Commanders defense: Breaking down past seasons to project the future in 2023

Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera
Jack Del Rio and Ron Rivera / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders defense in 2022

  • (8-8-1 record, missed playoffs)

The Washington Commanders had a new name and a new quarterback in 2022. But the end result was frustratingly similar.

The freshly-minted Commanders fell flat after hitching their hopes to Carson Wentz, as Ron Rivera's questionable choice at signal caller proved incompetent and incapable of leading an NFL offense.

Chase Young played in just three games in his return and the offensive line again struggled with a multitude of injuries. Despite this, Washington still managed to win a respectable eight games on the back of its stellar defensive unit, with more young stars emerging throughout an otherwise up-and-down season.


  • 7th in points allowed
  • 4th in yards allowed
  • 1st in first downs allowed
  • 5th in rush TDs against
  • 26th in pass TDs against
  • 26th in turnovers forced
  • 6th in penalties against


  • INT - Darrick Forrest (4)
  • Sacks - Daron Payne (11.5)
  • Tackles - Jamin Davos (104)
  • Tackles for Loss - Daron Payne (18)

Washington’s burgeoning defense struggled at times with consistency throughout the 2022 slate, but that changed in Sam Howell’s lone start of the year in a Week 18 showdown at home against the rival Dallas Cowboys.

The Commanders' defensive unit came through in a huge way for their rookie signal caller in an otherwise meaningless final game - playing spoiler by holding the normally dynamic Dallas offense to just 64 yards rushing and six total points while also forcing two turnovers and returning one takeaway for a score. 

Howell's performance in that single contest was enough for Rivera to name the 2022 fifth-round pick Washington's starter going into the offseason program. Many fans are optimistic that the former North Carolina star could be the NFL's next late-round quarterback success story.

Following in the mold of other overlooked passers like Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, and Brock Purdy, Washington hopes to have a steal in Howell. They will give the young signal caller every opportunity to cement his status as the starter going forward.

With stability under center and a new offensive coordinator calling plays, the Commanders should look drastically different on offense. But can the defense get back to elite status in 2023 and take the team to new heights?