In the first two years of head coach Ron Rivera’s regime as head coach of the Washington Commanders, he received mostly good offensive line play. However, in 2022, that play saw a sharp decline once Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff departed in free agency.
While much of the focus on Washington’s offensive struggles focused on the quarterback play in 2022, the offensive line was equally as bad, if not worse.
When Scherff left in free agency, Rivera tried replacing him with Trai Turner. To create some salary cap space ahead of free agency, the Commanders also released left guard Ereck Flowers. Washington replaced him with Andrew Norwell.
Both moves failed miserably. At one time, Turner and Norwell were excellent players, both of whom Rivera had coached while all were with the Panthers. Additionally, center Chase Roullier, who was returning from a season-ending leg injury in 2021, injured his knee in Week 2 and was again lost for the season.
So, for the second consecutive season, Washington cycled through multiple centers due to injury.
The Commanders added new starters on the offensive line in 2023. Nick Gates [center] and Andrew Wylie [right tackle] were added through free agency. Former right tackle Sam Cosmi is now the right guard. The Commanders are counting on one of two younger players [Saahdiq Charles and Chris Paul] winning the left guard job.
Charles Leno Jr. returns as the left tackle.
How is Washington’s offensive line for 2023 viewed around the league? According to Pro Football Focus, the Commanders’ offensive line ranks No. 27, about five weeks away from training camp.
- Another line with significant turnover, Washington is likely changing four starters between new acquisitions and position switches.
- Last season’s group had very little in the way of continuity, but so much change doesn’t help the adjustment of quarterback Sam Howell as he comes in to try and win a starting job long term.
Leno is considered the unit’s best player, with the following explanation:
- Charles Leno Jr. epitomizes “solid starter” in the NFL, but that means he will lose more often than many like to see. He surrendered eight sacks in 2022 but allowed just 37 pressures overall on 669 pass-blocking snaps.
PFF makes some really good points. Leno is a solid starter. He’s not an elite left tackle. And he’s not the worst in the NFL. While he wasn’t outstanding last season, he was far from Washington’s most significant problem. So once the top four offensive tackles were out of their reach, it was smart for the Commanders not to reach for a lesser tackle and stick with Leno for one more season.
Sam Howell’s progress as Washington’s quarterback could hinge on the performance of the offensive line. That’s worrisome, but there is hope that new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can mitigate some of those concerns.