• In the home of the nation’s capital, the Washington Commanders are determined to change their recent misfortunes within the NFC East. Over the last two seasons, they have finished at the bottom of the division with an underachieving veteran coaching staff. This year might bring greener pastures with an all-new staff with head coach Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. The subsequent roster shakeup was a surprise, as a lot of the young players from last year’s team showed potential and could have benefitted from staying with this new regime. Quarterback Sam Howell was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a third and fifth round pick, which essentially set the Commanders up to implement a whole new system this year. If they are going to make noise this year, it will start with how well this new-look squad gels.

    On the offensive side of the ball, there are some high profile rookies being thrown right into the fire this season. After trading Howell to Seattle, the Commanders used their second overall pick in the draft to fill their quarterback vacancy and selected Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels out of LSU. Daniels accounted for nearly 5,000 yards of total offense and 50 combined touchdowns in 2023. In second round, the front office addressed their hole at tight end by drafting Ben Sinnott, a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection out of Kansas State. Then, they gave Daniels another rookie weapon to throw to in Rice wide receiver Luke McCaffrey. Luke, who is a member of the McCaffrey family of football players, impressed in his final year in college by racking up 992 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

    After Washington reached their term limits with former coaches Ron Rivera, Eric Bieniemy and Jack Del Rio, it was time to appoint a new staff to restore balance within the franchise. Quinn and Kingsbury are an interesting pairing for this team. Quinn is a defensive head coach who has playoff and Super Bowl experience and Kingsbury is the king of the air-raid offense, which features very little running and emphasizes passing out of the shotgun. Whitt Jr. is a rookie defensive coordinator who has experience with Quinn, serving as a passing game coordinator and secondary coach under him since 2020. As part of the Dallas Cowboys staff, he was credited with the development of cornerbacks Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland. Now with Washington, he inherits a secondary that finished dead last in passing defense last season, with an average of 262.2 passing yards and 39 touchdowns allowed.

    While the young talent is there to grow under Kingsbury, there are many familiar faces from across the NFL on this squad. Former Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, and Dallas Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz are just a few of the big names joining this offense in 2024. Biadasz, a 2022 Pro Bowl selection will provide protection for Daniels while Ertz and Ekeler are reliable veteran presences that should get plenty of chances to shine. They join a lineup that already features running back Brian Robinson Jr. and wide receivers Jahan Dotson and Terry McLaurin. Kingsbury’s air raid system should fit them well, as Dotson and McLaurin are reliable deep threats. Ertz is still a solid pass catching tight end and Ekeler was frequently split out wide during his time in Los Angeles and is looing to rebound after a forgettable season.

    Taking a deeper dive defensively, despite inheriting a statistically horrible defense, there are still a couple of players that Whitt Jr. can get the most out of. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, the 2021 third round pick from the Minnesota Golden Gophers, is just entering his prime. Last season, he had 17 pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and one interception, improving tremendously from the previous two seasons. Behind him at strong safety is former Carolina Panthers star Jeremy Chinn. He has dealt with two straight injury-plagued seasons, but the bright side is that he is only 26 years old. If he is healthy this year, he can easily regain that star status he earned when entering the league in 2020. Lastly, rookie defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton, who was a game-wrecker during his Illinois Fighting Illini career, gets to learn behind stars Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne at the position.

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