Reason for optimism for the Commanders defense in 2022
There is some good news for Commanders fans: regression should be on its way. Third/fourth down defense, in general, has a very high variance from year to year and almost every other team who had a pass defense DVOA of 40% or higher (worse) improved drastically the following year. Two of the units with those terrible numbers in the last 10 years have been Washington teams.
The 2016 team had a third/fourth down pass defense DVOA of 54.1%, which was worst in the league. In 2017, Washington’s defense posted a DVOA of -32.4% in the same category, which was second best in the league. In 2019, their DVOA was 40.2% (second worst in the NFL) and in 2020 they rebounded to a -11.7% DVOA, good for 11th in the league. This trend is very promising for the club’s defensive outlook in 2022, and you can read more about it in Football Outsiders Almanac which previews the NFL season for each team.
The Commanders’ projected opposing pass offense, according to Warren Sharp’s preview, is the fourth-easiest in the league, with the total opposing offenses being projected as the fifth-easiest in the NFL.
The ease in opposing QB play could go a long way for the team in 2022. Considering Washington faced the hardest opponents in both those categories in 2021, there is every reason to think the defense will bounce back in a big way in 2022.
The Commanders did not do too much to change their defense, but the ease in schedule alone will go a long way and, hopefully, some injury luck will rebound in their favor as well. In 2020, a massive part of the team’s defensive success was their ability to put pressure on opposing QBs. In 2021, Washington’s defensive line was one of the most injured groups in the NFL. Both Chase Young and Montez Sweat missed time and were rarely on the field together. Towards the end of the season, COVID impacted the unit as well. The end result was the Commanders having one of the league’s bottom third defensive line health in 2021, according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric.
Stay patient, Commanders fans. Better times should be ahead in 2022.