Which 2 Commanders players could spearhead chances in Week 1 vs. Cardinals?

Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals is fast approaching, and these Commanders players will have a lot at stake.

Montez Sweat
Montez Sweat / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If the Washington Commanders want to beat the Arizona Cardinals, they need two veteran contributors to make a lasting impression.

The Washington Commanders are in their final stages of planning before they take the field in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. This looks like a winnable contest to get things going versus a team in flux, but Ron Rivera will be eager to keep complacency out of the equation in pursuit of an opening weekend triumph.

It's also the first competitive regular season contest with Josh Harris' ownership group leading the charge. Something that's brought a sold-out crowd to FedEx Field and many franchise legends back into the fold for good measure.

If the Commanders want to emerge victorious, these two players will be critical to the game plan implemented by Rivera and his staff.

Antonio Gibson - Commanders RB

Going into his fourth year, Antonio Gibson is poised for a breakout season, Things haven't always been great for the running back, but he has been one of Washington's stellar players for the last couple of years.

Ron Rivera wants Gibson to have a more of role on offense this time around after releasing J.D. McKissic. Even with some of his fumbling issues in the past, the Memphis product always remained positive. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he could be auditioning for a new team after this season.

Now, with new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy in the fold, life will get a little easier for Gibson to be more dynamic. This could also include lining more at wide receiver - something he did at the college level.

He also believes that more opportunities will come along via motion wide or playing on the perimeter to unlock his potential. In 2021 as a running back, Gibson carried 258 times and rushed for 1,037 yards, but he seemingly found himself in Rivera's doghouse throughout the year.

Gibson will provide a change of pace in Bieniemy's offense alongside Chris Rodriguez Jr. to help on third down situations. This is a chance for him to show his stuff and utilize his skills against a suspect Cardinals' defense.

I wouldn't be surprised if Gibson led the Commanders in receiving yards and catches following Sunday's game. Especially with the uncertain status of Terry McLaurin's availability.

Montez Sweat - Commanders DE

It seems as if Montez Sweat is set for a contract battle with Chase Young. Both are out of contract in 2024, so what better way to take advantage of a pretty nice situation in Week 1 if the former Ohio State standout cannot participate?

Sweat knows that making a statement early could have a more significant impact on how to set the tone for each game throughout the season. The Commanders' defense has been pretty good for the last couple of seasons, and 2022 was one of their best, even without Young for the most part.

The first game of the season is always one that you want to make and put your stamp on things to set the tone. That bears more significance for players looking to get paid such as Sweat.

After seeing Daron Payne sign a new contract in the off-season, Sweat must show why he is the right choice for a new deal to stay in Washington. This is a game I expect the Commanders' defense to fully dominate without Kyle Murray to scramble around, something this defense has had issues with.

Even though the Commanders picked up his player option for this season, you can expect a motivated Sweat to come out of the gates on fire. The former Mississippi State star must prove he can be a franchise cornerstone, even though he was drafted one year before Young.

Sweat's numbers might not jump out, but the value is there. One expects to see a much more dominant edge presence in 2023 and he's sure to give first-round offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. an early baptism on his competitive NFL debut.