Washington Commanders 2022-23 Season Preview

The Washington Commanders are one of the NFL’s biggest mysteries heading into the 2022-23 season. Washington had a disappointing 2021-22 season after winning the NFC East title the year before.

However, their 2021 season shouldn’t be used to dismiss the team’s progression in 2020. Injuries and COVID-19 outbreaks sidelined key players for extended periods of time.

2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young tore his ACL in Week 10. Marquee free agent signing Ryan Fitzpatrick missed the entire season after suffering an injury in the first quarter of the team’s first regular season game. Yet, with Taylor Heinicke leading the offense, the team managed to win seven games.

Head coach Ron Rivera and his newly assembled front office went to work in the offseason to build a roster that compliments the young talent in Washington. The Commanders were engaged in trade talks for every premier quarterback rumored to be on the move, including Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Denver outbid Washington to acquire Wilson, and Rodgers committed to Green Bay. However, the Indianapolis Colts were willing to part ways with quarterback Carson Wentz and shipped him off to Washington.

At one point in his career, Wentz was a favorite to win Most Valuable Player. An ACL tear prevented that and effectively derailed his career in Philadelphia. Although Wentz hasn’t regained his MVP form, he isn’t a bad quarterback.

Since Kirk Cousins’ departure following the 2017-18 season, Washington has started 10 different quarterbacks, the most of any team since 2018. Coming in, Wentz will be the most talented quarterback Washington’s had in years.

The Commanders also selected quarterback Sam Howell in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL draft. After his first two seasons in college, Howell was projected to be a first-round selection, but a disappointing 2021 season pushed him down to the fifth round. Howell won’t step in and be a star quarterback off the bat, but his preseason performance gave the franchise hope for his future.

With Wentz as a starter, Heinicke immediately becomes one of the top backup quarterbacks in the league. Heinicke’s presence also gives Howell plenty of room to improve without being unexpectedly thrown into a game.

The upgrade at quarterback has to please star receiver Terry McLaurin. McLaurin shined as a rookie in 2019 and has since established himself as an elite NFL receiver.

Washington added McLaurin’s college roommate, Curtis Samuel, last season, but injuries limited him to five games. Samuel is expected to return healthy alongside McLaurin.

Former Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson also joined the receiving core as the franchise’s first first-round selection under the new moniker. Dotson impressed the coaching staff in training camp and is reported to have a great connection with Wentz. The new additions to the roster will only help take defensive pressure off McLaurin and open up the field for Wentz.

Washington also boasts a quality backfield that continues to fly under the radar around the league. Antonio Gibson has notched over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his two NFL seasons. As a former receiver, Gibson is one of the best receiving backs in the league. Fumbles issues have plagued his career, but as he continues to improve as a ball carrier, his ability to limit turnovers will improve.

Gibson is complimented by J.D. McKissic — a reliable hybrid threat out of the backfield who can only be described as an offensive weapon. As an undersized player, McKissic isn’t great at running through the tackles, but his quickness and agility make him dangerous in the open field.

What Washington lacked last season was a strong downfield runner. Brian Robinson Jr., the Commanders’ third-round pick in 2022, was set to assume that role. Robinson impressed coaches throughout camp and was reportedly splitting first-team reps with Gibson.

Unfortunately, Robinson was the victim of an attempted carjacking in late August and suffered two nonfatal gunshot wounds in his glute and and knee. The bullets didn’t cause any serious damage and Robinson has been recovering much quicker than expected. Robinson returned to team facilities just two days after getting shot and managed to bring Oreos for his running back teammates and coaches.

While the offense has improved on paper, the extent of how good they can be won’t become clear until the starters step on the field to play meaningful football. However, the Commanders defense has shown they can dominate opposing offenses.

Washington has one of the NFL’s premier defensive lines with four first-round picks in the starting group. Young and Montez Sweat rush the edge while Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne defend the interior.

The Commanders will be without Young for at least the first four weeks as he continues to recover from his ACL tear last season. When the line reunites on the field at full strength, opponents will have a tough time moving the ball downfield.

However, Washington has holes elsewhere on defense. Cole Holcomb lead the team in tackles last season as an outside linebacker and returns as a quality starter. 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis made some good plays, but generally struggled as a rookie. He’s expected to open the season as a starter alongside Holcomb as he continues to adapt to the NFL.

The Commanders have a solid starting secondary with Kendall Fuller, William Jackson III, Kamren Curl, and Bobby McCain. Backing them up are young, raw players with little to no NFL experience.

When the 2022-23 season ends, the Commanders aren’t expected to make the playoffs ––their win total is currently projected at 7.5 (via Vegas Insider). However, in a division as erratic as the NFC East, anything is possible.

To be competitive, Washington needs every “what if” question answered in their favor. Although, they don’t need everything to go right to be a good team. If they avoid major injuries and Wentz proves to be an above average quarterback, a wildcard bid is achievable.

After two decades of mediocracy, Washington finally has the tools to change the narrative. It might not happen this year, but it’s only a matter of time until the Commanders take the next step in becoming a consistent playoff team.

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