The view from 10,000 feet says it was a marvelous training camp and preseason from the Commanders. They have a— Josh Harris — whose arrival spurred newly optimistic fans to arrive by the thousands for practices. Sam Howell entered training camp as the top quarterback, never looked back and was . And while preseason game results don’t matter, the Commanders won all three contests, including an entertaining triumph over the Ravens that snapped Baltimore’s record 24 straight preseason victories. That came after Washington had a couple of with their neighbors to the north, too
Peer closer, though, and Washington has many questions to answer. Howell is the biggest, but before that, the team must construct a roster around him. The deadline to get down to 53 players is 4 p.m. ET Tuesday. Though it’s just an initial roster — players being let go elsewhere could shape the roster before the season opener — it’s a massive step.
After the preseason finale Saturday, Ron Rivera said “probably six or seven” spots are up for grabs. Here’s the final projection for who will be around Tuesday afternoon.
QUARTERBACK (2): Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
No surprises here. Howell has shown real progress in grasping new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s system. Brissett — as he has been at several other stops — is a reliable backup who can start if needed.
RUNNING BACK (3): Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez Jr.
Robinson and Gibson will split duties, with Robinson being the main back on early downs and in short-yardage situations. Rodriguez Jr. has had a good summer for the most part, and even a fumble in the second preseason game won’t knock the sixth-round rookie off the roster.
Whether there’s room for a fourth is a big question. Jonathan Williams is a bruiser who has contributed on special teams. For now, we’ll keep it at three; Williams could stick via the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVER (7): Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Byron Pringle, Dax Milne, Mitchell Tinsley
The top four here have been locks, especially after Brown impressed in training camp. Howell’s former college teammate, Brown will serve as the team’s primary deep threat. Pringle established himself as the top wide receiver after those four, and he has experience in Bieniemy’s system.
Then things get tough. Undrafted rookie Mitchell Tinsley impressed with three catches for 89 yards and a score in the preseason finale. He has some real receiving tools, and his big performance may make Washington reticent to risk losing him to another team. But he isn’t likely to contribute on special teams and has struggled at gunner. Milne has been a steady but unspectacular return man. Diminutive undrafted rookie Kazmeir Allen is a potential gadget player on offense and returner on special teams, but he struggled with drops and had a muffed punt (which he recovered).
Keep in mind that McLaurin (turf toe) is, and that may open one more roster spot for this group — at least temporarily. As such, seven make it in this projection, which is welcome news for Milne and Tinsley.
TIGHT END (3): Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates
These three are locks. The question here — like at running back — is whether there’s room for a fourth. Alex Armah is listed as a running back, has played almost exclusively fullback in previous (albeit limited) NFL action and has practiced a lot with the tight ends, especially after Thomas’ calf injury. Armah is a standout blocker, and his versatility helps. There’s a good chance that if he doesn’t make the initial 53, he’ll be around in some way, shape or form.
OFFENSIVE LINE (10): Charles Leno Jr., Saahdiq Charles, Nick Gates, Sam Cosmi, Andrew Wylie, Chris Paul, Cornelius Lucas, Tyler Larsen, Ricky Stromberg, Braeden Daniels
The first five are the projected starters from left to right. Four of the five spots have been settled for a while, and Charles seems to have the lead over Paul for the left guard spot. Charles must prove he can stay healthy, though: His calf issue was a major reason it became a competition in the first place.
Paul (at guard) and Lucas (at tackle) are top backups; Lucas has played in 27 contests in three seasons with Washington. Larsen is a reliable backup center who can play guard if absolutely needed. Stromberg (third-round rookie) and Daniels (fourth round) finish out the group. Stromberg started camp exclusively at center but started getting lots of second-team guard reps and showed some good things there even despite not playing the position since he was a freshman. Daniels is a project.
Finally, although I don’t have Trent Scott on my projected 53, I thought he had a solid camp. He could join the practice squad if another team doesn’t scoop him up.
DEFENSIVE LINE (11): Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Chase Young, Efe Obada, John Ridgeway, Phidarian Mathis, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, Andre Jones Jr., K.J. Henry
The Commanders’is also its most populated. The top four names form one of the best starting units in the NFL. Obada had a good camp and can play both tackle and end. Ridgeway and Mathis are hulking run stoppers, though Mathis is dealing with a calf injury that has kept him out or limited ever since he suffered it in the preseason opener. The 2022 second-round pick played three snaps last year before a season-ending knee injury.
On the outside, Smith-Williams and Toohill played a ton of snaps last year with Young out much of the season, but they’ve been pushed this preseason … especially (and surprisingly) by Jones, a seventh-round rookie. Henry, a fifth-rounder, rounds out this group.
LINEBACKER (4): Jamin Davis, Cody Barton, David Mayo, Khaleke Hudson
Davis and Barton will start, even after an up-and-down training camp and preseason for Barton. He’ll have to be better, as will Davis, who is yet to live up to his first-round billing. Mayo is a solid run stopper while Hudson is better in pass defense, and both contribute on special teams.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10): Benjamin St-Juste, Emmanuel Forbes, Kendall Fuller, Kam Curl, Darrick Forrest, Percy Butler, Jeremy Reaves, Quan Martin, Danny Johnson, Christian Holmes
Another very strong unit, the defensive backs are also versatile. St-Juste can play outside or, when Forbes and Fuller are on the field, in the slot. Curl and Forrest will start on the last line of defense, though Butler and Reaves — an All-Pro special teamer — figure to play plenty. Johnson is a steady depth cornerback who plays special teams. Holmes is a very good gunner on punt coverage.
There was a time when the picture was more convoluted with cornerbacks Rachad Wildgoose and Tariq Castro-Fields as potential options, but struggles in the preseason push them off this projection.
Special teams (3)
K Joey Slye, P Tress Way, LS Camaron Cheeseman
No questions here.