The roster has been set, and the Washington Commanders are down to 53 players along with 16 on their practice squad. Now we get to the question of who will be starting for the team, and what positions they will be playing in the new offense/defense. Washington updated their unofficial depth chart as the roster is mostly locked in going into Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals.
The quarterback position has been set with Sam Howell taking over as the starting QB after a strong training camp and preseason. His only NFL start came in Week 18 last year, a victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Jacoby Brissett was brought in as competition, but that was really an in case of emergency, give him 1st team reps deal. He is a solid backup/mentor for Howell, and he is the only other QB on the 53-man roster. Jake Fromm had a decent preseason against the 3rd and 4th stringers, and has been stashed on the practice squad.
Terry McLaurin entered the offseason as Washington’s number 1 receiver, but a preseason turf toe injury has put his status for Week 1 in doubt. Jahan Dotson is ready to step up if McLaurin misses time, and will be a solid 1A for Washington when McLaurin is in the lineup. Curtis Samuel enters a contract year, and will look to show his value in Eric Bieniemy’s offense. Dyami Brown is likely on his last chance to make an impact, and having his former college QB throwing him the ball will hopefully bring out the big play ability that he showed at North Carolina. EB brought Byron Pringle over from Kansas City, and he will compete with Dax Milne and rookie UDFA Mitchell Tinsley for snaps.
Brian Robinson enters his second season as the Commanders top running back, the same position he held at the end of his rookie year. He is fully healthy, and Washington drafted Chris Rodriguez Jr. as his stand in when needed. Antonio Gibson shifts fully into the “weapon” role that many people envisioned for the former college wide receiver.
Washington kept four TEs on their initial 53-man roster, and those players haven’t changed. Logan Thomas has dealt with a calf injury for most of training camp and preseason, but he is still listed as the team’s top TE. Ron Rivera has said he has been cautious with injuries to Thomas and others, and it’s expected he will be ready when the season starts on Sunday. John Bates returns as the team’s #2 TE, but Cole Turner looks like he could be fighting for more playing time this year if he stays healthy. Curtis Hodges made the roster again, and still looks like one of the most replaceable players on the roster.
The offensive line has gone through major changes again this year. The only starter from last year’s line who will be playing the same position is left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. Washington signed two new starters during the offseason. Former Giants center Nick Gates will replace Chase Roullier, and former Chiefs right tackle Andrew Wylie is replacing Sam Cosmi who is moving over to right guard this season. There was a battle for the left guard spot between Saahdiq Charles and Chris Paul, and Charles appears to have won the starting job. The question with him has always been can he stay healthy. If he can’t, Paul is listed as the backup for both guard spots.
Sam Howell | Jacoby Brissett
Terry McLaurin | Dyami Brown
Curtis Samuel | Dax Milne
Jahan Dotson | Byron Pringle | Mitchell Tinsley
Logan Thomas | John Bates | Cole Turner | Curtis Hodges
Brian Robinson Jr. | Antonio Gibson | Chris Rodriguez Jr.
LT: Charles Leno Jr. | Cornelius Lucas
LG: Saahdiq Charles | Chris Paul
C: Nick Gates | Ricky Stromberg | Tyler Larsen
RG: Sam Cosmi | Chris Paul
RT: Andrew Wylie | Trent Scott
The defensive line has been the strongest unit on the team after the numerous 1st round picks spent there, but multiple injuries have put a strain on the depth. Chase Young suffered a stinger in the first preseason game, and still hasn’t been cleared for contact. Ron Rivera isn’t giving any updates on the former defensive rookie of the year until he has to, and for now, Young’s Week 1 status is in question. Washington placed DT Phidarian Mathis and DE/DT Efe Obada on injured reserve, which keeps them out for at least 4 weeks. Montez Sweat is one of many Washington defensive linemen playing in a contract year, and he will have every opportunity to earn a big contract this season. Jonathan Allen was dealing with plantar fasciitis at the end of training camp, and we’re still waiting on a new update from the coaching staff, but he is expected to be in the starting lineup alongside Daron Payne.
Jamin Davis continues to be the team’s top LB, but he will have a lot to prove this season. He showed improvement last year, but didn’t look as explosive this offseason. He lost his running-mate Cole Holcomb to free agency, and he was replaced by Cody Barton who had his first opportunity to start for the Seahawks last season. Khaleke Hudson has shown massive improvement since his rookie season, and looks ready to step in whenever, and wherever he’s needed. And then there’s good ole David Mayo!
Washington’s secondary has become another strength on the defense, and Jack Del Rio’s squad got the top two picks in this year’s draft. First round rookie Emmanuel Forbes Jr. has looked as advertised, and he’ll join Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste in the starting rotation. Quan Martin was taken in the 2nd round, and has been training in multiple spots in the secondary, but he’s listed as a cornerback in this depth chart. Danny Johnson has hung around the team, and made an impact for years. Christian Holmes is another player who had a big jump from his rookie campaign, and has been laying some big hits all offseason.
Washington’s safety group continues to find late round players to mold into top starters in the league. The starting duo of Kam Curl and Darrick Forrest will continue to be a solid pair, and Curl is looking to get paid this offseason after playing on a 7th round contract for the last 3 seasons. Percy Butler looks like he’s stepped up in his second year, and All-Pro Reavo(Jeremy Reaves) is another solid player for the secondary and special teams.
DE: Montez Sweat | Casey Toohill | Andre Jones Jr.
DT: Daron Payne | John Ridgeway III
DT: Jonathan Allen | Abdullah Anderson
DE: Chase Young | James Smith-Williams | K.J. Henry
OLB: Jamin Davis | Khaleke Hudson
MLB: Cody Barton | David Mayo
Kendall Fuller | Jartavius “Quan” Martin
Benjamin St-Juste | Christian Holmes
Emmanuel Forbes Jr. | Danny Johnson
SS: Kamren Curl | Jeremy Reaves
FS: Darrick Forrest | Percy Butler
The three big roles in special teams remain the same this year. Washington brought in Michael Badgley as competition for incumbent kicker Joey Slye, but he didn’t make the cut. They also brought in two different punters, but only because MVP Tress Way was dealing with some back tightness during training camp and the preseason. Long snapper Camaron Cheeseman has been trying out a new technique that has been...pretty bad. That’s something to keep an eye on as the real games begin on Sunday.
Washington had a promising undrafted free agent in camp and many fans were hoping that Kazmeir Allen could replace Dax Milne’s spot on the roster. A disastrous performance in the final preseason game sealed his fate, and secured Milne’s spot on the team. Washington lists him as the team’s punt returner, with Antonio Gibson listed as the team’s kick returner. Gibson had 21 kick returns last season with a 23.1 average per return, and a long of 45 yards. Byron Pringle and Milne are also listed as options. Jahan Dotson is listed as the backup punt returner.
KR: Antonio Gibson | Byron Pringle | Dax Milne
PR: Dax Milne | Jahan Dotson