Best and worst case for 2022

Welcome to FanSided’s 2022 NFL preview! It’s time to look into our crystal football and take a glimpse at the Washington Commanders season prediction.

It’s a new era for football in Washington for more than one reason.

For starters, the team (finally) has an actual name: The Commanders. Whether or not the new name means a newfound hope is yet to be seen. While some things are new, others remain painfully the same.

Ron Rivera’s steady hand remains on the sideline, but another risky redemption story quarterback is leading the charge. This time it’s Carson Wentz, who is better than Ryan Fitzpatrick in that he probably won’t break his hip in the first week of the season, but he’s capable of losing a playoff spot by playing so poorly against the worst team in the entire league.

With all of that said, the Commanders are a year removed from being a playoff team, and play in one of the most winnable divisions in the NFL — so anything is possible.

Washington Commanders 2021 season in review

  • 7-9 record
  • 3rd place in NFC East
  • Didn’t Qualify for Playoffs

The Commanders (then the Washington Football Team) didn’t have high expectations last season. And whatever expectations they did have were derailed after Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a hip subluxation in the first half of Week 1, which forced backup Taylor Heinicke to start 17 games. Furthermore, Chase Young, Curtis Samuel, Landon Collins, Logan Thomas, Montez Sweat, William Jackson III, JD McKissic, Chase Roullier and Sam Cosmi all missed several games via injury.

Tough to finish above .500 when you have to overcome an injury to your starting quarterback and several other pivotal players.

Washington Commanders 2022 NFL Draft class

  • Rd 1: Jahan Dotson, WR/Penn State
  • Rd 2: Phidarian Mathis, DT/Alabama
  • Rd 3: Brian Robinson Jr., RB/Alabama
  • Rd 4: Percy Butler, S/Louisiana
  • Rd 5: Sam Howell, QB/North Carolina
  • Rd 5: Cole Turner, TE/Nevada
  • Rd 7: Chris Paul, OL/Tulsa
  • Rd 7: Christian Holmes, CB/Oklahoma State

As opposed to prioritizing value and the popular best player available strategy, the Commanders wanted players who can contribute and help them win games as rookies. In essence, Howell and Paul (to an extent) are the only players who were drafted with an eye on the future and might not play a lot in 2022.

As far as expectations are concerned, Dotson has fans buzzing with his sticky hands, wide catch radius, and yards after the catch ability. His talent and professional and humble demeanor has seen him compared to Terry McLaurin.

Mathis figures to play a big role as third in the DT pecking order behind studs Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, while Robinson has shown real promise in camp and could vulture carries from Antonio Gibson if his fumble issues persist.

Turner, meanwhile, has been one of Carson Wentz’s favorite red zone targets throughout training camp. Look for him to catch multiple touchdowns in his first season.

Previewing Washington Commanders offense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Carson Wentz, QB
    • Jahan Dotson, WR
    • Andrew Norwell, OL
    • Trai Turner, OL
    • Brian Robinson, RB
    • Cole Turner, TE
  • Biggest X-Factor: Curtis Samuel
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Carson Wentz

The Commanders’ offense has legitimate potential with Wentz taking over the reins. On top of improving at quarterback, the receiver room is as deep as we can remember and is led by Terry McLaurin, who’ll be the biggest impact player.

Curtis Samuel is the biggest X-factor due to his injury concerns and Dotson figures to be a headache for opposing defenses. Logan Thomas brings a needed veteran presence at tight end and the running back rotation is three deep with Gibson, Robinson and slippery pass-catching savant JD McKissic.

Ultimately, though, the group will sink or swim with Wentz’s performance.

Previewing Washington Commanders defense for 2022 season

  • Key offseason additions
    • Phidarian Mathis, DT
    • Percy Butler, FS
  • Biggest X-Factor: Montez Sweat, DE
  • Squeakiest Wheel: Jamin Davis, LB

The Commanders didn’t make major changes to their defensive personnel this offseason and understandably so given their talent. They’ll be without Chase Young for at least the first game as he finishes his ACL rehab, which puts big-time pressure on Montez Sweat to wreak havoc on the edge before Young returns.

The secondary has been lights-out in camp and should rebound from a nightmarish 2021 season. Kendall Fuller looks poised for a career year and the group will return all of its starters, including ascending safety Kam Curl.

The defensive line, however, remains the backbone of Washington’s defense. The unit has depth concerns but Jonathan Allen, Sweat and Daron Payne should be able to carry the load while Young works his way back.

The linebacker position is without question the weakest on the roster. It’ll be interesting to see if Jamin Davis can develop into a proper sidekick for Cole Holcomb, who’s coming off a breakout 2021 season after he finished 10th in the NFL in tackles.

Washington Commanders coaching staff overview

  • Head Coach: Ron Rivera
  • Off. Coordinator: Scott Turner
  • Def. Coordinator: Jack Del Rio
  • 2023 Head Coach Candidate: Defensive backs coach Chris Harris

The Commanders’ sideline runs like a standard NFL sideline. Scott Turner calls the offensive plays as the group’s coordinator and the same can be said for Jack Del Rio on the defensive side of the ball, though Ron Rivera could take charge in that regard if the unit continues struggling on third down the way it has in the preseason.

Because of that, Del Rio is a legitimate mid-season fire candidate. On the flip side, defensive backs coach Chris Harris could gain steam as a head coach candidate. He was already interviewed for the Colts’ defensive coordinator job after Matt Eberflus left so he’s clearly highly regarded in NFL circles.

Washington Commanders Awards Watch

The Commanders have no shortage of top talents on their roster, but I’m hard-pressed to envision any of them winning silverware at season’s end.

The MVP has become a de facto quarterback award and Carson Wentz hasn’t played up to that level since 2017. Chase Young has Defensive Player of the Year potential, but he took a step back in 2021 and is out the first four games.

Perhaps Young can enter the Comeback Player of the Year conversation if he returns early enough and hits the ground running. Jonathan Allen has DPOY potential, but Aaron Donald is the only interior DL who’s sniffed the award in recent years.

Jahan Dotson, OROY

Jahan Dotson taking home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors it the most realistic scenario, and even that’s a longshot. The No. 16 overall pick has shined all offseason and looks the part of a legitimate NFL wideout. His chances of winning the award, however, will hinge on his target share, as Washington quietly has several weapons to feed in the passing game and how his peers perform.

Kenny Pickett will be the odds-on favorite if he wins the Steelers starting job, but Breece Hall, Drake London, Garrett Wilson, George Pickens, Treylon Burks and Chris Olave form an intimidating set of competitors.

Biggest game on Washington Commanders schedule in 2022

Week 18 against the Cowboys is going to be huge. Assuming the Commanders haven’t clinched a playoff berth, it could be all to play for at FedEx Field to close out the regular season. With Dallas headed for regression given all the players they lost this offseason, they too could be fighting for a playoff berth or the NFC East title.

Last season, the Cowboys had the luxury of resting their starters late in the regular season. That (likely) won’t be the case this time around, and they’ve utterly dominated Washington since Dak Prescott became the starting quarterback.

For all of Prescott’s struggles against title contenders, he’s 9-1 against Washington in his career and has cleaned up against weaker opponents.

The Week 17 matchup against Cleveland will be big with Deshaun Watson back under center for the Browns, but the Commanders’ playoff hopes could ride on whether they beat the hated Cowboys at home in the finale.

Washington Commanders season prediction: Best case scenario

If everything goes right for the Commanders, they’ll compete with the Cowboys and Eagles for the NFC East crown. Of course, so much of their success will hinge on the play of Carson Wentz. If he performs as he did with the Colts before the final two games, Washington should be in the thick of the NFC East race this year. At the very least, they should be battling for a Wild Card berth.

In a best-case scenario, the Commanders win the division/make the Wild Card and either win a playoff game or put up a good fight against a higher seed. A Super Bowl, unfortunately, is a pipe dream for this current roster.

Washington Commanders season prediction: Worst-case scenario

With Wentz at the helm, it’s very possible Washington experiences a worst-case scenario. Should the experiment fall on its face, the Commanders will likely stumble to a below .500 finish and have to debate whether to move off Wentz altogether in the offseason and begin their QB search all over again.

Another disaster scenario to look out for is the defense failing to improve on a nightmarish 2021. Jack Del Rio’s unit has looked helpless on third down in the preseason after they ranked 31st in opponent third down percentage last year. You don’t win many games if you can’t get off the field on third down and the preseason suggests Washington has a long way to go in that department.

Washington Commanders season prediction for 2022

  • 9-8 record
  • 3rd in NFC East
  • Playoff Prediction: Wild Card berth

Let’s put it this way. Washington won seven games last year despite playing one of the toughest schedules, losing their starting quarterback in Week 1, and suffering more injuries than more than half of the league. This year, they boast one of the easiest schedules and made a big-time improvement at quarterback.

By that logic, they should improve by at least two wins. Will nine wins be enough to squeak into the playoffs? It’s tough to say as there could be as many as five other teams, including the Eagles, Saints, Vikings, Cardinals, and 49ers vying for a Wild Card berth. In this prediction, the Commanders get in by the skin of their teeth.

Read more from FanSided’s 2022 NFL Preview here. For more Washington Commanders coverage, check out Riggo’s Rag. 

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