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Commanders Team Report: Moves to Improve

Despite finishing the season with an 8-8-1 record, the Washington Commanders ended the 2022 season in last place in a loaded NFC East. Though the Commanders had a quieter offseason than most, they made some changes, with their biggest coming at quarterback. They’ll hope the changes they made and the team they do have will be enough to compete for playoff contention once again in 2023. According to NFL picks, however, it won’t be: Washington has an over/under of 6.5 wins.

Training Camp Info

  • Coach: Ron Rivera (fourth Season)
  • Training Camp Reporting Dates: July 21 (Rookies); July 25 (Veterans)
  • First Preseason Game: Aug. 11, at Cleveland
  • Week 1: Sept. 10, Arizona
  • Bye: Week 14

Top Training Camp Storyline

Although quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke split time for Washington in 2022, with each playing about half the season, neither is on the team heading into the 2023 season.

Commanders Team Report: Moves to Improve
Eric Bieniemy looks on during the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals- Lyons/Getty Images/AFP

Instead, the Commanders have decided to roll with their 2022 NFL Draft pick in Sam Howell. Howell started one game for Washington last season, throwing for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and coach Ron Rivera has now named him QB1.

Despite this, it is still unknown whether Howell will start right away in Week 1 after some ups and downs in OTAs and minicamp. Washington signed Jacoby Brissett in the offseason to serve as a backup, though if Howell still struggles in training camp, Brissett may get the starting job on opening day. That said, all eyes will be on Howell’s progress as training camp continues to see if he will be ready for the starting gig.

Impact Rookies

Although the Commanders had a top-five passing defense in the NFL last season, allowing 191.3 passing yards a game, they struggled with takeaways. Their nine interceptions were the fifth-worst in the league.

Washington addressed that in the 2023 NFL Draft by drafting a pair of defensive backs in its first two picks, including cornerback Emmanuel Forbes in the first round. He should bring a boost to the secondary immediately.

Forbes finished his three seasons at Mississippi State with 14 interceptions, setting an FBS record by returning six of those for touchdowns. He had his most productive season of his career last season with six interceptions, and after already impressing in OTAs and minicamp, NFL odds gave him as the seventh-best chances to win Defensive Rookie of the Year with +1200 odds.

Offseason Moves that Turned Heads

Though the Commanders declining defensive end Chase Young’s fifth-year option certainly turned heads and took over NFL news for a bit, that wasn’t Washington’s biggest offseason move of 2023.

Instead, that honor belongs to Washington pulling off the signing of Eric Bieniemy as its offensive coordinator after he spent the past five seasons as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator.

After a tumultuous few years in which the Commanders started 12 different quarterbacks since 2018 and finished last season averaging 18.9 points a game for 24th in the league, Bieniemy should be a welcome change. Bieniemy helped lead the Chiefs to two Super Bowl wins as offensive coordinator, leading their offense to first in the league in scoring and yardage those years as well. Following his development of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Bienemy should be a positive force in Howell’s progress as well.

Washington’s receiving group is one of the strongest in the NFL and should be a big positive as Howell continues to develop and adjust in the NFL. However, the Commanders’ tight end corps can’t say the same.

A good portion of the tight ends’ issues is their inability to stay healthy. The Commanders have already lost Armani Rodgers for the season due to an Achilles injury. Both Logan Thomas and Cole Turner could be solid for Washington, though injuries have plagued both of them as well.

Of the group, John Bates appears to be the only reliable one after seeing action in all but one game the last two seasons, finishing with 357 yards and two touchdowns in that time, while Curtis Hodges has yet to record playing time.

Final Analysis

After a quiet offseason from the Commanders, Washington will be banking on its splash hire of Bieniemy going right and helping in the development of Howell to improve its divisional standings from a season ago.

That will all start in training camp, where Howell has a good opportunity to build chemistry with a strong group of receivers as the first-team quarterback. However, if things don’t go as planned, Brissett will be there to take over, though the defense should be a reliable unit once again as well.

Washington is hoping some small changes and keeping much of its same team of last season will be enough to move up in the East, but after other divisional opponents also made moves, NFL expert predictions believe the Commanders will finish last in the NFC East once again.

Washington Commanders Odds

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