The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of the team.
The countdown to training camp has officially begun.
We are 12 days away from the Washington Commanders' first training camp under their new identity, giving the chance for dozens of players to make their case to be on the 53-man roster. And given Ron Rivera’s belief that the team is primed to take a step forward, there will be high expectations on the third year of his tenure.
Commanders.com will be breaking down each position and how they've changed in the past year. Here are the positions we've looked at so far:
Next up are the quarterbacks. The position heads into the 2022 season with perhaps more stability than it's had in recent memory. Carson Wentz is the unquestioned starter after being traded away by the Indianapolis Colts, and while offseason performances are hardly indicators for the future, there were plenty of good signs during OTAs and minicamp.
Wentz, who is entering his seventh season, picked up Washington's offense quickly by all accounts. He didn't show off his arm strength much, but it was clear on the few plays where he aired the ball out that the offense is going to be more vertical than in years past.
Wentz also wasted no time in getting to know his new receivers. He developed a particularly strong connection with Jahan Dotson, who was one of his favorite targets during team drills. Once Terry McLaurin signed his extension, he also held a player-driven workout to continue building chemistry.
Rounding out the position is Taylor Heinicke, Sam Howell and Cole Kelley. Heinicke is slated to be the backup after being the starter for most of the 2021 season, and while it was an up and down outing, he showed enough growth that gives the coaches confidence he can be the primary backup.
Howell, a fifth-round pick, is a developmental project that the Commanders feel has upside with the right tutelage. Kelley will be the fourth quarterback in the rotation and could be a practice squad candidate.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
- Kyle Allen
- Carson Wentz
-- A more explosive offense: Rivera has professed multiple times that Wentz can do things with the ball that others simply cannot. Most of that belief centers around his arm strength, which has been a positive of his skill set since he was drafted No. 2 overall out of North Dakota State.
Perhaps the thing that most excites Rivera is how that is going to affect the relationship between Wentz and McLaurin. He told Julie Donaldson that the offense is going to expand in all directions. That's something Washington has needed for several years; the team has ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of explosive pass plays since 2019.
-- Heinicke airing it out: Heinicke had a busy offseason after ending the 2021 campaign with a win over the New York Giants. In between traveling and playing golf, he took a trip to Los Angeles to work on certain aspects of his game, including his arm strength. That was on display during OTAs, as he chucked bombs to Marken Michel and other wideouts with the second group. Several of those deep passes, particularly to Michel, ended in touchdowns, too.
While he won't be the starter in 2022, Heinicke's job is to prepare like he could be in the lineup at any moment (that happened in 2021 once Fitzpatrick went down in Week 1). With the Commanders looking to make more plays downfield on offense, Heinicke has put a priority on fine tuning that aspect of his skill set.
-- Howell's development: Howell is not competing for the starting role in 2022, nor will he be put in that situation for some time. However, there will be eyes on how the quarterback looks working behind Wentz and Heinicke.
Howell's rookie season will be the first time he hasn't been the starting quarterback for a time since middle school, so it's unfamiliar territory for him. However, Howell has taken his situation in stride and made the most of his opportunity to sit and learn. It might be a while before Howell is ready, but the time he spends on the sideline should do him some good.
What to watch
Which version of Wentz are we getting? It's the question most fans had when it was announced that Wentz was joining the Commanders. The NFL has seen Wentz play like one of the better quarterbacks in the league; it's also seen the opposite of that.
The Commanders are convinced they're getting the better version of Wentz, and they believe that will be part of what turns the team into a playoff contender once again. We won't get a full answer to that until Week 1, but a good training camp performance will go a long way towards getting the fans on board.