This article is part of our Team Previews series.
While the failure to find a franchise quarterback generates headlines, Washington's defense was equally disappointing last year, falling off hard from 2020. A modest QB upgrade may help, but the Commanders mostly are relying on their defense to rebound and their skill-position players to progress.
2022 Offseason Moves – Washington Commanders
- Carson Wentz – QB (from Colts)
Obtained for two third-rounders and a second-round pick swap.
- Jahan Dotson – WR (Rd. 1, No. 16 – Penn State)
The 182-pounder ran a 4.43 40 after a 1,182-yard senior season.
- Brian Robinson – RB (Rd. 3, No. 98 – Alabama)
Had modest numbers by Bama standards as a one-year starter.
- Andrew Norwell – G (from Jaguars)
The 30-year-old with 111 NFL starts replaces Ereck Flowers at left guard.
- Sam Howell – QB (Rd. 5, No. 144 – North Carolina)
Ran more in 2021, but passing stats were better in his first two years.
- Brandon Scherff – G (to Jaguars)
Wes Schweitzer or Trai Turner will replace the five-time Pro Bowler.
- Ereck Flowers – G (FA)
Norwell should be a suitable replacement, or even an upgrade.
- Landon Collins – G (FA)
Oft-injured and never lived up to his huge contract.
Washington Commanders 2022 Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Ron Rivera (Year 3)
Offensive Coordinator: Scott Turner (Year 3) – Air Coryell scheme
Defensive Coordinator: Jack Del Rio (Year 3) – 4-3 scheme
Stats to Know for the Washington Commanders
2022 Vegas Projected Wins: 7.5 (T-21st)
2021 Record: 7-10
2021 Points Scored: 335 (T-23rd)
2021 Points Allowed: 434 (25th)
2021 Point Differential: -99 (25th)
2021 Run-Play Rate: 44.6 percent (7th)
2021 Offensive Snaps: 1,070 (17th)
2021 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 6
2022 Washington Commanders Depth Chart
QB: Carson Wentz / Taylor Heinicke / Sam Howell
RB: Antonio Gibson / J.D. McKissic / Brian Robinson / Jaret Patterson / Jonathan Williams
WR1: Terry McLaurin / Cam Sims / Alex Erickson
WR2: Curtis Samuel
WR3: Jahan Dotson / Dyami Brown / Dax Milne
TE: Logan Thomas / John Bates / Cole Turner
O-Line: LT Charles Leno / LG Andrew Norwell / C Chase Roullier / RG Wes Schweitzer / RT Samuel Cosmi (RotoWire Rank: No. 14)
Kicker: Joey Slye
2022 Washington Commanders Schedule
|1||Sep 11||Jacksonville Jaguars||1:00 PM|
|2||Sep 18||@ Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|3||Sep 25||Philadelphia Eagles||1:00 PM|
|4||Oct 2||@ Dallas Cowboys||1:00 PM|
|5||Oct 9||Tennessee Titans||1:00 PM|
|6||Oct 13||@ Chicago Bears||8:15 PM|
|7||Oct 23||Green Bay Packers||1:00 PM|
|8||Oct 30||@ Indianapolis Colts||4:25 PM|
|9||Nov 6||Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|10||Nov 14||@ Philadelphia Eagles||8:15 PM|
|11||Nov 20||@ Houston Texans||1:00 PM|
|12||Nov 27||Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM|
|13||Dec 4||@ New York Giants||1:00 PM|
|15||TBD||New York Giants||TBD|
|16||Dec 24||@ San Francisco 49ers||4:05 PM|
|17||Jan 1||Cleveland Browns||1:00 PM|
Washington Commanders Storylines for 2022
Someone besides McLaurin? Anyone?
Washington thought they'd found a solution last offseason, following tight end Logan Thomas' late-career breakout in 2020 and the signing of wide receiver Curtis Samuel on a three-year, $34.5 million contract. But the injury-plagued duo combined for 11 appearances and 34 targets, once again leaving No. 1 receiver Terry McLaurin without a legitimate running mate to threaten defensive backs.
No other Washington player reached 400 receiving yards, and even McLaurin finished with slightly fewer catches, targets and yards than he had the year before, despite playing two more games (17 versus 15).
The Commanders took another crack at it this offseason, bringing in rookie first-round pick Jahan Dotson rather than merely relying on Thomas (torn ACL) and Samuel to rebound. They also have 2021 third-rounder Dyami Brown as a potential deep threat, while 2021 fourth-round TE John Bates caught 20 of 25 targets filling in for the injured Thomas last year.
All in all, quarterback Carson Wentz has more to work with than he did last year in Indianapolis, but Washington's offensive line isn't on the same level as the Colts'. For McLaurin, it means a bit more competition for targets, which will be worth it if a renewed passing attack helps him bounce back from last year's career lows for catch rate (59.2 percent) and YPT (8.1).
Are Wentz and Gibson on Notice?
There's not much question about Carson Wentz and Antonio Gibson entering training camp as starters. Whether they last to the end of the season is more in question, after both disappointed in 2021.
Wentz struggled on third downs (t-22nd in conversion rate) and played poorly Weeks 17-18 (58.9 completion rate, 6.0 YPA) as the Colts choked away a playoff spot. He did start 17 games after foot surgery in early August, but that and a lack of picks (seven) were the only real positives, as the 29-year-old now is a half-decade removed from his 2017 breakout and four years removed from reaching 7.0 YPA. If Wentz doesn't shape up, Washington can pivot to 2021 starter Taylor Heinicke, or even 2022 fifth-rounder Sam Howell later on in the season.
Gibson also has a rookie to contend with in the backfield and again figures to cede passing downs to J.D. McKissic. Third-round pick Brian Robinson can't match Gibson's 4.39 speed, but the Alabama product did run a respectable time (4.53) for a 225-pound back, and Commanders coach Ron Rivera referred to a "one-two punch" in early May.
There's upside if Gibson can keep the rookie on the sidelines, considering Washington ranked 10th in carries last season (and only 21st in pass attempts), despite his fumble issues and 4.0 YPC (37th) for a 10-loss team that was outscored by 99 points.
Much of what went wrong for Washington in 2021 was foreseeable, starting with their subpar passing game. On the other hand, few projected a defense led by edge rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat would be one of the NFL's worst against the pass (29th in yards, 32nd in TDs).
It was night and day compared to 2020, when the team finished second in pass yards and TDs allowed and sixth in sacks. Washington dropped to 17th in sacks last year, with even Young managing only 1.5 in nine games before tearing his ACL in November.
The Commanders didn't do much to address the shortcoming in free agency, instead banking on better health for Young, Sweat (10 games) and cornerback William Jackson (12 games), and a step forward in Year 2 from 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis at middle linebacker.
They also have 2022 second-rounder Phidarian Mathias coming in to replace the departed Matt Ioannaidis as the top defensive tackle off the bench, while fourth-rounder Percy Butler (4.36 40) may be groomed as the third safety.
Young's rehab from surgery is the key variable, potentially giving the Commanders enough pass-rush firepower to hide a beatable secondary. A return to top-5 status is too much to ask, but Washington's defense at least should get back toward respectability after a brutal 2021.
Fantasy Football Stock Watch
⬆️ Rising: WR Terry McLaurin
A modest improvement in team context might be all McLaurin needs to break out, given he was on pace for 1,250 yards and 8.5 TDs through 10 games last year before tanking down the stretch along with the rest of the offense.
⬇️ Falling: TE Logan Thomas
Picked as a top-10 TE last draft season, Thomas played well in limited action – three TDs in six appearances – but he's 31 and coming back from an ACL tear suffered in December. Plus, there's more target competition.
😴 Sleeper: WR Jahan Dotson
Prior to the draft, Dotson usually was projected to go in the second round, but he had an argument for the first after averaging 98.4 yards in 21 games over his final two seasons at PSU. He's quick and crafty but also thin at 5-11.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Antonio Gibson
The Commanders can't expect Carson Wentz to carry them, but there's still hope for improvement if the young playmakers around him continue to grow. Chief among those is Gibson, who fumbled six times last year. He also had 1,331 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs, but he now could lose some of that work if the mistakes continue.
Washington Commanders Injury Report
TE Logan Thomas
While only fantasy relevant the past 2-3 years, Thomas has been in the NFL since 2014 and now is trying to rehab from a late-season Achilles tear at age 31. It's not an easy task, but there's still an opportunity to draw targets if/when he regains his form, as backup John Bates doesn't offer much downfield or after the catch. Thomas was held out of spring practices and eventually kicked off training camp on the active/PUP list.
DE Chase Young
The No. 2 overall pick won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, then managed only 1.5 sacks and four QB hits in nine games last year before suffering an ACL tear. Young still has the talent to become one of the top defenders in the league, at any position, but the down year combined with a lengthy rehab process does create a degree of concern that he might end up good rather than great. He opened camp on the PUP list, and shortly thereafter coach Ron Rivera announced that Young was unlikely to be ready for Week 1.
Gibson hurt his hamstring this spring and was pulled out of OTAs. Rivera suggested at the time it was nothing to worry about, but Gibson was unable to practice at the start of camp, instead building up his workload on a side field. In a case out of Washington last season, we need only look back at Curtis Samuel to be reminded that soft-tissue injuries can linger even if they don't seem severe at first. The Commanders will turn to some combination of J.D. McKissic, Brian Robinson and Jarret Patterson if Gibson misses time this year.
Training Camp Battle 2022 – Washington Commanders
Curtis Samuel and 2022 first-round pick Jahan Dotson are the leading candidates to step up behind Terry McLaurin, but it isn't clear if the two speedy wideouts will be competing against each other or working in distinct roles. Both Dotson and Samuel have the physical specs to play in the slot or on the perimeter, and McLaurin himself is no slouch working inside.
An ideal scenario, from the team's standpoint, would be Dotson stepping up as the No. 2 while Samuel reestablishes himself as one of the top No. 3s in the league. Potential spoilers include 2021 third-round pick Dyami Brown and 6-5 veteran Cam Sims, both of whom have starting experience but not much production to show for it. Still, it's possible Brown or Sims ends up in a top-3 role if Samuel can't stay healthy or Dotson disappoints.