Updated: Aug 2
By Adam Aniba
Heading into training camp, all eyes will be on Carson Wentz and how quickly he can acclimate into Washington's system. Although Wentz has a ton of speed and talent at WR, he'll deal with questions regarding starting tight end with Logan Thomas' recovery, in addition to meshing with his new play caller.
Wentz will also lean on the run-game, despite fans desire to see him air it out 30-40 times a game. Wentz has had productive seasons with a dependable run game and he should have that with the current talent & depth at the position.
The Run Game
Regardless of who the coach is Washington continues to invest in SEC talent, particularly from the Alabama pipeline. In fact, the Commanders just drafted Crimson Tide prospects with back-to-back picks in the 2nd round (#47 Phidarian Mathis) and #98 overall in the 3rd round with RB Brian Robinson.
Adding a running back in the 3rd round was a head scratcher to some fans, but the fumbling and durability issues with Antonio Gibson made the move necessary. After only 11 games, J.D.McKissic went down with an injury and was lost for the year, forcing Gibson to carry the load in the run game.
A healthy McKissic and Robinson in the rotation, should give a boost to the run game instantly. Gibson will share the load and likely get more opportunities in the passing game, preserving him for the long haul .
Robinson's ability to gain yards after contact, made him a force in '21. The Alabama RB could dramatically increase their goal line/short yardage success rate for Washington as well. It'll be interesting to see how the carriers will be divvied up throughout training camp and the season.
The question will be, how big of a role will the Robinson have early on? His ability as a shifty power back, should make all the difference and hopefully ease Wentz' transition. Washington doesn't currently boast an explosive run game, compared to Indianapolis who featured Jonathan Taylor, but a 3 headed monster could be just what the doctor ordered.
Wentz & Turner
Since his arrival, OC Scott Turner has been a mixed bag. In fairness, he's had to adjust his scheme multiple times with the Washington quarterback carousel. Based on Wentz's deal that runs thru '24, the Commanders seem to have found some stability for their top position of need.
Now, if Wentz falters or durability becomes a concern, he has a zero dead cap hit for '23 & '24 if released. If he can stay healthy and rank as a middle of the pack signal caller, his cap hits will be a bargain ($28 mill,$26 mill & $27 mill next 3 seasons) .
Turner finally has a signal caller that can air it out. The former Eagles/Colts QB's weapons at receiver have been average-good at best, but he'll have the opportunity to capitalize this season. Although only a rookie, Jahan Dotson is primed to contribute immediately and should thrive with Wentz.
If Curtis Samuel can regain anything resembling his Carolina form, his contributions would be a significant boost. Now that Terry McLaurin is back on an extension, in addition to his recents comments on bonding with Wentz, skies the limit for what the two can do together. Turner now has an ideal opportunity to open up his playbook and spread the ball around with Wentz under center.
Logan Thomas' Recovery
Last season Logan Thomas suffered a week #13 knee injury, which led to the veteran tight end having surgery to repair his torn ACL. Although the average recovery time for this type of injury is 10 months, Thomas believes he'll be available sooner rather than later.
"We never put a projection on it. It's supposed to be a 10 month recovery from the time I had surgery, which would put us somewhere around Week 4. But the way I feel and the type of person I am, the type of competitor I am, I'm shooting for Week 1."
Regardless of Thomas's week#1 availability, he'll possibly be on a limited snap count thru the first couple games. Second year tight end John Bates and Nevada rookie Cole Turner will be counted on to pick up the slack early. Neither tight end replaces the type of experience and athletic ability, that Thomas brings to the table as a pass catcher though.
Turner has his limitations as an overall tight end, but should be utilized in the red zone as a pass catcher until Thomas is full go. Although Bates isn't known for his pass catching ability, he's come a long way per coaches.
Regardless, these storylines should unfold and become more clear as week #1 approaches.