Commanders 2023 coaching grades: Eric Bieniemy and the offensive staff

It's time to assess the Commanders coaching staff...

Eric Bieniemy
Eric Bieniemy / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Juan Castillo - Commanders run game coordinator

By some metrics, Juan Castillo has done a nice job in improving a running game that was not very good in 2022.

Yards-per-carry has progressed to a respectable 4.5. Some of that is attributable to Sam Howell’s off-script running, but even if you factor that out, both Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson have significantly improved their yards-per-carry this year. Rookie Chris Rodriguez Jr. has been well above average.

However, by other metrics, the Washington Commanders have had one of the weakest running attacks in the league this year. The fact is, they simply don’t run the ball very much.

The occasional big run can have an outsized effect on the yards-per-number, but it doesn’t change the fact that Washington simply has not been able to rely on a consistent ground game all year. They have not been able to take pressure off Howell by staying ahead of the chains, and they have not been able to force a defense to crowd the line, thus freeing up deep shots.

Castillo, who was promoted into this role after serving as tight ends coach in 2022, wasn't dealt a good hand. The Commanders' running-game roster is far from coordinated. They have power backs behind a line that doesn’t power block very well. The line does move in space, but the backs aren’t particularly adept at running sweeps or reverses.

The bottom line is that the Commanders are running for about 30 fewer yards per game in 2023, and converting running first downs at a lower percentage. I kind of wish that Castillo - a veteran coach with a good track record - had been coaching the offensive line instead of having this role.