Ron Rivera’s long-range plan prepared commanders for the future
Say what you will about Ron Rivera’s first two seasons in DC – it wasn’t very pretty. However, when he was hired he spoke of a plan to not only turn the culture around (which I believe he did) but to bring this team back to respectability on the pitch (that part is still to be determined).
This quote from the coach after the conclusion of the 2021 season sums it up nicely:
“At the end of the day, we have holes that we want to fill. We have players that we want to make sure are the right kind of guys who are going to be on the football pitch. But it’s all part of the process that I believe in.
When you look at the changes that have occurred on this list, it’s easy enough for even the most casual fan to get excited about what’s built for the future.
The book is still about newly acquired quarterback Carson Wentz, but let’s talk about the facts here — he’s the most physically talented quarterback Washington has had since RG3, and he’s proven he can win in this league. At 29, he’s still in his prime and he’s in control of the team with a manageable salary for the next three seasons. If Wentz fails miserably this season (which I don’t think he does), that probably means Commanders will have a high pick going into the 2023 NFL Draft… AND, we have Sam Howell, who many have projected as a high choice. heads into its 2021 college season, waiting backstage. For the first time in a long time, the quarterback’s outlook is looking very positive.
In recent seasons, Washington’s skill positions have been one area that has lacked the difference makers. Outside of Terry McLaurin, whom Rivera inherited, the closets were pretty bare. As he approached his third year in office, Ron had reversed the script. Third-year running back and weapon Antonio Gibson leads a talented backfield that also boasts one of the NFL’s best third backs in JD McKissic and Alabama rookie Brian Robinson. The three-headed monster is the best in the division and probably the top 10 in the league.
The wide receiver has gone from a weakness to a strength in the offseason. Commanders wisely locked McLaurin in for the foreseeable future with a well-deserved contract extension and drafted the talented and versatile Jahan Dotson out of Penn State in the first round. Dotson will immediately take the pressure off McLaurin to take on the full burden of the passing game and should open up opportunities for his teammates and the running game. Sophomore speedster Dyami Brown, who had some difficulty adjusting to the NFL as a rookie, seems much more comfortable in the second year of this training camp, and veteran Cam Sims flashed when he got the chance. Despite Curtis Samuel’s inability to stay healthy so far during his tenure at DC, he’s still a young and dangerous weapon that can be deployed all over the court, and I’m guessing OC Scott Turner will use him. as such if he can control his ailments. once the season has started (fingers crossed).
The tight end remains a bit of a question mark this pre-season, but there is both talent and versatility in this room. If Logan Thomas can get back to form after knee surgery, he could become that safety blanket that Carson Wentz likes to target in the passing game. Behind him are top line blocker John Bates and MOVE rookie tight end Cole Turner, who caught the attention of coaches early in training camp for his length, athleticism and hands. Sammis Reyes and Curtis Hodges are two other names to watch this preseason.
The offensive line features a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. Last year, newly acquired left tackle Charles Leno played very well for coach John Matsko. He returns this year and teams up with veteran left guard Andrew Norwell and Command Center Chase Roullier to form a very talented trio. There is a right guard shuffling battle to replace Brandon Scherff between Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer. Whoever does not win this spot will serve as the primary backup at both guard positions. Right tackle Sam Cosmi is the biggest and perhaps the brightest player to watch in this unit, as he has the athleticism that makes coaches salivate and the work ethic to become one of the best in the game under Matsko’s tutelage. Rookie Chris Paul has held firm in camp so far and offers positional versatility as both a guard and a tackle.
The forward 4/5 should be the strength of this defense and the foundation for building both the present and the future. Pro Bowler Jon Allen leads this talented group up front, and running mates Daron Payne and rookie Phidarian Mathis are expected to form one of the most important units in the NFL. Commanders will likely be without defensive end Chase Young for a few games to start the season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery, but Montez Sweat, Efe Obada, Casey Toohill (who has a really good training camp ), James Smith-Williams and Shaka Toney offer a lot of ability and versatility.
The linebacker corps remains the team’s weakness, but Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis are both talented young players who just need to put it all together. The depth behind them is concerning as Khaleke Hudson and David Mayo are more reserve/special teams type players, but there is still time for the staff to pull a veteran from the free agent market and even watch the waiver wire then that cuts are made in a few weeks.
The secondary is an area that fans should be excited to see played this season. The halfback returns all four starters from last season (Fuller, Jackson, Curl and McCain) and has two sophomores (Forrest and St-Juste), who are really turning heads at the start of training camp. Add rookies Percy Butler and Christian Holmes (both of whom have splashed this camp), and you have a squad with talent, versatility and youth, with decent depth featuring veterans like Danny Johnson, Jeremy Reaves and Corn Elder (who looks good so away from this camp).
Many say the third year in a coach’s tenure is the breakthrough year, and that should be true for Ron Rivera in 2022, however, it’s very evident how different this list is from his arrival so far, and I mean that in the most positive way. He’s certainly done a lot in a short time to turn this team into contenders within the division…and hopefully beyond.
This roster is littered with talent and youngsters and is starting to shape up well now and for the future. The Washington Commanders first year of football should be fun to watch for Burgundy and Gold fans!