Washington Commanders NFL 2023 Season Preview: Emergent Prospects Amid Prior Challenges
The Washington Commanders enter the upcoming 2023 NFL season on an uncertain footing, having experienced turmoil due to quarterback-related issues in 2022 and with new ownership potentially impacting head coach Ron Rivera’s job security; with offseason developments having major ramifications on their playoff prospects. This comprehensive preview will focus on key highlights from 2022 season as well as developments that might alter their hopes.
A Look Back at 2022
The 2022 season for the Commanders was one filled with highs and lows. Beginning with Carson Wentz as starting quarterback, there was much optimism when the season started out well; unfortunately his performance did not live up to expectation, placing close to the bottom in ESPN’s QBR ranking (32.9) after starting 2-4. An injury to Wentz marked an important turning point of the season, prompting Taylor Heinicke to assume control in Week 7.
Under Heinicke’s expert leadership and well-considered decisions, the team experienced a remarkable revival, culminating in a 5-1-1 streak prior to their bye week. A pivotal win against undefeated Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night proved pivotal – though postseason hopes were quickly dashed when they lost to archrival New York Giants in an emotional rematch game.
Ron Rivera enters his fourth season as head coach under mounting pressure to produce improved results. Due to their inconsistent success, Rivera has come under intense scrutiny. To improve offensive efficiency, they parted ways with Wentz and Heinicke before initiating an invigorating quarterback contest between Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett.
Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City as offensive coordinator is an important development this offseason. Bieniemy’s past work with Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City Chiefs’ high-octane offense garnered him significant notice, and this opportunity gives him a chance to showcase his strategic acumen and adaptability.
The Quarterback Conundrum: Howell vs. Brissett
The Commanders have struggled to find an experienced quarterback to lead them, which has significantly impaired their consistency. Sam Howell was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 Draft and is showing promise during limited field time. His agility and game management acumen fit well with their requirements while Bieniemy may provide valuable experience that could benefit Howell as well.
Jacoby Brissett brings significant NFL starting experience from his tenure with the Browns. Even though his suspension ended after Watson’s stay was upheld, Brissett should not be underestimated as a viable candidate to start Week 1. Preseason performance will ultimately decide who starts at quarterback this year.
Offensive Reinforcements and Challenges
Bieniemy’s leadership of the Commanders offense promises progress regardless of who starts at quarterback, featuring legendary wide receiver Terry McLaurin alongside Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson for depth and potential. Additionally, running backs Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson join tight end Logan Thomas to enhance their versatility and ensure success.
Enhancing the offensive line will be essential to providing quarterback protection and overall stability, which is demonstrated by the addition of rookies Gates and Wylie, along with Sam Cosmi moving to right guard – two moves which indicate their commitment to augmenting this area of performance.
A Consistent Defense: Maintaining the Momentum
The Commanders’ defense ranked fifth in expected points added per play in 2022 is still formidable, thanks to Daron Payne being given both his franchise tag and extension, as well as their selection of cornerback Emmanuel Forbes who addresses one of their team’s major weaknesses from last season.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s influence was visible as his defense generated key turnovers in several victories. Although defensive performance can fluctuate annually, Del Rio is expected to maintain their competitiveness and reliability well into 2023.
The Coaching Conundrum: Ron Rivera’s Uncertain Future
Ron Rivera may soon face changes in ownership, leaving his job security uncertain. While leading the team to postseason play during his inaugural year, their inconsistent play has brought scrutiny down upon him during subsequent seasons. For Rivera to keep his position and hopefully gain playoff berth, success this season must be demonstrated through stellar play during 2018.
The quarterback decision will play an essential part in shaping the Commanders’ future. If either Howell or Brissett can deliver top-16 performances, they could put themselves into contention for playoff berth. While the NFC East is notoriously competitive, with formidable defensive and offensive strategies under Bieniemy there may still be hope of contention being achieved.
Preseason Prospects: Hope and Urgency
Washington Commanders fans entering the 2023 NFL preseason with high aspirations and urgency are hopeful for success in both aspects. Howell and Brissett remain engaged in a fierce quarterback competition as the team looks for a reliable starting option. Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator provides optimism for an offensive revival while Jack Del Rio’s stability on defense gives them a solid platform.
Rivera’s job security is at stake this season and the performance of his team could determine its destiny. A strong quarterback performance, improved offense, and solid defense could pave the way to playoff berth if Commanders fans stay tuned as the season unfolds and hope for an impressive campaign culminating in postseason berths.