3 reasons to be concerned about the Commanders in 2022
3. Hoping for positive injury news
Entering training camp, four players went on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the Commanders: Chase Roullier, Logan Thomas, Chase Young, and Tyler Larsen. For a rundown, that is the starting center, the backup center, the starting tight end and the self-explanatory Chase Young.
Roullier quickly came off the PUP list as he continues to work his way back from the lower leg injury he suffered in Denver last Halloween. Roullier is slated to fill right in as the team’s starting center against Jacksonville.
Despite this positive news, there still could be points of concern with Roullier. The former Wyoming center has said that he suffered ligament damage within his ankle, as well as fracturing his fibula. Therefore, his ankle has “new hardware” in there that he says “will never feel the same.”
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2018, Roullier has been incredibly consistent as the team’s starting center. He has grown into one of the most well-rounded centers in the league, earning himself a contract extension at the end of the 2020 season. His injury, though, is concerning. Roullier has already begun participating in team drills, he is right on schedule for Week 1, but there could be concerns of him being the same player he once was.
His main backup, Tyler Larsen, is recovering from the torn Achilles he suffered late in 2021. Torn Achilles injuries are typically the most difficult to recover from, and those who do, are typically not the same athletically. Behind Larsen, Wes Schweitzer filled in as the team’s center but has only 82 total career snaps at center.
Logan Thomas’ recovery from his knee injury seems to be going well. Ron Rivera projects Thomas to be back very early on in the season. The depth behind Thomas is intriguing, with multiple athletic rookies and reliable John Bates backing him up. Still, though, Thomas is on the wrong side of 30. Despite torn ACLs having high success rates of full recoveries, there is no guarantee Thomas will be the same.
Thomas is very important to Scott Turner’s offense. He is incredibly potent in the redzone, serving as a reliable target for every quarterback he has played for in Washington. Cole Turner is showing the potential to succeed in the redzone, but his ability to do it right away is still yet to be proven.
The most important player on the PUP list is unequivocally Chase Young. He is the face of the franchise, Ron Rivera’s first draft pick, and a player who has game-wrecking potential. Ron Rivera has already said that Young will miss Week 1. He could start out on short-term IR or the PUP list, ruling him out for at least 4 games.
The worst case is Young’s recovery takes a full year, putting him out until around Halloween. The best case is he is back in mid-September. Young’s knee injury was slightly more complex than Thomas’. He had a graft on his knee, meaning he took part of his healthy knee to help fix his unhealthy knee
That is fairly standard practice, so there is no need for long-term concerns there. The synopsis on this procedure is that it causes a longer recovery in the short term, with more sustainable health in the future.
Even when Young does return to full health, he may not be the same player physically until 2023. The former No. 2 overall pick elevates the ceiling for the Commanders’ defense. Despite his mediocre performance as a pass-rusher last year, he has garnered the respect of NFL offenses across the league. While he works through building his pass-rushing repertoire, Young is a dominant run defender.
At his best, he is a game wrecker and a numbers shifter for opposing offenses to have great concern with. For the Commanders to be their best, they need a fully healthy Chase Young. Unfortunately, there is a chance that may not be the case. There is a chance that version of Chase Young is not fully back until 2023.
That isn’t to say that Young can’t get back to his full capabilities this year. It is not something that should be counted on though.
Lastly, we move to a player, not on the PUP list. Curtis Samuel, a ceiling raiser on the offense that could completely unlock Scott Turner’s playbook, with major injury concerns. The coaching staff seems to be taking him along slowly to preserve him for the season. When he has been on the field this offseason he has looked to have regained his explosion he had in Carolina. But until he proves he can stack weeks, there will still be lingering concerns.
Rivera said Samuel’s main concern now is getting into football shape. Samuel has struggled with back and hamstring tightness early on in training camp. At some point, “an abundance of caution,” becomes a full-blown concern. For now, it is early August so there is no need to press the panic button just yet.
Injuries affect nearly every franchise and Washington has done what they can to sustain the roster without these players. It still remains a concern with how vital these players are for the Commanders to reach their ceiling in 2022.