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Hail Mail | Assessing depth at DE and an update on the O-Line


The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.

Welcome to Week 3 of training is finally here, meaning the preseason is right around the corner.

Since last week's edition of Hail Mail, we've seen some strides from the offense. Last Saturday's practice at FedExField saw Carson Wentz throw touchdowns to Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, and that momentum carried over into Wednesday, which was one of the best performances the offense has had in all of training camp.

So, let's not waste any more time and get to what Commanders fans want to know this week.

-- Yang L.: Is the offensive line strong enough to protect Carson Wentz? Is that a concern?

I get some of the questions that arose after the Commanders decided to release Ereck Flowers and let Brandon Scherff walk in free agency. However, I don't have any issues with the offensive line for two reasons: one, Andrew Norwell is a strong run blocker and already has experience in the system. There is some uncertainty as to who the right guard will be, but both Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer are accomplished enough that I'm fine with whoever is out there. Two, John Matsko is one of the best offensive line coaches in the league. He helped the group finish with Top 10 ranks in run-block and pass-block win-rates, so while the concerns are legitimate, I trust Matsko will figure things out.

-- Earl R.: Will the Commanders keep Jarret Patterson? I hope he remains on the team. He can return punts and kick offs and is a hard-nosed running back.

I like Jaret Patterson as well, Earl. I've appreciated his story and how he fought for a roster spot last season. I do believe Patterson has a nice skill set. He knows how to read blocks and has some ability as a pass-catcher. In terms of whether he makes the roster, I think it will come down to how much he can help on special teams. The Commanders have a packed running back room with three players essentially guaranteed a spot. It's possible Washington keeps four backs, but Patterson will have to give them a reason to do it.

-- Conor H.: JSW vs. Toohill vs. Obada – will all three make the final 53-man roster? Who will play the most?

One of these questions is easier to answer than the other. First, with the way things are set up now, I think all three players make the 53-man roster. James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill have flashed at various points throughout camp, and Efe Obada has been praised by Ron Rivera for his growth. Obada can also play in the interior, which is an asset that Rivera likes. As for how much each play, I think that will depend on when Chase Young comes back. The fact that Young is on the PUP list creates some interesting roster decisions at defensive end, but if I had to guess, my vote would be Smith-Williams.

-- Jerome J.: Now that the season has started and all the grouping is starting to take form, where do you think our TE group ranking will be at the end of the year? (PSA I really think close to the bottom because if all of the injuries)

Technically, the season hasn't started yet, but I think you're being a little low on the tight end group. Yes, the injuries the group is going through right now are not ideal, but it's important to remember that they are not permanent. John Bates is back at practice (he was the best run-blocking tight end last season by Pro Football Focus' metrics) and Cole Turner’s hamstring seems minor. Who knows when Logan Thomas will be back, but it's a guarantee that he will be back at some point. Nobody in the building likes the word "potential," but I think it could be one of the better tight end groups in the league.

-- Jonathan W.: How many receivers make the team this year? Six or maybe seven?

I feel like I have déjà vu, because I pondered this exact question last year. It turned out to be seven receivers in 2021, and I think it's possible it happens again this year. There's plenty of talent at wideout with four spots locked up. I think it will come down to whether the Commanders want to keep depth at other positions. I could see them keeping one more player at defensive line, tight end or offensive line.

-- Robert L.: What is going on with John Bates? Seems like the team has been real mum on his status.

Good news, Robert! John Bates has been back at practice for the past two days, and they're easing back into the lineup. I don't think the injury was anything serious, but the staff wanted to be cautious with it.

-- Buddy A.: How do you mentally prepare yourself for a long season/work days?

It certainly is a grind getting through the season, but I think the key is taking advantage of whatever free time you're given, which is rare to find in this business. For me, I like to unplug mentally from football when I get home. I'll either read (I'm currently reworking my way through The Lord of the Rings), work out, play Mario Kart or bake.

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