The preseason is over and we’re officially in Week 1 mode as the Washington Commanders prepare to host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, September 10th at 1pm at a sold out FedEx Field. Washington went undefeated during the preseason, but will need to perform better when the games count if they want to have their first winning season under Head Coach Ron Rivera.
DraftKings has the Over/Under for Washington’s team win total at 6 1⁄2 this year, which would be a regression from last year’s 8-8-1 record, and would make it very easy for new owner Josh Harris to replace him. Rivera is entering the 4th year of a 5 year contract, and will likely need a playoff berth to cool his seat down. New OC Eric Bieniemy and new starting QB Sam Howell will need to pump some life into a Washington offense that has limped through too many seasons under former OC Scott Turner.
This season is all about Sam Howell, and I think he will be better than many expect. The defense will be nasty. They will be a playoff team.
I will continue to drive the Washington Commanders bandwagon from now until January, so get on before it’s too late. Sam Howell showed a lot of promise throughout the preseason, and the roster is quietly really deep. The defense was a top 10 unit in DVOA last season, and they won eight games with a combination of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. That isn’t a high bar for Howell to clear. In an Eric Bieniemy offense with Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, he’ll have a lot of help.
The Commanders’ defense got it together a season ago, and the offense should undoubtedly improve in 2023, as long as Sam Howell plays at a level similar to or better than Jacoby Brissett did in Cleveland a year ago.
However, Las Vegas appears to think differently. The Commanders’ win total is just 6.5, and the plus money comes in taking the over on that number.
They could go 0-17 and the fans would still be happy about the departure of Daniel Snyder.
The Dan Snyder era is over. Washington sold out its season opener for the first time since 2013, showing the fan base is excited for a new chapter. The Commanders have a loaded defensive line but lack the talent elsewhere on the roster. The team is hopeful new starting quarterback Sam Howell can bring Washington back to relevance.
Don’t sleep on the Washington Commanders. If Jacoby Brissett wins the starting job, he’ll fit perfectly into the Eric Bieniemy offense and that should translate into far more frequent red-zone scores than we saw in previous years. Add on a top-12 defense and the Commanders are a good team, but there are simply a lot better clubs out there.
Defensively, this team should be very tough. The pass rush could be lethal if Chase Young ever gets healthy and figures it out. The secondary looks versatile and talented. Linebacker doesn’t excite me, but it’s hard to gripe too much. If Sam Howell can somehow have a 2022 Geno Smith type of season, why can’t the Commanders make the playoffs? It would be a fitting development amid an ownership change, one that has rendered more excitement than the franchise has enjoyed in years. There’s pressure on Ron Rivera to win now, one might imagine. But it’s also surely there for offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who must know how much a successful season could mean for his career.
The Commanders were right to give Sam Howell a shot, and the early returns are good. What if the draft projections before his final college season, when he was expected by some to be a top-five pick, were a better barometer than his depressed stock after a so-so final season at North Carolina? At very least, the Commanders should be excited to see how the story unfolds.
Dan Snyder is out as the owner in Washington.
Which you could argue improves their Super Bowl odds almost overnight.
This is a pivotal year for head coach Ron Rivera, who has put the offense in the hands of second-year quarterback Sam Howell. But with Eric Bieniemy calling the shots, the offense could show more creativity and explosiveness than it did a year ago. The NFC East looks to be one of the tougher divisions in football, but with the Commanders having just missed out on the playoffs last season, a run to the postseason is not out of the question.
Dan Snyder’s departure must be a refreshing feeling for everyone in this organization. Commanders fans have reason to be hopeful when it comes to a long-term outlook but this is still a team in a lame duck holding patter in the short-term. 2023 is all about seeing if Sam Howell is part of the solution or not.
The Commanders remind me a lot of the Falcons. They have intriguing talent all over the roster, except the most important position of all. It would be quite a coup if Sam Howell turns into a player, because the rest of this team is ready. Washington boasts one of the most ferocious defensive fronts in the game, an underrated receiver duo of Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson as well as a talented secondary. Best-case scenario, Howell rises to the occasion and the Commanders surprise some people. Worst-case scenario, he doesn’t and this new ownership regime knows what it needs to look for. Not a bad spot for an up-and-coming team, either way.
Last year, the Washington Commanders were a last-place football team. But they were also a .500 football team. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either.
This year, head coach Ron Rivera and new offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy have handed the keys to the offense to second-year pro Sam Howell.
The second-year quarterback may only have one NFL start under his belt, but Rivera told reporters that he has every confidence that the 22-year-old is the guy to lead the offense in 2023:
“Well, I think the biggest thing, more so than anything else, is really just his whole football acumen. Everything from how good a student he is to a guy that can take what’s being called and translate it in his mind as to how to execute. His skill set, I think, is very conducive to a lot of the stuff that we want to do because of his arm talent and then his athletic ability, I think helps and adds on to some of the things that Eric wants done.”
However, Howell isn’t exactly being put in the best position to succeed early. Washington’s offensive line is arguably a bottom-five unit. No. 1 wide receiver Terry McLaurin is dealing with turf toe entering the season. It also plays in a division where the other three teams all made the playoffs in 2022.
There’s little margin for error for either the Commanders or their young quarterback in 2023.
Post-draft ranking: 24
On the hot seat: Coach Ron Rivera
The truth is, everyone in the front office is on the hot seat, as is team president Jason Wright. With new ownership and a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005, no one should feel safe. But Rivera is the main football decision-maker — he was handed the power from previous owner Dan Snyder and put together the front office. It’s his fourth season in Washington; he won an NFC East title his first year, but the team has yet to finish with a winning record under him. Washington hasn’t posted a winning record since 2016. — John Keim
Model rank: T-22 (7.5 wins)
Best-case scenario: Surprise, but this turns out to be the best defense in the league. Like the Jets, Washington should be looking at some positive turnover luck coming its way after finishing last season sixth in defensive EPA per drive and first in defensive success rate but 26th in takeaways. The foursome of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat and Chase Young (finally healthy) turns into the best group in the NFL, while Emmanuel Forbes proves his penchant for interceptions in college was no coincidence. Ron Rivera keeps his job with an NFC East title as the good juju of finally ousting Daniel Snyder leads the greater Beltway area to embrace the undeniable charisma of Josh Harris.
Worst-case scenario: Sam Howell looks like a second-year fifth-round pick with only one start under his belt (what a wild track record for a starter!) and Jacoby Brissett can’t regain the efficiency he had in Cleveland. Terry McLaurin is never fully himself as he battles his turf toe injury, while the rest of the offense pitches in to buy a billboard on I-495 pleading with Eric Bieniemy to stop being so mean. The defense is just average and Harris fires Rivera in mid-December to get an early jump on the hiring cycle.
The Washington Commanders are one of several teams that have a playoff-caliber roster — but an uncertain quarterback. If Sam Howell can provide stability, Washington will be in the mix for a wild card spot. Howell faces Arizona on opening day, giving him a great opportunity to get off to a fast start. If Howell struggles in this matchup, it could be a long year for Washington football fans.
Washington has a talented defensive front, the secondary looks good, especially after adding Emmanuel Forbes in the first round, and they have a talented receiving group. The offensive line is a concern, but the big question is at quarterback. There were some promising moments from Sam Howell in the preseason. If that continues, they could surprise.
Sam Howell takes over under center in a physical offensive scheme that includes yet another option at RB with Kentucky product Chris Rodriguez coming aboard. The Commanders defense should benefit from a full year of having Chase Young on the line.
The defense features an elite D-line, but the offense is a massive question mark until Howell proves he’s a legit starter.
The Commanders sold out their home opener against the Cardinals, which has to be the absolute biggest vote of support for a new owner in NFL history. A large group of people willingly signed up to watch this team play against the worst quarterback depth chart in recent NFL history, all because of their collective hatred of the former owner. Who says feelings of disdain can’t bring people together? Anyway, the Commanders are starting low on this list, but, as my parents always told me, that just leaves plenty of room to grow. Here’s to a 2023 fueled by new beginnings and old hatred.
Where should the Washington Commanders be ranked going into the 2023/24 season?
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