It was an offseason of major change for the Washington Commanders. Some changes -- like Josh Harris becoming owner and rejuvenating a long-frustrated fan base -- are all but guaranteed to be major positives. Others -- like starting quarterback Sam Howell, a re-made offensive line and new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy -- are far less certain.
Washington released its initial 53-man roster Tuesday, three days after topping the Bengals in the preseason finale to finish 3-0 in the games that don't really count. Ron Rivera said before the game that slots were still open, and injuries between then and Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline also muddied the picture a bit.
While this roster is the "final" roster in one sense -- the Commanders can't go over 53 until next offseason -- it's also the initial roster, and for good reason: Things can look very different between now and Sept. 10, when Washington hosts Arizona in the season opener. General manager Martin Mayhew even admitted it's a "very fluid process" and that the team will scour the waiver wire.
Still, this is what the Commanders have for now, and here's Washington's projected depth chart for its current roster.
|QB||Sam Howell||Jacoby Brissett|
|RB||Brian Robinson Jr.||Antonio Gibson||Chris Rodriguez Jr.*|
|WR||Terry McLaurin||Dyami Brown||Dax Milne|
|WR||Jahan Dotson||Byron Pringle||Mitchell Tinsley*|
|TE||Logan Thomas||Cole Turner||John Bates, Curtis Hodges|
|LT||Charles Leno Jr.||Cornelius Lucas|
|LG||Saahdiq Charles||Chris Paul|
|C||Nick Gates||Ricky Stromberg*|
|RT||Andrew Wylie||Trent Scott|
The Commanders' decision to keep a combined 11 wide receivers (seven) and tight ends (four) was a bit of a surprise, considering that number easily could have been six and three, respectively. At wide receiver, the top four on the depth chart were never in doubt, and Pringle emerged as the fifth. Milne, meanwhile, made it for his special teams contributions, and Tinsley was perceived as right on the bubble. Rivera, however, said he liked the undrafted rookie from Penn State from "Day One," and a three-catch, 89-yard, one-touchdown preseason finale didn't hurt.
If Tinsley's considered a mild surprise, Hodges is a big one, literally and figuratively. The 6'8", 240-pound tight end went undrafted in 2022, was hurt last year and struggled with drops throughout this training camp and preseason. But Rivera said Hodges has a "tremendous skillset" and that "players like that are very difficult to find."
Finally, with fourth-round rookie Braeden Daniels going to the IR, Scott snuck onto the roster as the second backup tackle. Before the Daniels news, I said Scott , and the Commanders felt the same. The most notable cut up front was Tyler Larsen, a veteran who played in 18 games for Washington over the last two seasons. With only nine offensive linemen and the interior depth extremely inexperienced, the Commanders could bring back Larsen or bring in another option.
|DE||Montez Sweat||James Smith-Williams||Casey Toohill, K.J. Henry*|
|DT||Daron Payne||John Ridgeway|
|DT||Jonathan Allen||Phidarian Mathis|
|DE||Chase Young||Efe Obada||Andre Jones Jr.*|
|LB||Jamin Davis||David Mayo|
|LB||Cody Barton||Khaleke Hudson|
|CB||Kendall Fuller||Danny Johnson|
|CB||Emmanuel Forbes Jr.*||Christian Holmes|
|Slot||Benjamin St-Juste||Quan Martin*|
|SS||Kamren Curl||Jeremy Reaves|
|FS||Darrick Forrest||Percy Butler|
Versatility and depth are the two outstanding qualities across this defensive line, which Mayhew called "an area that drives our whole defense." While 11 may seem like a lot, it's hard to find anyone to cut here. Jones, a seventh-round rookie, had a great summer, and Henry, a fifth-round rookie, flashed at times. The starters are excellent and the depth is dependable. Obada could play a lot of snaps as both an end and a tackle, especially if Mathis' calf issue lingers.
In 2022, the Commanders used one or two linebackers on 989 of their 998 defensive snaps, making it a relatively straightforward decision to keep only four.
Versatility shows up again on the back end. Curl can sneak down and play linebacker or corner in addition to his safety responsibilities. That allows the team to keep five "true" cornerbacks (Martin is listed as a defensive back). St-Juste can also play both inside and outside corner.
|PR||Dax Milne||Jahan Dotson|
|KR||Antonio Gibson||Dax Milne||Byron Pringle|
Slye had an impressive preseason and beat out Michael Badgley. Milne is a reliable punt returner; kick returner could be TBD if the offense wants to manufacture a bigger role for Gibson.