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Hail Mail | Washington's tight ends set to play key role


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

Do you smell that? It's the sweet scent of the NFL season finally gracing us after months of anticipation. Technically, the year will kick off this Thursday, when the Los Angeles Rams take on the Buffalo Bills. But for Washington Commanders fans, the season begins on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedExField.

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

Kyle F.: Do you think all the tight ends on the roster will be used? Do we have too many tight ends on the roster?

Five was certainly a large number for the tight end position when the Commanders released their initial 53-man roster, but they have placed Curtis Hodges on Injured Reserve since then. They do believe he will be back soon, but for now, Washington has four tight ends on the active roster, which is more manageable.

In terms of your first question, Kyle, I think most of the tight ends will get plenty of snaps because they each fill a certain role. Logan Thomas is the all-around option, John Bates is arguably the position's best blocker, and Cole Turner has proven he can be a solid pass-catcher. And considering how much Carson Wentz uses his tight ends, they should all contribute on some level. Armani Rogers will be their reserve option, but he can be serviceable if needed.

Rita W.: Who is the fastest Commander?

The 40 times would suggest Curtis Samuel, who ran a 4.31 at the Scouting Combine, but I think Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson would be good competitors. And I'm sure if you asked them, they would all give different answers.

The 8-month-old English black Labrador retriever is in the midst of training to become a service dog through veterans service organization K9s for Warriors. (Photos by Emilee Fails, Kourtney Carroll, and Joseph Noyes/Washington Commanders)

Nasir C.: How will the defense manage without Chase for the first couple weeks.

Chase Young is on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list, so he will miss at least the first four games. They'll have to rely on their depth in the meantime, and while there is no replacement for Young's talent, they feel comfortable with what they have in James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill. Smith-Williams has made strides since he was drafted in 2020, and Toohill is a player who Ron Rivera praised for his position flexibility. One of them will need to be listed as the "starter" on the unofficial depth chart, but both will get plenty of snaps this month. I would expect Efe Obada to get a healthy amount of playing time as well because of his length and dedication to fine tuning the minor details of his pass rush.

Corey B.: How much of Cam Sims should we expect to see on Sunday? Seems like every time he's out there he always makes a big play/impact. The fans would love to see more of him out there than Dyami Brown. Pumped for Week 1, bringing 10 people in section 423!

Great to hear that you and the squad will be at the game, Corey! As for your question, let's not dismiss Dyami Brown just yet. I know he had a quiet camp, but he is still young and does have potential. Let's give him this year to see how he performs.

In terms of Cam Sims, he played about 17 snaps per game in 2021, although he was inactive for three contests. I expect that average to be a bit higher, but not much. Instead, I think the offense will use him in more ways to get the most out of his snaps. The red zone is one such area where he could be of use, since he is the biggest receiver on the roster. The Commanders have a talented receiving corps, and not everyone can get the ball. Sims might not get the most targets, but he can be placed where his skill set is the most advantageous.

Freddie H.: Are the fat boys ready? Can they win the games and are they ready?

I had a coach in college who called linemen the "big skill" players. I've used that term ever since and try to inject it into conversation whenever possible.

And I do believe the "big skill" players are ready to go. There are some questions about how the interior will shake out with Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner, but both are accomplished players and have experience working with John Matsko in the past. Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi put together solid camps, and Chase Roullier is ingratiating himself back into the starting lineup.

As for the defensive line, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne look as dominant as ever. Montez Sweat appears to be on a mission to prove himself and is set for a bounce back season after breaking his jaw among other personal issues.

Keyshawn T.: How's Curl doing I heard he had tweak in practice almost two weeks ago and never heard anything else about it since.

Kamren Curl said during his locker room scrum that he suffered a thumb injury during the second game against the Kansas City Chiefs and had surgery to repair it. He is wearing a cast and did stretch with the team before heading to the side field on Monday. He is not ruled out of Sunday's game, but his name will be one to watch throughout the week.

Robert W.: Who starts at safety if Kam Curl doesn't play?

Curl could still play this Sunday, but if he does not, I would expect Darrick Forrest to get more playing time in his absence. Forrest took some big strides during OTAs and training camp and is second on the unofficial depth chart behind Curl. I do not believe he would be the only answer, as I believe Jeremy Reaves and Percy Butler would also get some of Curl's snaps, but I believe Forrest would be the first player out there alongside Bobby McCain.

Charles R.: Are there any plans to move Sam Howell ahead of Heinicke on the depth chart given his play in the preseason?

Nope! The quarterback depth is set.

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