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Washington Commanders 2022 Season Preview: Overview, Expectations, Predictions

Updated: Sep 8, 2022


It’s hard to find someone who is optimistic about the current state of The Washington Commanders. The franchise has a new name that few are excited about and an owner in Dan Snyder who is a big reason why FedEx Field is invaded by opposing fans week after week.

Photo: Kelyn Soong/Washington City Paper

In my opinion, however, the team heads into 2022 with more optimism than any year prior under head coach Ron Rivera, who enters his third year in charge.

“Riverboat Ron” has a new quarterback in Carson Wentz and a strong receiving core for him to work with, including star receiver Terry McLaruin who signed a 3-year extension this offseason worth up to $71 million.

The NFC East is probably the weakest division in the NFC. Most pundits like Philadelphia to win it and nobody is picking Washington or the New York Giants. What I see is a clear opportunity for The Commanders to make some noise this year, but it all depends on a strong start.

Washington has the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL, according to Sharp Football Analytics, and only has five games against playoff teams from a year ago.

If Carson Wentz plays close to his 2017 self, when he was in MVP contention before a season-ending injury, the receivers are as good as we think they can be, and the defense lives up to last years pre-season hype, there is no reason The Commanders can’t be a dark horse playoff contender come November and December.

Offensive Preview:

The offensive success is completely predicated on Carson Wentz. Washington acquired the quarterback in a trade with Indianapolis after Wentz spent one year there. The Commanders swapped second round picks with the Colts and also gave them a third round pick in the 2022 draft and a conditional pick in the 2023 draft. Not a huge haul for Indy as they had seen enough after one season of Wentz.

The quarterback was drafted out of North Dakota State in 2016 with the second overall pick. He spent his first five seasons in Philadelphia, winning a Super Bowl after getting injured in 2017 and was named to the Pro Bowl and was second-team All-Pro the same year.

Since then, it’s been a steady downhill slope for Wentz. He had a falling out in Philadelphia after only winning 3 of 12 starts in 2020 before being replaced by rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts.

On March 17, 2021, Wentz was traded to Indianapolis where he had a strong season, throwing for over 3,500 yards while tossing 27 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. However, he crumbled when the season was on the line.

In a must-win week 18 game against the NFL-worst Jaguars, Wentz was 17/29 passing for 185 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He never got the offense humming and the Colts lost 26-11 and missed the playoffs. Had Indy won that game, Wentz may very well not be in Washington.

2022 is officially a redemption tour for the quarterback. He has a great coach in Ron Rivera to work with, a veteran running back in Antonio Gibson and a strong receiving core led by Terry McLaurin with rookie Jahan Dotson new to the fold as well.

Photo: Brad Mills/USA Today

The offensive line is considered to be middle of the pack and likely won’t be the reason The Commanders don’t find success.

The whole team, offense and defense, comes down to the quarterback. In 2017, Wentz was 11-2 as a starter and had thrown 33 touchdowns and 7 interceptions before his season-ending injury. Those kinds of numbers, or even close to them, would be plenty to keep Washington in the mix late into the season.

Defensive Preview:

Washington ranked 25th in total defense a season ago and still won 7 games. Doesn’t it feel like if they simply played a little bit better defense (while playing the league’s sixth easiest schedule), they can turn things around and make a run at the playoffs? For reference, Washington had the 15th easiest schedule in the league entering the 2021 season.

The loss of star defensive end Chase Young hurt the team last year. Young will be out at least the first four games (v. Jacksonville, @ Detroit, v. Philadelphia, @ Dallas), which will set the defense back early on.

The Commanders defensive front is going to have to step it up in 2022. The defensive line consists of Young, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Jonathan Allen. Yet, this defense ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in sacks per game.

In the middle of the defense sits linebacker Cole Holcomb. The fourth year man out of North Carolina led the team in tackles a year ago (83 - 19 more than anyone else) and finished 10th in the NFL in the category. The lone staple of the defense from a year ago will have to stay consistent for Washington to maintain 2022 success.

Photo: USA Today

One more statistic that needs to fall into Washington’s favor for a turnaround year is turnover margin. A year ago, the team was -6 in turnover margin and finished 21st in total takeaways.

Starting cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and William Jackson will have to be instrumental if the Commanders are to finish on the plus side of turnover margin in 2022. The duo combined for only three interceptions last year, but is now primed to make a statement in 2022, facing off against only four quarterbacks who were in the postseason last year.

Ultimately, defense is about getting off the field. Do you force punts? Do you give up a 70 yard drive but hold the offense to a field goal in the red zone? That is how you win games and ultimately make the playoffs.

Last year, Washington ranked second-to-last in 3rd down defense, allowing conversions nearly 50% of the time. The year before, Washington ranked 7th in the same category. To compare to another team, Tennessee was last in 2020 and finished 6th in 2021.

What’s the point? 3rd down defense is a statistic that changes radically year over year. The trends would suggest that a dramatic improvement is coming for Washington in this category in 2022, which just might be enough to catapult this team into the playoffs.

My Season Prediction:

I feel like if you’ve read this far you sort of know where I’m going with this. The Commanders play a relatively weak schedule, they have the best quarterback they’ve had since Kirk Cousins and they play in the NFC’s worst division (I’d say NFL’s worst if the AFC South didn’t exist).

The reasons Washington had a rough 2021 had a lot to do with an inability to get stops defensively, which is a trend that generally changes for teams every year. The year-over-year trend would suggest dramatic improvement on defense, paired with a more competent offense and a head coach who is now in his third season in charge…

And yet, I still think Washington misses the playoffs.

Photo: Fansided

The team comes out to a hot start and plays its best football in November during a three game stretch @ Houston, vs. Atlanta and @ New York Giants before a strategically placed Week 14 bye.

I have Washington coming out of the bye and defeating the Giants in Week 15 at FedEx Field to win its fourth straight game and having an 8-6 record, virtually one win away from the playoffs.

However, everything comes crashing down the next two weeks, with losses @ San Francisco and vs. Cleveland, bringing them to 8-8 before a winner-take-all game Week 18 against Dallas in Washington.

The winner gets a wildcard berth; The Cowboys have been there before and get the win, knocking The Commanders out of contention and bringing the final record to a heartbreaking 8-9.


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