Commanders replaced Cole Holcomb with Cody Barton
This is a two-parter. The Washington Commanders should never have let Cole Holcomb walk. They did it in part because of concerns about how much he would cost - especially with several other notable defenders due for major contractual bumps in the next year or two. And in part because there were some lingering concerns about his health.
But I think they did it primarily because they thought Holcomb was too slow to play the defense they wanted. All I know is that he has been the team’s best linebacker for the past five years and it isn’t even really close.
Holcomb did the one thing that Washington desperately needed - he made tackles on running plays within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
Throughout the first part of 2021, Holcomb played poorly. I believe that is because he was trying to cover for rookie Jamin Davis, who was in way over his head at middle linebacker.
Holcomb often overran gaps - effectively running himself out of the play. But as Davis’ role changed and he grew more comfortable, better production followed.
Before Holcomb’s injury in 2022, he and Davis were beginning to show real rapport. They still had a ways to go in the new two-linebacker sets, but you could see the improvement.
Barton simply does not look good getting off blocks and making stops anywhere near the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, he will improve as the season progresses, or this will be a serious Achilles heel.
Could they have re-signed Holcomb? I just saved the team about $5 million by going with George Fant over Andrew Wylie. That money would be more than enough to make up the difference between Barton and Holcomb for a couple of years. And I also just got them some additional help at linebacker with Nick Herbig, who may not be as fast but is a better tackler at the point of attack.
But they didn’t ask me.
Look, I get lots of things wrong. I thought Heath Shuler was a good pick. I loved the signing of William Jackson III. The Commanders have clearly made a lot of good decisions about rebuilding a below-average roster. But it could have been even better.