Though fans and the national media strongly disagree, the Washington Commanders have preached faith in their linebacker rotation all offseason. No matter what media outlet you browse, Washington’s linebacker room is prominently ranked near the cellar of the league, and nobody would refute that.
Despite that, Ron Rivera and the front office have deliberately avoided making a major upgrade. Of course, that would fly in the face of the conviction they have in their current options. After roster cutdowns, that included Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis and Milo Eifler, as Khaleke Hudson, De’Jon Harris and David Mayo all got released.
It was almost too good to be true. Surely the Commanders would swallow their pride and make a statement signing or upside claim on waivers, right? Go out and bring Alexander Johnson to the nation’s capital. Even Kevin Pierre-Louis would have appeased fans appetites given he can hold his own in coverage.
Wrong. So wrong, in fact, that the linebacker room is officially a carbon copy of last year’s after Washington’s Wednesday roster shuffling.
Old friend Jon Bostic is back after he failed to find a home in free agency. As is Mayo. Both players are famous for chasing shadows in coverage.
Commanders fans are infuriated with the state of the team’s linebacker room after Jon Bostic and David Mayo re-signed.
All of that roster shuffling just to bring back Bostic and Mayo? It’s duly noted the Commanders largely run two-linebacker sets and love having three safeties on the field, but they’re blatantly ignoring the importance of the linebacker position.
Funny how Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio are former LBs, right?
Cole Holcomb is a stud, but is too much being put on his plate? Could he be headed for regression? Our own Jonathan Eig speculated on that possibility.
Jamin Davis looks more comfortable after his forgettable rookie year, but he’s maybe the biggest wild card on the roster.
Behind them, it’s Bostic, whose 30.2 coverage grade in 2021 before his season-ending injury would’ve placed 86th of 87 linebackers, according to PFF. Mayo, meanwhile, packs a punch against the run, but teams will look to isolate him in coverage after he posted a 30.1 coverage grade last season.
Yes, somehow Mayo was worse in coverage than Bostic. He allowed an impossible 158.3 passer rating when targeted. That’ll happen when you allow seven receptions on seven targets for 98 yards (14.3 yards per reception) and a touchdown.
NFL offenses are too advanced not to isolate a liability. It was never realistic for Washington to fully shield Mayo from coverage. Not in today’s NFL.
But enough about the linebacker position. Did anyone really expect major changes to be made? While running it back with the same unit from a season ago wasn’t fully expected, it’s not a huge surprise knowing this regime.
The approach to bolstering the cornerback position is another head-scratcher for fans, and understandably so.
The Commanders shocked folks by releasing Danny Johnson and Corn Elder, both of whom swiftly signed to the practice squad after going unclaimed. By the way, none of the team’s waived players got claimed. What does that say about how the rest of the league views Washington’s depth?
Much like Harris and Mayo’s (temporary) release, Johnson and Elder’s demotion offered optimism that the front office would add a quality backup behind Kendall Fuller, William Jackson and Benjamin St-Juste.
Instead, they opted for Tariq Fields-Castro and Rachad Wildgoose, because they fit Washington’s system better than other more known commodities. Care to guess how many defensive snaps the now-second-year CBs have between them? One.
It’s pretty clear Rivera and Co. are doubling down on the core of this defense and expect positive regression after a nightmarish 2021. That’s a massive, massive gamble and we seriously hope it doesn’t come back to haunt the team.