With training camp underway for the Washington Commanders, the season is right around the corner. In two weeks, the Commanders will take the field against the Carolina Panthers at FedEx Field for the first preseason game.
Training camp is an interesting time for an NFL fan’s fandom. Nearly every fanbase is optimistic about the season, everybody is 0-0, every team’s young player will certainly improve, the new additions via free agency and the draft will all fit seamlessly and everything will go to plan.
That simply is never the case for every team. Only one team hoists the Lombardi Trophy on the second Sunday in February, only 14 teams make the playoffs, and by the beginning of November, some teams will be fading into irrelevancy.
Right now, everything is rosy. Once the games begin to matter, though, that could be different. Unfortunately, many times for Washington the rosy glasses exude a false sense of hope that the consistently mediocre on-field product and off-the-field distractions will halt this year with a positive season.
As the Commanders enter year three of the Ron Rivera era, a re-tooled roster could produce positive results for the Commanders. For real this time. So, this one is for the glass half-empty fan seeking a reason to be optimistic about a franchise that gives them few reasons to be optimistic.
Reasons to be bullish on the 2022 Commanders
1. Improved QB Play
The Commanders’ biggest need heading into the offseason was (say a prayer now) filled by their biggest move of the offseason, with the trade for Carson Wentz. While there are certainly some warts to Wentz’s game and Commanders fans should moderate their expectations, Wentz is an upgrade as the team’s signal-caller.
Those who view the Commanders trading Carson Wentz as a net negative due to the cost of the trade quickly point to how poor Wentz has been in 2020 or his play down the back stretch in 2021, capped off by the ugly performance against Jacksonville.
Warren Sharp, known for creating predictive analytics for the NFL, says Carson Wentz is the most talented QB Washington has had in years, yet also points out Wentz has been the most inaccurate quarterback over the last two seasons.
Wentz finished 32nd in CPOE (Completion Percentage over Expected) in 2020 and 26th in 2021. However, in 2021 Wentz finished 17th in EPA, 20th in PFF grade, 10th in QBR and 16th in DVOA. Averaging those four stats, including CPOE together, and the average placement in 2021 was 17th out of 31 quarterbacks.
When you take the average place of finish amongst eligible quarterbacks in the years where he wasn’t either an elite quarterback (2017) or a poor quarterback (2020), Wentz’s average place of finish is 17th in EPA, 17th in PFF grade, 15th in QBR and 17th in DVOA. Average those together and it nets out to be the 17th best quarterback in that four-year span.
Those four years amount to 60 of Wentz’s 85 total starts in his career, which is 70% of his total snaps in the NFL. His two extremes in either direction take up around 15% of his career snaps. In Mike Sando’s polling of 50 coaches and executives around the NFL, Wentz finished as the 20th- best starting quarterback, firmly in Tier 3 of quarterbacks.
While Wentz’s placing in Sando’s power ranking has dropped from ninth in 2018, Wentz is still easily a starting-caliber quarterback. His physical tools allow Scott Turner for the first time to run his Air Coryell system the way he wants to.
The Air Coryell system relies heavily on attacking the intermediate-to-deep parts of the football field, something that Wentz’s howitzer right arm can help Turner accomplish. Greg Cosell, a senior producer at NFL Films, has noted that the scheme change could benefit Wentz.
He describes Wentz as someone who is “not built to run a short-passing offense” and “wants to push the ball down the field.”
The odds that Wentz turns into the franchise quarterback for the Commanders are steep. Still, he can be a stabilizing multi-year solution for the coaching staff. He can become a player that opens up the playbook for the Commanders and allows them to get to the next step in the rebuild, becoming a consistent playoff contender.