3 primary objectives for Commanders HC Ron Rivera to save his job beyond 2023

The Washington Commanders head coach has a tough task ahead, but the path is clear.

Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders defense must be dominant

There's no denying this is the most talented roster Ron Rivera has had heading into a new season in D.C. For the most part, the team has drafted well under him - and the additions of Emmanuel Forbes and Jartavius Martin in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft sent a clear message.

While the defense has clearly been the strength of the team - finishing top 10 in the NFL last season in nearly every metric - there was too much reliance on the dominant front four. There were obvious holes at the linebacker spot and in the secondary that could have turned losses into wins.

Now that Rivera - a longtime defensive-minded head coach -- has doubled down by drafting two players on that side of the ball with the team's opening picks back in April, the decision has to have an immediate payoff.

The team allowed 26 passing touchdowns, the second most of any defense within the top ten of the league, while only giving up 10 touchdowns on the ground.

The Washington Commanders' defense had just 18 turnovers compared to their rival Dallas Cowboys' league-leading 33. Of those, only nine interceptions were recorded in 2022. So Rivera and the upper management went out and got two defensive backs to make a very good defense great.

With a young, unproven quarterback, Rivera understands his defense may need to keep the team in games more often than not. If Chase Young can return to the version we saw his rookie year, Jamin Davis can build on last year's growth at linebacker, and Cody Barton can deliver a season similar to his production with the Seattle Seahawks, this defense could be truly elite.

There is a flip side to this coin. If Davis slips, Barton underperforms and the two young defensive backs turn out to be busts, it will be a direct indictment of Rivera and his plan for 2023.

Plain and simple, the Commanders have the talent to finish with a top-five defense this season and that will be necessary to accomplish what they want to.