4 Commanders players who must bounce back at 2024 training camp

The pressure is on these Commanders players at camp.
Jeremy Reaves
Jeremy Reaves / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Daron Payne - Commanders DT

Everyone had high hopes for the Washington Commanders' defense in 2023. This unit was loaded with talent across the board. Analysts and fans believed they could become one of the league's most dominant groups if everyone got a clear run on the injury front.

What transpired was a tragedy. The Commanders couldn't generate consistent pressure. Jack Del Rio ran out of ideas and was fired. Ron Rivera didn't fare much better after taking over defensive play-calling. Montez Sweat and Chase Young were traded. Washington's pass defense was a complete abomination.

It was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Very few emerged with any positives. The players lacked motivation as another campaign that promised much disintegrated.

Daron Payne's production suffered, too. The defensive tackle broke out in 2022 and the Commanders rewarded him with a bumper contract extension. This came with increased expectations - something the former first-round pick was unable to match during a campaign to forget for all involved.

There were flashes of dominance from Payne. He was far from the worst performer, but the Commanders are paying him like one of the NFL's best interior forces. The Alabama product fell short of that target en route to 53 tackles, four sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and 13 pressures. He missed 11.7 percent of his tackle attempts.

Confidence remains high in Payne's ability to restore order. The introduction of Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr. breathed new life into the defense. Having a re-energized Jonathan Allen alongside him is only going to help.

Payne must bounce back when Washington's training camp arrives. The Commanders are counting on him to produce the goods. He needs to be the game-wrecking force fans saw on countless occasions during the 2022 campaign. Something that will play a significant role in whatever success comes the defense's way.

It was a down year by Payne's typically high standards. But all hope is not lost with Quinn and Whitt steering him in the right direction.