The Washington Commanders play the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field on Saturday evening. It will almost certainly be a battle between two groups of NFL players who are fighting to keep their careers alive. It is unlikely that many, if any, starters will play for either team.
The Commanders have had one very serious injury to a player this offseason — TE Armani Rogers tore his ACL during OTAs. While the team appears to have avoided any other major injuries, we’ve had reports of back tightness, calf sprains, plantar faciitis, turf toe, and the like. Ron Rivera has made it clear that his priority at the moment is resting his key players in an effort to get everyone as healthy as possible for the Week 1 game against the Cardinals on September 10th.
We’ve had a fair bit of action in the 90-man roster since I published my last update 5 days ago.
Although I waited until the the day before the Monday Night Football game to publish the last update, shortly after I did, the team announced some roster moves. I’ll include those in this update.
Thanks Michael Palardy; we hardly knew ya
Punter Michael Palardy was signed the day before the Ravens game — just an hour or so after I published the updated depth chart for that game that, of course, his name didn’t appear on. It doesn’t appear on this depth chart either. He was promptly released on Wednesday, apparently signaling that Tress Way is healthy enough to handle the punting duties against the Bengals (or that the team doesn’t plan to punt in the final preseason game).
But on Monday night, in burgundy & gold, and only the second player in franchise history to take the field in a competitive game wearing no. 0, Palardy was called on to punt twice.
The first punt ended the Commanders’ second offensive drive, but did so with an exclamation point — Palardy’s 52-yard punt came to rest at the Ravens’ 2-yard line. Baltimore’s subsequent offensive drive terminated with a Quan Martin interception on a play where the pass was affected by serious pressure from defensive tackle Benning Potoa’e.
Palardy’s second and final career punt in a Commanders uniform ended the first offensive drive of the 2nd half. It was another beauty — a 51-yarder that was downed at the 15-yard line.
Solid stats for Palardy’s very short 1-game stint with the Commanders.
Joey Slye wins the kicking competition
Kicker Michael Badgely was released just prior to the Ravens game, signaling that Joey Slye won the training camp kicking competition. Slye rewarded the coaches by making all of his field goal attempts and both of his extra point attempts against the Ravens.
Making room for defensive line depth
With Phil Mathis in a walking boot after the Browns game and Jonathan Allen reportedly dealing with Plantar Faciitis, the team wanted to bolster its DL unit a bit. To open a roster spot, they released UDFA wide receiver Jalen Sample.
With the release of Badgley and Sample, the Commanders were able to add two DTs - Isaiah Mack and Anthony Montalvo. Odds are good that neither player’s NFL career will continue with the Commanders beyond Saturday’s game against Cincinnati.
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: 44 on offense, 43 on defense, and 3 specialists.
One of the overlooked training camp competitions, in my opinion, has been between Jaret Patterson, Jonathan Williams and Derrick Gore. Only one of them — two at the most — will be retained, and then most likely on the practice squad. That means one or two others will be wearing a different uniform in September. I thought the order of their usage against the Browns might have indicated the coaches’ preferences, but the order was switched up against the Ravens. I have no idea which of these guys is gonna be a Commander in September and which will be looking for work.
I have moved Jaret Patterson ahead of the other two this week on the strength of his impressive touchdown against Baltimore, but I see this as a 3-horse race that is too close to handicap.
Interior Offensive Line
Saahdiq Charles started the Ravens game. He seems to be the guy the coaches want to see win the starting spot, though Ron made some cryptic comments this week about finding ways to get both Charles and Chris Paul on the field. I have moved Saahdiq back to the poll position at left guard though I continue to believe there’s a long way to go before everything is settled at that position.
Ever since the draft, I have insisted on keeping Ricky Stromberg behind Tyler Larsen on the depth chart, and early reports out of training camp seemed to indicate that this was a good decision. My reasoning was that Larsen could play both center and guard, while Stromberg was limited to only one position, which meant that, even though Stromberg would be on the 53, Larsen would also need to be on the roster, and he would be active on game days since he was the more flexible backup.
Recent reports have said that Stromberg has been cross-training at guard. I’ve heard and read — primarily from John Keim’s podcast — that Stromberg has done well (all things considered) at the new position. If we add positional flexibility to the equation, then I think the 3rd round draft pick has to be listed ahead of the 32-year-old journeyman backup, and that’s what I’ve done this week.
The coaches clearly did the math and figured out that they were gonna face an uphill battle keeping Stromberg on the roster as an inactive player from week to week, so they took action to cross-train him. That will make a difference when the cuts to the 90-man roster are made early next week.
I also upgraded the color coding for Saahdiq Charles, Sam Cosmi and Nick Gates this week. They looked much better against the Raven’s 2nd string defense than they had against the Browns’ defensive unit in the initial preseason contest.
Quan Martin and Danny Johnson
Early in the ‘23 offseason, I had Danny Johnson listed as a key player at nickel corner on the depth chart. When Quan Martin was drafted, I thought he would step right into Bobby McCain’s role, and listed the rookie as the top slot defender. This was largely due to my belief that the coaches had abandoned last year’s effort to play Ben St-Juste as the team’s top nickel corner.
As things have unfolded, it’s become clear that, with Forbes on the roster, St-Juste will return to his role as the team’s #1 nickel back. In the first two preseason games, Quan Martin has looked like the rookie that he is (not so different from how Darrick Forrest looked in his first few games in bugundy & gold).
In the end, I’ve confidently put St-Juste back into the slot role, and reluctantly moved Martin into a backup safety role. I put him with the strong safeties because that’s where I had room on the chart.
That left me with Danny Johnson, who should end up playing key roles as a backup at both boundary corner and in the slot in addition to his special teams duties. I could list him at one defensive position or the other, but wherever I listed him, the depth looked skinny without him at the other position. I flipped a coin and put him behind St-Juste in the slot, but recognize that he offers a good option as a backup boundary corner as well. When you mentally imagine his name there, the CB depth looks okay.
I’m convinced that the Commanders will end up waiving or releasing one or two defensive linemen on Tuesday who will get snatched up by other teams. Unlike many fans, I don’t normally think that losing a player on cutdown day is much of a risk, because other teams are also cutting guys they wanted to keep, so this is an unusual opinion from me.
If they can pull it off, I would applaud the front office if they could trade one or two defensive linemen for late-round draft picks before Tuesday. When you look at Efe Obada, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, KJ Henry, Andre Jones, Phil Mathis, John Ridgeway, Abdullah Anderson, and maybe even Benning Potoa’e, you end up with a total of 12 or 13 guys (including starters) who can all play in the NFL. I don’t envy the coaches the job of deciding who doesn’t get to stay.