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Commanders players reflect on 2022 season, gear up for future

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Brian Robinson scoffed when asked to describe the Washington Commanders' 2022 season before uttering one word: adversity.

Several of his teammates had a similar sentiment on Episode 1 of "Commanders Log." Chase Young said, "full of ups and downs;" Terry McLaurin and Jeremy Reaves both said, "roller coaster." All three of those seem appropriate when looking back on an 8-8-1 season that included a four-game losing streak, a 6-1-1 stretch and a three-game losing streak with wins in Weeks 1 and 18 to bookend the 2022 campaign.

Benjamin St-Juste used a different word, though -- "resilient" -- and that also seems like good way describe a year in which the Commanders battled back from a 1-4 start, upset the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL and ended the season with a convincing victory over the Dallas Cowboys, despite being eliminated from the playoffs.

No matter how you look at it, there was a wealth of experiences for the Commanders to learn from in 2022. But it's a new year, and as the Commanders prepare for next season, they intend to put those lessons to work in 2023.

"Always moving forward," Young said.

The Commanders had to do a lot of that in 2022, and Young is familiar with finding ways to push through adversity. Young went through a long recovery process after tearing his ACL and patella tendon in 2021 that prevented him from playing until Week 16 of the 2022 season. Young ended up playing more snaps than expected in those three games, but the months between being taken off the field against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his return on Christmas Eve in San Francisco were full of tedious rehab and reflection.

Young was not the only one to deal with tribulations. Robinson was shot twice in the leg in Washington, D.C., after putting together a strong rookie training camp. Robinson missed the first four games of the season, and while he eventually became the team's lead back, it took time for him to regain the momentum he had built in August.

There were several other obstacles, including a change at quarterback in Week 6, but Young, Robinson and their teammates credit the unity that was shown throughout the year for helping them endure the hardships.

"This team is very united," Robinson said. "It's a very passionate locker room, a fun locker room. Everybody in the locker room gets along, just finds some type of way to have some type of connection with each other. That goes a long way when we had to work with each other ...Guys always maintained positive energy."

Young felt something similar as he went through his rehab to get healthy and return to the field. His teammates all saw the work he was putting in to help them, and he appreciated all the support they gave him.

"You got real pros down there," Young said. "Dudes that really take this game seriously like I do, and that I think that's all you need on the team, toughness and people who care."

McLaurin has been part of several locker rooms in his career; none have been as close as what he experienced last season, and the resiliency that he saw is what will stick with him the most when looking back on the group. He also feels that even though things did not end the way Washington would have liked, the team did establish a strong culture on the field.

"We're going to be a physical football team and take it to people. We're going to be aggressive in all three phases," McLaurin said. "We're not going to lay down or back down from anyone. I think that has to stay the same, no matter who is wearing this jersey."

It should be noted that the Commanders fought through many of the trials they faced last season. After falling to 1-4, they improved to 7-5 and put themselves in position to make the playoffs. But as Jonathan Allen pointed out, "Eventually, we gotta mature into a team that can make a deep playoff run." The Commanders created some opportunities to make the postseason in 2022; not all were capitalized on, though, and a playoff appearance eluded the team for the second year in a row.

To do that, the Commanders want to build on the potential they established last season.

"The potential for this group for 2023 is amazing," St-Juste said. "Being a young team every year, we are wiser, we acquire more experience, we get to build our chemistry together as a unit."

Over the past three months, the Commanders have been able to improve their situation through the hiring of Eric Bieniemy and signing of players at areas of need in free agency. It can be easy to get excited about those moves in the offseason, but there will come a point when Washington needs to turn those moves into results.

The players are not shying away from that fact, either.

"That's football. We understand that's going to be a challenge," Allen said. "It's going to be tough, but if it wasn't tough, and if it wasn't challenging, it wouldn't be worth it."

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