Who are the Washington Commanders’ leaders in 2022?
By Jonathan Eig
Commanders special teams leader for 2022
There was a time when Washington was known for its special teamers. From Malinchak to Vactor to Tillman to Wysocki. From Caldwell to the greatest of them all, Brian Mitchell. The toughness, the passion, the sheer-playmaking at key moments – by God, Washington is still the only team in league history to have one of its special teamers win the league MVP.
That has been sadly lacking in recent years. And I hate to say it, but I go into this season with lots of concerns. Joey Slye is a talented kicker who has been with five teams in four years. His occasional lapses in consistency could be an issue, though I am hopeful that he is getting better with experience. Tress Way remains one of the better punters in the league, but he is 32. A drop-off is likely to come one of these days.
Washington briefly solved a long-standing returner problem in 2021 with the addition of DeAndre Carter. But they let him walk away this off-season, and there is no obvious replacement. It may end up being veteran Alex Erickson, who would be a step down from Carter, but who would at least be better than the rotating batch of returners who had been in place prior to 2021.
None of these players emerges as an obvious leader. That’s fine, because, typically, the teams leader is a gunner, or inside coverage guy who flies down the field and make big tackles on returns.
That player might be veteran Troy Apke, but he is always in danger of not making the team. Or it could be Percy Butler, who displayed so much coverage talent in college. But he is a rookie, and no one is sure what to expect.
So I’m looking at Sims, a veteran, who played nothing but special teams for his first several years, before getting a chance to show he could be a productive receiver as well. Sims is built a lot like Denver’s Tim Patrick, another tall receiver who was a surprisingly good on kick coverage before developing into a quality receiver.
I don’t think Sims is likely to get a lot of offensive snaps this season, with a hopefully healthy Curtis Samuel and rookie Jahan Dotson taking over a larger share of the targets. But Sims can still be an important contributor through teams. He has a knack for getting downfield – he often beats smaller, quicker players to ball, and he has both the experience and the passion to take on the role of special teams leader.
Back in 2001, Jeff George went on to elaborate on his quote, and that part rarely gets mentioned. “The bottom line is, you have to win.” I doubt any coach, player or fan would dispute that. This disconnect in George’s thinking came in his failure to understand that in order for a team to win, leadership is an important component. Hopefully. The Washington Commanders will have some strong on-field leaders in 2022.