Commanders start anew from the top

Commanders start anew from the top

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2022 record: 8-8-1, fourth place NFC East

Playoff picture: Every NFC East team except the Commanders made the playoffs. At 8-8-1, Washington was in contention despite a crippling QB carousel that has defined the Ron Rivera era with the franchise.

Biggest Week 1 question: Is Sam Howell legit? At long last, do the Washington Commanders actually have a quarterback? Rivera indicates the answer is yes. Howell was 11 of 19, sacked three times with one TD and one INT as a rookie. But Washington handed him the keys with first-year offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy facilitating his development.

On defense, the if and when scenarios surrounding the return of purported All-Pro-caliber pass rusher Chase Young remains a touchy subject.

What’s new: Owner Josh Harris arrived just as training camp was ready to kick off, ending the long, controversial and unsuccessful run of Dan Snyder at the top of the organization. Harris wants to win, having experienced the glory days of the franchise as a youth. That might mean major changes if 2023 goes south.

Other than Bieniemy and Howell, Rivera is downright giddy about first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes at cornerback. He’s part of a defense almost entirely home-grown and one of six first-round picks on that side of the ball pegged to start for Washington.

Bieniemy arrives from the Chiefs and is considered an innovative if demanding general. He has tremendous weapons outside, with 2022 first-round pick Jahan Dotson among league-wide breakout candidates alongside Terry McLaurin and former Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

They’re gone: Taylor Heinicke (Atlanta) and Carson Wentz (unemployed) were let go and the Commanders parted with Trai Turner at guard. But Washington added third-rounder Ricky Stromberg to a deeper offensive line that will now use Nick Gates at center.

On the money: The matter of Young’s status and his future with the franchise could bloom into a full-blown distraction if he’s not on the field to start the season. The Commanders passed on the fifth-year option for the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft, who dealt with a knee injury last season and is awaiting medical clearance for a preseason stinger. He’s still only 24 years old and his upside is considerable. The franchise could consider his trade value in October if the Commanders are not contending.

Get to know: Jacoby Brissett. Because in Washington, the backup quarterback matters. Brissett is well-traveled, but he’s been good enough as a game manager to remain in contention for starting jobs at recent stops. If there is enough playmaking talent on the roster, Brissett is more than capable of winning a spot start or a stretch of games in Washington.

Vegas says: Expectations from sportsbooks is modest at best for Washington with a win total projection of 6.5 (-105).

—Field Level Media

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.