The Washington Commanders are about a month removed from wrapping up the 2022 season with a win over the Dallas Cowboys, and now it is time to start looking at 2023 and how the team can build off its 8-8-1 finish.
Over the next few weeks, Commanders.com will break down every position group and lay out how the Commanders could improve the group in the coming months. Here are the positions we have covered so far:
Next up is the defensive line
On the roster
- DE Chase Young: 3 games (2 starts), 5 tackles, 1 PD
- DE Casey Toohill: 16 games, 25 tackles, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries
- DE Shaka Toney: 16 games, 8 tackles
- DE Montez Sweat: 17 games (17 starts), 46 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 PDs
- DE James Smith-Williams: 14 games (14 starts), 23 tackles, 1 PD, 3 sacks
- DE Benning Potoa’e: 2 games, 4 tackles
- DE Efe Obada: 17 games (1 start), 24 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 PDs
- DE William Bradley-King: 1 game, 2 tackles
- DT Phidarian Mathis: 1 game (IR)
- DT John Ridgeway: 15 games (4 starts), 24 tackles, 1 PD, 1 FF
- Daron Payne: 17 games (17 starts), 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 5 PDs
- David Bada: 2 games, 2 tackles
- Jonathan Allen: 16 games (16 starts), 65 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 3 PDs, 1 INT
-- Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen were a force: There might not have been a better duo in the NFL at defensive tackle than Allen and Payne.
Allen, who signed a multiyear extension prior to the 2021 season, continued to live up to expectations. Since signing that deal, he has had two trips to the Pro Bowl with 16.5 sacks and 127 tackles. This year, he was even more disruptive with two forced fumbles, three pass deflections and his first career interception. What's more, he has harassed quarterbacks with 47 quarterback hurries in a two-year span.
It was Payne, however, who took the biggest jump on the Commanders' defensive line. Payne, who had 14.5 career sacks heading into the 2022 season, was never a bad player, but his improvements took him from being an above average defender to one of the most dominant players in the interior. There were only two defensive tackles with more sacks in 2022: Kansas City's Chris Jones and the New York Jets' Quinnen Williams.
Payne is set to be a free agent in March and will likely be one of the best players available on the open market. If Washington does re-sign him, though, it will bolster the defensive line for several more seasons.
-- Chase Young's return: The Commanders decided to be patient with their 2020 No. 2 overall pick when it came to his rehab from a torn ACL and patellar tendon. That involved putting him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, followed by waiting the entire 21-day window to activate him and several more weeks before he made his debut against the San Francisco 49ers on Christmas Eve.
That might seem like a long time to get Young back on the field, but it is justified when considering how important he is to the Commanders' future at the position. The plan was for him to take things slowly, but he shattered those expectations by doubling his pitch count against the 49ers. He ended up playing 115 snaps over the last three games.
"Run around and wreak havoc," Young said of his goals this season. "I feel like I did some of that. The milestone for me was just getting back on the field. I made a few plays when I was out there, definitely helped my confidence go up. So, I'm building that foundation for next year."
Since his body is not as physically worn down as some of his teammates, Young has already begun his offseason training. The hope is that he will have a true bounce back season in Year 4.
-- John Ridgeway proved to be a valuable addition: The Commanders had to search for more depth on the defensive line once Mathis went down with a knee injury in Week 1. Luckily, they did not have to look for long, as they grabbed Ridgeway off waivers from the Cowboys. The move turned out to be one of the better in-season acquisitions.
Ridgeway's stats might not have jumped off the page, but his presence helped clog running lanes and make life more difficult for opposing running backs. That helped the Commanders finish the season 11th in rushing yards allowed.
Ridgeway's success also had long term effects as well. Once Mathis returns to the field, the Commanders will have two players with a similar skill set who can provide more depth up front.
As mentioned above, Payne will be one of the top players available at the position and one of the biggest concerns for the Commanders in March. Here is a look at who else will be available during free agency.
Regardless of whether the Commander ultimately keep Payne, the team will still need to add some depth to either defensive tackle or defensive end. Check out a list of players who will be available in April, HERE.