Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew spoke to the media following the team's 8-8-1 finish to the 2022 season. Here are some of the top takeaways from their joint press conference.
Questions at quarterback
Rivera is heading into his fourth offseason as the Commanders' head coach, and there is a chance that he will need to address the quarterback position once again.
As it stands right now, Washington has three signal-callers on the active roster. Sam Howell is locked into his rookie contract, while Taylor Heinicke is set to be a free agent. Carson Wentz played in seven games but was inactive for the season finale.
As usual, Rivera and Mayhew were tight-lipped about their plans, but they are in the process of reviewing the position and team as a whole.
"We're currently working through all that and having discussions," Mayhew said. "Over the next few days, we'll be talking about all those things."
Over the past two seasons, Washington has looked to outside sources for its starting quarterback. It signed Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2021, but the veteran suffered a season-ending hip subluxation in the season opener. It traded for Wentz this past offseason, but injuries and uneven play plagued him all season.
Just as Washington has done in recent years, it will examine all options at the position, including the draft, free agency and current players on the roster. Howell ended the season as the starter, leading the Commanders to a 26-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"What we saw from him in practice was very good. It translated to the game, which doesn't always happen."
Washington will continue to evaluate depth at defensive back.
Washington knew it would need to start digging into its depth once the team traded William Jackson III to the Pittsburgh Steelers. There is still much to discover about the secondary, but from what Rivera has seen, he is pleased with the group's progress.
"We've got a good group of young guys that we're curious about," Rivera said. "We most certainly do look to add to that group."
Rivera was complimentary of the Commanders' two rookies, Christian Holmes and Percy Butler. Holmes had a tough outing, as Rivera put it against the New York Giants, but he is a player who showed promise, particularly on special teams. Butler, another special teams player, got an opportunity on Sunday against the Cowboys and showed what he was capable of with four tackles and a pass breakup.
Danny Johnson was another player that Rivera praised because of his tendency to be prepared for any circumstance. That has put him in a good position to take advantage of his opportunities, such as in the season finale. Johnson led the team with seven tackles and also had a pair of pass deflections.
However, Rivera did admit that the Commanders are not done evaluating the group. The current players on the roster will get more chances to prove themselves in the offseason workout program, and the head coach hinted at possibly bolstering the group even further.
"That's one of the positions we most certainly want to see if we can add some more depth to, whether it's through free agency or through the draft. But it is a position of interest for us."
Exploring the possibility of joint practices
Washington has elected not to have joint practices with other teams during training camp, but there is a possibility that could change this offseason.
Rivera brought up the potential of joint practices when asked about why the Commanders have gotten off to slow starts during his tenure. He mentioned that there were several soft tissue injuries in training camp, which to Rivera means they will need to look at how the team practices in warmer temperatures.
Rivera added that Washington will "most certainly" look at working with another team.
"I go back to some of the experiences I had in my previous stint, we actually did it three times and two of those three times we came out and we had really good years."
Joint practices have been a popular choice for teams in recent years. Not only does it allow for a week of competition with another opponent, but coaches are also able to control scenarios more effectively than they would in a preseason game.
Washington is 3-7 in September over the last three seasons, so perhaps getting extra work against a different team could help the team avoid their early struggles.
Offensive line is a priority
Mayhew was blunt when evaluating the Commanders' offensive line when asked about possible changes to the position. "Obviously," he said, "there's a need."
"I think to continue to add young people to that group to get younger there."
Washington's offensive line has been decimated with injuries over the past two seasons. The Commanders were able to stay afloat in 2021 and still had one of the better groups despite dealing with backups at multiple spots. The same could not be said for last season, as Chase Roullier dealt with another season-ending injury and Tyler Larsen suffered the same fate later in the year.
At guard, Washington rotated multiple players with Trai Turner going in and out of the starting lineup. In addition to Turner, Saahdiq Charles and Sam Cosmi also played at right guard, although those options dealt with a concussion and hand injury, respectively.
Mayhew said he wants to evaluate why the Commanders have had issues at that spot over the last two seasons, and Rivera added that center is a particular area of interest.
"We've got to look at and figure out how we can solidify that group and hopefully not have to go through that again."