Following consecutive seven-win seasons (one among which led to a Wild Card berth), the Washington Commanders enter training camp as soon as once more projected as a mid-tier group within the NFC. Can Ron Rivera and new quarterback Carson Wentz upend expectations within the nation’s capital?
5 storylines for Commanders coaching camp
Rivera has dragged Washington out of the 3-13 wasteland they had been in as lately as 2019, however he and normal supervisor Martin Mayhew haven’t but turned the membership right into a dependable contender. Nonetheless, Rivera has given the Commanders an air of respectability — a minimum of on the soccer aspect of issues — whereas the franchise is repeatedly embarrassed by proprietor Daniel Snyder’s failures.
With out an enchancment in on-field outcomes, will Rivera’s seat begin to get heat? Listed here are the highest storylines to watch as Washington’s coaching camp will get underway.
Is Carson Wentz the reply below heart?
Given how badly Wentz struggled down the stretch for the Colts in 2021, it’s simple to miss simply how giant of an improve he needs to be over Taylor Heinicke, who began 15 video games for the Commanders after Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a season-ending damage.
Wentz, who managed 3,563 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions final 12 months, completed ninth within the NFL in QBR (54.7). Heinicke ranked twenty third. Wentz beat Heinicke in adjusted internet yards per try, expected points added per play, and sack share. Heinicke topped Wentz in completion share over expectation, however Wentz completed higher in almost each different crucial metric.
Wentz will not get to play alongside All-Professional operating again Jonathan Taylor or profit from Frank Reich’s teaching, however he’ll have improved go catchers in Washington. Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel needs to be the most effective trio Wentz has thrown to in years. Even when Wentz by no means returns to his peak 2017 stage of play, Commanders OC Scott Turner ought to have the ability to tailor the offense to Wentz’s strengths and permit him to take care of his 2021 manufacturing.
How do the Commanders divide the operating again touches?
At one level throughout this offseason, it appeared that Antonio Gibson would develop into Washington’s bell-cow again. J.D. McKissic had signed a contract with the Payments, leaving Gibson to deal with nearly all of the Commanders’ carries and passing-game work.
Then McKissic backed out of his Buffalo deal to return to Washington. Strike one. The Commanders subsequently chosen Alabama operating again Brian Robinson Jr. within the third spherical of April’s draft. Strike two. Gibson fantasy managers in every single place shied away in horror as Washington’s backfield scenario grew to become one of many murkiest within the NFL.
Gibson and McKissic have at all times been an odd pairing. Positive, Gibson has the scale (6’0″, 220 kilos) to be a bruising again, however he was primarily a receiver in faculty. Over two seasons at Memphis, Gibson caught 44 passes and dealt with solely 33 speeding makes an attempt. McKissic, although, is without doubt one of the greatest pass-catching RBs within the NFL. He’s dominated targets in Washington since 2019, receiving 163 appears to be like to Gibson’s 96.
Third-round draft capital is important for a operating again, so Robinson may additionally issue into the Commanders’ plans as a rookie. He profiles equally to Gibson — an influence again who can play on passing downs. An older rookie at 23, Robinson ought to slot in as Gibson’s direct backup.
Can Washington’s reworked OL mesh instantly?
The Commanders discovered one of many steals of free company by signing left deal with Charles Leno Jr. after he’d been launched by the Bears final Could. He’ll return to deal with Wentz’s blindside, and second-year proper deal with Samuel Cosmi is again after accidents price him eight video games in an in any other case productive debut.
Washington’s offensive line scenario is a little bit cloudier on the inside. New left guard Andrew Norwell remains to be a stable participant, however he’ll characterize an considerable step down from free agent departure Brandon Scherff. Middle Chase Roullier remains to be recovering from a fractured fibula that ended his season final November.
In the meantime, Wes Schweitzer and Trai Turner will use coaching camp to compete for the beginning proper guard job. Turner has familiarity with Rivera from their Panthers days, and the Commanders could view Schweitzer — who’s performed a minimum of one profession snap at each OL place aside from left guard — as a superb utility lineman.
Will Chase Younger and/or Logan Thomas be prepared for the season?
Chase Younger hasn’t fairly been the dominating go rusher many anticipated after he was chosen second total within the 2020 draft, and now he’s recovering from a torn ACL suffered in Week 10. The Ohio State product will probably begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list, which may put him on monitor to overlook video games within the common season. The Commanders have little EDGE depth behind Younger and Montez Sweat.
Tight finish Logan Thomas can be unsure for Week 1 after he tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in December. Thomas’ damage was way more extreme than Younger’s, and the previous quarterback believes he’ll need a full 10 months to recover. If Thomas misses the primary month of the season, 2021 fourth-round decide John Bates will step in as Washington’s starter.
Can Jamin Davis take a step ahead?
Hindsight is 20/20, however the Commanders drafted linebacker Jamin Davis in 2021 over the likes of Kwity Paye, Greg Newsome, Rashod Bateman, and Eric Stokes. It’s solely been one season, however Washington could already remorse that call.
Davis struggled in opposition to each the run and the go and in the end performed 56% of the group’s defensive snaps. Fellow linebacker Cole Holcomb noticed a 92% snap price, and he’s anticipated to start the 2022 marketing campaign as Washington’s center linebacker and defensive play-caller.
On the 2021 Mix, Davis posted a 4.48 40-yard sprint and 42-inch vertical at 6’3″, 234 kilos, and he ought to have the ability to flip that elite athleticism into on-field outcomes. Nonetheless, if he desires extra enjoying time, Davis must wrest the Commanders’ nickel LB position away from Holcomb.