The Washington Commanders’ 2023 season was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster.
The Josh Harris-led ownership group purchased the franchise from disgraced owner Dan Snyder for $6.05 billion, officially kicking off a new era of Washington football. The team hired prized offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from the Kansas City Chiefs as their new offensive coordinator/assistant head coach and initially appeared on track to smash their projected win total of 6.5. The Commanders finally found themselves trending up amidst a sizzling 2-0 start under Sam Howell.
What transpired next was complete nightmare fuel for this long-suffering franchise. Following their 2-0 start, the momentum came to a screeching halt as the team began to sputter. This led to trades of former first-round selections Montez Sweat and Chase Young to Chicago and San Francisco, respectively, in return for 2024 draft capital. Following these transactions, the poor play continued as the Commanders ended the year on an eight-game losing streak, concluding their nightmare season with a 4-13 record.
What Went Right for Commanders
This was not an ideal year offensively or defensively for the Commanders, although there were still some positives found. Guard Sam Cosmi stood out on the offensive line, solidifying himself as a long-term starter, while sophomore running back Brian Robinson Jr. showed off his receiving skills and pass-blocking improvements to go along with his already explosive running abilities.
One secret superstar for each NFC East team pic.twitter.com/KmMZ1kLeRM
— PFF (@PFF) January 30, 2024
On the defensive side of the ball, before his Week 13 injury, third-year linebacker Jamin Davis was showing steady improvement, as his move from middle to outside linebacker allowed him to show his athleticism and stand out more. Along with Davis, safety Kamren Curl has continued to be the most consistent player in the secondary and will likely be a main priority for the Commanders ahead of his offseason free agency.
What Went Wrong for Commanders
As noted above, there really wasn’t anything this team did well, aside from losing games. The Commanders’ defense allowed the most points per game and passing yards per game while finishing among the bottom six teams in rushing yards allowed per game. All these defensive struggles forced the offense, led by Bieniemy, to abandon the run game. Doing so allowed opposing defenses to tee off on Howell, a first-year starter. He was sacked a league-high 65 times, enough to make him the fourth-most-sacked quarterback in a single season. His inability to stay upright completely hindered any growth as the Commanders’ long-term quarterback.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Terry McLaurin
I’ll be sticking with the MVP theme of skill position players, though an honorable mention belongs to Sam Cosmi, who was one of the NFL’s best guards this year. McLaurin racked up 1,000-plus receiving yards and 77-plus receptions for the fourth straight season, earning a 75.1 PFF rating. McLaurin has been a beacon of consistency and a leader on this team throughout his five seasons and he plays his heart out every game, no matter the offensive struggles. Fans and coaches never have to worry about him consistently showing up on gameday.
Terry McLaurin over two guys for the TD 😳 @TheTerry_25
— NFL (@NFL) September 17, 2023
Rookie of the Year – Jartavius “Quan” Martin
Martin, a second-round rookie, was not only Washington’s lone standout first-year player, but he was also one of the few bright spots in what was statistically the league’s worst secondary. Martin’s 65.4 PFF rating was fourth-best among all Commanders defensive players. He was utilized all over the field and will likely be a key defensive piece moving forward.
Best Offseason Addition – Andrew Wylie
Take this award with a grain of salt. Not one Commanders signing stood out to me, Andrew Wylie. The offensive line was a revolving door and he merely did his part, still allowing a team-high nine sacks. I’ll give Wylie the benefit of the doubt; playing tackle and having to pass block every play is no easy feat. After all, he played 15 games, showed promise as a run blocker, and remains a versatile lineman.
Biggest Surprise – Curtis Samuel
In a season where most assumed second-year receiver Jahan Dotson would solidify himself as the No. 2 pass-catcher behind McLaurin, it was actually seventh-year receiver Curtis Samuel who stepped up to the challenge. Samuel finished second on the team in receptions with 62, second in yards with 613, and second amongst Washington receivers with a 69.7 PFF rating. Bieniemy utilized Samuel all over the field, including the backfield, where he took on a similar role to Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon. The 28-year-old will be a free agent this offseason and has presumably secured himself interest from teams.
Biggest Disappointment – Jahan Dotson
It’s incredibly difficult to single out one player here as I can name many disappointments this season. One player I’d like to shed light on is Dotson. He showed serious potential last season and was expected to take a massive leap in becoming the No. 2 receiver this year while taking some pressure off an aging McLaurin. Even in the fantasy football world, Dotson was considered a “breakout” candidate for his explosiveness and touchdown ability. Unfortunately, he hit a serious sophomore slump, tallying drops and showing a lack of separation. Dotson will have an opportunity to prove himself next season with a new Commanders coaching staff and potentially new starting quarterback.
Fantasy managers stashing Jahan Dotson and waiting for him to step into his new role as "holder"…your time may finally be coming.pic.twitter.com/pGcNQuA1Kr
— Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB) October 19, 2023
One Burning Question
Who will be QB1 in 2024?
The Commanders hold the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, and there’s been chatter from the second the final play took place against Dallas as to what the Commanders would do with this selection. In a draft with three extremely talented quarterbacks projected to go in the top three, this puts significant pressure on new head coach Dan Quinn to make the correct splash for this franchise.
Quinn’s defense in Dallas got the opportunity to play against Howell twice this season. In both instances, Howell played some of his worst football. Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels are targets for Quinn’s staff to evaluate as their potential franchise-altering QB1. All signs seem to point to Maye replacing Howell in Washington, similarly to what he did at UNC. Or does Quinn and the new ownership have something else planned for the team?
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