The 2022 schedule release is just hours away from being revealed, but many are already trying to dissect each opponent.
For the Commanders, who finished the 2021 season 7-10, there should be an opportunity to improve in the third season of Ron Rivera’s tenure. Thanks to matching up against teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North, the Commanders are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the easiest strength of schedule.
In anticipation for the 2022 schedule release, which is set to drop at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network, Commanders.com is breaking down each division to look ahead for what's in store for Washington this season. Here are the divisions we've broken down so far:
The Commanders play one team from the AFC North, NFC South and NFC West, so let's wrap up the series with a look at the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
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- 2021 record: 8-9
Technically, Baker Mayfield is still on the Browns' roster, but there will be a new signal-caller in Cleveland.
The Browns made perhaps the biggest trade of the offseason by sending a 2022 first-round pick (No. 13 overall), 2023 and 2024 first-round picks, a 2022 fourth-round choice (No. 107), a third-round pick in 2023 and a fourth-round pick in 2024 to Houston for Deshaun Watson. Although he did not play in 2021, he's still regarded as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, and once he gets on the field, he's expected to bring talent to the position that the Browns have searched for over the last two decades.
Watson will also have another weapon at his disposal, as the Browns also traded for former Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper. The Browns were in need of a No. 1 receiver with Odell Beckham Jr. being traded and Jarvis Landry hitting free agency, and Cooper, a four-time Pro Bowler, provides them with one of the top wideouts with five 1,000-yard seasons in his career.
Because of the Watson trade, the Browns had to wait until the third round to make their first selection, but they did add a pair of wideout -- Purdue's David Bell and Oklahoma's Mike Woods -- who should be able to complement Cooper. Mississippi State's Martin Emerson will add depth to the secondary with 28 starts on his resume with the Bulldogs.
The Browns are making a play for the top of the AFC North, and with the Steelers going through a quarterback change and the Ravens losing Marquise Brown, they could be in a prime spot to compete with the Cincinnati Bengals for the division crown.
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- 2021 record: 7-10
The first year of Arthur Smith's tenure got off to a rocky start, but there are some pieces in place for the Falcons to bounce back in 2022.
Marcus Mariota is slated to be Atlanta's quarterback now that Matt Ryan is with the Colts, and the former No. 2 overall pick did show he can still be a solid player in his two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders. The Falcons also signed a pair of former Tennessee Titans -- tight end Anthony Firkser and linebackers Rashaan Evans -- on top of bringing back offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson.
In the draft, the Falcons added more long term security at quarterback by taking Desmond Ridder in the third round. Ridder mentioned that he copies much of his skillset around Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who Smith had tremendous success with as offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Drake London will slide in as the No. 1 receiver with Calvin Ridley's suspension, and Arnold Ebiketie will be a solid, young pass rusher coming off the edge.
Smith directed one of the best offenses in the league in his final year with Tennessee. The Falcons aren't quite there yet, but there are pieces in place to replicate some of that.
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San Francisco 49ers
- 2021 record: 10-7
Jimmy Garoppolo is still the 49ers' quarterback for now, and unless Trey Lance has a strong showing during training camp, it doesn't look like that will change.
The 49ers weren't overtly busy during free agency, but they did have a couple interesting additions. Charvarius Ward should replace some of the production in the secondary now that Richard Sherman is a free agent. Ray-Ray McCloud is coming off a career-high 367 receiving yards, but he's more suited for special teams, where he can be a dedicated returner.
Because of the trade for Lance, the 49ers didn't make their first draft pick until Day 2, when they selected Drake Jackson out of USC. Jackson had 12.5 sacks in three seasons with the Trojans, so he should fit in nicely with Nick Bosa. Day 3 pick Samuel Womack is expected to contribute as a slot cornerback, while offensive tackle Spencer Burford will add depth to an already strong front.