Players At Risk For Disappointment
The Washington Commanders will enter the 2022 NFL season with several players potentially at risk for disappointment on the roster.
The national media would like everyone to believe that Carson Wentz is among those players at risk in 2022, and he may very well be. But for some reason, those same “experts” fail to see that Washington has surrounded Carson with weapons to make his job easier, something his last two teams were unable to do.
That’s not to say Wentz couldn’t still be at risk for a down season. The Commanders staff has the task of coaching him up and calling the right plays to put him in a position to succeed. With Carson, the key lies in getting his mental game right. Physically, he’s perfectly built for the position with a big-game arm to go along with a good set of instincts.
Ultimately, Wentz’s time in Washington will be defined by how well the coaching staff connects him with his teammates, and if offensive play-caller Scott Turner can successfully dial him into the system.
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Last year’s biggest disappointment was free-agent wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Samuel came to Washington with high hopes and an even bigger contract (three years, $31.5 million with $23 million guaranteed).
A former draft pick of head coach Ron Rivera during his time in Carolina, Samuel was viewed as the speedy option the team needed to start opposite of star receiver Terry McLaurin. One look at his tape from his time in Carolina, and it’s not hard to see why. The issue, of course, was that Samuel dealt with an injured groin for the entire 2021 season and ended up making only six catches for 27 yards in one start.
Until Samuel can prove that he can stay healthy and make a solid impact, he’ll continue to be an ‘at risk’ player in terms of what he brings to the table. His $11.5 million-dollar average cap hit will keep him on the radar in this category until his time in the burgundy and gold comes to an end. He should feel the pressure a bit heading into this season with rookie receiver Jahan Dotson nipping at his heels.
William Jackson III
Another one of last year’s disappointments that remains an ‘at risk’ candidate is cornerback William Jackson III.
Jackson came to Washington last year via free agency signing a three-year, $40.5 million-dollar ($26 guaranteed) deal after four years in Cincinnati. During the 2021 season, Jackson found both disappointment early-on, and small amounts of success down the stretch.
Looking at his stats it’s hard to find the issue as Jackson had almost as many interceptions (two) last year in Washington as he did his whole time in Cincy (three). It would appear that Jackson underachieved with the Bengals in terms of stats. What Washington should be wondering at this point is if they should expect more from Jackson.
After signing a big deal in 2020 Kendall Fuller struggled in YR 1. Fuller low key bounced back in 2021 grading as the #5 CB in the NFL(PFF). A+ eyes in zone coverage & a strong willingness to tackle. Moral of the story: Dont give up on William Jackson III#washingtonfootball pic.twitter.com/1sbJjiy2rL — Nathan Coleman (@CommandersStats) January 17, 2022
During his time with Cincinnati, Jackson mirrored the opposing team’s best wide receiver, a distinction that historically has meant lowered stat numbers for those who are successful. He has also been loosely labeled a ‘shutdown corner’ (do those even exist anymore) by some analysts. Which could explain his lower stat numbers as quarterbacks tend to avoid throwing the ball at guys with that label altogether.
Many argued when Jackson was signed that he might not fit the zone-heavy scheme the Commanders use. While the answer to that question is still unknown, the 2022 season should provide a conclusion. One thing to remember is that free agents tend to play better during their second year in a new city.
When Washington drafted offensive linemen Saahdiq Charless out of LSU in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft the hope was they’d find a spot for him on the line by the time his rookie deal runs out in 2023. It’s the same hope they keep for every lineman they take outside of the first round. No one expects a player to be a career-long backup.
Flip forward to year three in Washington and Charles hasn’t lived up to any of his expectations after starting 28 games over three years at LSU. In fact, Charles has only started five games since becoming a professional athlete. Not to mention being passed over in the starting lineup last year by rookie Sam Cosmi.
In short, Saahdiq Charles has been a disappointment and is at risk to continue to be a disappointment for the Commanders this coming season. With the team already having Cornelius Lucas as their swing tackle and then adding Chris Paul in this year’s draft, Charles may not even make the 53-man roster. Which would be the ultimate disappointment for the kid that protected Joe Burrow’s blindside in college.
When Washington selected receiver Dax Milne in the seventh round of the 2021 draft the idea was that he possessed above-average route-running skills along with subpar speed. He was never a guy they expected the world from. However, his play in 2021 only produced nine catches for 87 yards.
With the team selecting Penn State wideout Jahan Dotson in the first round and then resigning now fifth-year receiver Cam Sims this offseason, Milne’s opportunities may be drawing to a close soon.
While Sims is basically just a big (6-5) redzone target for Carson Wentz, he also represents what should be the bottom of a deep receiver room. One that might not be makable for Milne.
The last person on this list of possible Commanders players at risk for disappointment is running back Antonio Gibson. Gibson is only on this list because of the enormous expectations everyone has for him in 2022. Expectations that might be impossible for anyone with J.D. McKissic and rookie Brian Robinson directly behind them in the starting lineup.
Much of the information about Gibson that has trickled out this offseason involves the team wanting to use him more in the passing game moving forward. Gibson has open about been trying to trim down some excess weight over the last few months. He feels that may help him add a burst to his step in hopes of being more explosive.
Gibson fought through nagging injuries last year, and in 14 starts put up 1,331 total yards to go along with 10 touchdowns (seven on the ground) on exactly 300 touches (258 rushes and 42 receptions). That amount of touches has historically been a bad sign for running backs in the past. Mind you, that 300 mark is generally used for players that rush the ball over 300 times in a season.
If Gibson has a weakness, it is undoubtedly his tendency to fumble the ball. Six times in 2021 Gibson committed the biggest sin a ball carrier can make. Four of those six times he turned the ball over. That number alone will continue to make him an ‘at risk’ candidate every year until he fixes it.