The Washington Commanders are inching closer to the start of training camp and a critical year for the franchise.
We're about a month away from the players and reporting to Ashburn after taking some time off. There were high expectations for the team in 2022, and while there were some positives, including a 6-1 stretch to get in playoff contention, it fell short of its goal with an 8-8-1 record. Now, with a new quarterback and offensive coordinator leading the offense, the expectations have continued to rise all offseason.
Commanders.com will be breaking down each position and how they've changed in the past year. Next up is the offensive line.
- Chase Roullier
- Andrew Wylie
- Ricky Stromberg
- Braeden Daniels
-- A position battle at left guard: There are a lot of new players in new positions on the Commanders' offensive line, but the only real competition is at left guard, and there are two options for who could claim the spot.
Of the two, the Commanders have given veteran Saahdiq Charles the first shot, as he took all of the starting reps in OTAs and minicamp. Injuries have prevented him from being much more than a backup for most of his career thus far, but the coaching staff is confident that he has the skill set to be a solid player.
"That always seemed to be the issue," said coach Ron Rivera. "If you go back and look at the times he's played, something has come up whether it's been the calf, it's been the ankle, the shoulder. You just hope that he stays healthy because he has the skillset."
The other player to watch is Chris Paul. Although he worked with the rest of the backups this offseason, Paul has received praise from his coaches and teammates for his technique and ability to move players off the ball.
"They talk about him as being a guy that can lock you up," Rivera said of defensive linemen who approached him about Paul last year. "And they've told me unsolicited, they've come to me and said, 'Wow, coach, we gotta keep an eye on this kid.'"
It's difficult to determine how offensive linemen perform when they aren't wearing pads, so this will be one of the key position battles to watch once training camp begins.
-- A more permanent home for Sam Cosmi: Sam Cosmi is willing to play at any position his coaches want him to be at, but he made it clear that he wanted to stay at one spot during the 2023 season.
The Commanders have chosen to keep him at right guard. It's a bit of an adjustment, but Cosmi appeared to have settled in nicely during OTAs and minicamp.
The switch is more nuanced than just moving to a different spot on the offensive line. Guards typically have to deal with more immediate contact compared to tackles. They also have to line up in a different stance that is more suited for playing against defensive tackles as opposed to defensive ends and outside linebackers.
So, in addition to his regular offseason workout routine, much of Cosmi's time has been spent adjusting to the demands of his new position.
"Just getting used to the instant contact versus the space you have at tackle," Cosmi said. "Those are the things I've been working on and also viewing tape on how some of the best guards play."
Andrew Wylie was an asset to Cosmi during OTAs and minicamp. He has experience starting at guard and tackle as well, and the two could often be seen on the sideline discussing the previous plays while the backups were on the field.
Based on how the two were able to pass off blitzes, it seems like their relationship is coming along well.
"He seems to really settle in really nicely working alongside Andrew," said coach Ron Rivera. "That was kind of cool to watch."
-- A new center in town: Chase Roullier was still on the roster when Nick Gates was signed in free agency, but it was clear that Washington was planning on Gates to be the starting center.
Gates' position is more solidified; he made it clear from the day he officially signed his contract that he intends to play center because he likes being the one to make the calls on the offensive line and being able to lead his teammates.
"It holds me accountable just because you gotta know everything, and you gotta make sure everybody's on the same page," Gates said.
Gates missed a good chunk of last year while dealing with a gruesome leg injury that led to multiple surgeries and him contemplating retirement, but he was a solid player when on the field and was an ideal fit on the Commanders' offensive line. He commanded the huddle with authority and played well with Charles and Cosmi.
Center has been a problem for the Commanders over the past two years because of injuries to multiple players. The hope is that Gates will bring some much-needed stability to the position.