency of use.
Washington also has 4 other tight ends — Cole Turner, John Bates, Curtis Hodges, Brandon Dillon — and FB/TE Alex Armah on the roster. Smith seems like an attempt to add to the unit depth, but he looks like a long shot for anything other than a practice squad spot.
Kaden Smith (6’5”, 249 lbs) certainly fits the physical profile of Washington’s tight ends, who look like a college basketball team made up entirely of power forwards. The 26-year-old tight end was a 6th round pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2019 out of Stanford, where his offensive coordinator was current Commanders QB coach, Tavita Pritchard.
Smith was waived by the 49ers after his 2019 rookie season started and then picked up on waivers by the Giants. Smith spent 3 seasons in NY, but was waived in March, 2022 with a failed physical after going on injured reserve in December ‘21, and hasn’t played since November 2021.
Smith scored two of his three career TDs against the Redskins in Week 14 of the 2019 season. That night, he had 6 catches for 35 yards and the Giants won by 6 points.
He went on to catch 8 ball for 98 yards the following week against the Eagles.
He hasn’t put up more than 24 yards in a game after that and hasn’t scored a TD since that game against Washington.
Since the end of the Browns game, I have swapped Saahdiq Charles and Chris Paul back and forth three or four times based on different media reports and comments from Ron Rivera. The last move I made was to put Chris Paul back into the starter slot ahead of Saahdiq Charles based on at least one report that Charles was unable to finish the 2nd joint practice with the Ravens.
I’m not confident that anyone not on the coaching staff knows what’s going on at the left guard position. It seems as if the Washington coaches want to stick with the plan of giving Saahdiq first shot at winning the job, but that Saahdiq is once again struggling with a nagging injury that keeps him sidelined instead of playing. I continue to believe that this position competition will last all the way to the final preseason game against the Bengals — and maybe beyond.
After spending the offseason reminding everyone that Kazmeir Allen had never returned a punt in college, I was impressed enough with what I saw of him as a punt returner against the Browns to want to tangibly acknowledge what he did.
But I’m not sure that head coach Ron Rivera is fully on board the Kaz Allen hype train. Speaking to the media on Sunday, Ron was given the chance to comment on what Allen showed as a return man against Cleveland:
Interesting. I think that’s a good word I really do. He’s a young dynamic guy that’s got some explosion to him. He’s got a lot to learn, he really does, because he kind of bounced around positions at UCLA, but the one thing that did stand out, obviously, is he is explosive. But as I said, he’s got a long way to go. He really does. He’s a guy that’s going to take some time, but we do like him and we do find him interesting and intriguing.
This is a pretty tepid response in Ron-speak. He keeps repeating what Allen doesn’t know and hasn’t developed as opposed to praising what he accomplished. It could be that Ron’s focus is more on Allen’s role as a receiver in the offense, or perhaps there were subtleties about his return skills that I am unaware of.
In any event, after spending three months throwing cold water on the Kazmeir Allen hype, I feel like I have, based on just a couple of preseason special teams plays, jumped way ahead of Ron Rivera in my enthusiasm for the young man. It will be interesting to see how the WR & PR position battles play out over the final two weeks of the preseason.
At this point, I don’t think the question of who the punt return man will be has been settled to the coaches’ satisfaction.
Well, Ron finally did it! He named Sam Howell the Week 1 starter — a fact that every Washington fan has understood since the 2nd round of the draft came to a close in late April.
While reports out of camp say that Howell has been as inconsistent as one would expect from a 5th round draft pick with one career start, the same reports say that he has all the ingredients one looks for to make up a quality NFL quarterback, and that he has progressed continually since his arrival last Spring, and especially over the past three weeks.
Let’s hope we finally have ourselves a quarterback.
If there are any hiccups along the way with Sam Howell, it looks like the Commanders are in contention for ‘best backup in the league’ with Jacoby Brissett, who has 48 NFL starts, including 11 last year. I had never really followed Brissett’s career before he joined Washington’s roster, but he has looked professional and competent throughout training camp. If he needs to go on the field and play for any reason, I will be confident when I see him trotting onto the field that he will give the team a chance to win.
UPDATED DEPTH CHART
The numbers that appear beside some players’ names are 2023 cap hits per Over the Cap.
Please note that assigned positions and color coding are my own personal opinions. They do not necessarily represent the thinking of Washington’s coaches or front office, nor are they necessarily consistent with fan consensus. This chart represents my interpretation, and may not reflect the thoughts of other writers on Hogs Haven. Finally, when it comes to backup players, I don’t put much effort into making sure that they are on the right or left or behind the specific player that they backup. I mostly just try to fit everyone on the chart efficiently.
The Commanders currently have 90 active players under contract: 45 on offense, 41 on defense, and 4 specialists.
The roster has to be cut to 53 players by 29 August — just 9 days from now. This week’s recently concluded practices and the upcoming game against the Ravens, along with the final game against the Bengals on Saturday the 26th, will be of vital importance to a bunch of players fighting (sometimes literally) to establish or continue their NFL careers.