If you think about the Washington Commanders’ biggest strength for next season, what comes to mind? Probably the defensive line.
All four starters have Pro Bowl potential and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Daron Payne or Montez Sweat, the lesser-known members of the unit, emerged as the defense’s most important players in 2022. We obviously know what Payne and Sweat bring to the table. We’re more referring to the national media.
But what comes after the defensive line? We’d argue running back, which got bolstered in a big way this offseason following the re-signing of JD McKissic and selection of Alabama star Brian Robinson Jr. in the draft.
Antonio Gibson returns as the starter after he finished sixth in the league in rushing last year despite playing through a stress fracture in his shin. McKissic is one of the best third-down and pass-catching backs in the game and Robinson offers plenty of intrigue as a punishing runner with sneaky quickness.
In a best-case scenario, this could be a top-five unit in the NFL. Based on potential, though, it should at least rank in the top 12. According to PFF’s RB unit rankings, however, the Commanders ’room ranks near the cellar of the league.
The Commanders were dealt more disrespect this offseason by Pro Football Focus’ RB unit rankings.
Per writer Ben Linsey, the Commanders’ RB unit ranked in Tier 3, which is labeled Gets the Job Done (Good Starter or Good Depth). For context, there’s only four thirds and Washington was listed No. 26 overall in these rankings.
What more can you say at this point, folks? It’s just further evidence that nobody watches Washington, at least on a national writer’s scale. If that was the case, there’s no way they’d rank behind the Jaguars, Jets, Cardinals (what does James Conner do besides score touchdowns?), Eagles (Miles Sanders is nothing special), Lions, and Bills (Josh Allen was literally their de facto RB in 2021).
Unfortunately, the list continues with the Steelers (Najee Harris averaged 3.9 YPC as a rookie and there’s nobody behind him), the Giants (Saquon Barkley hasn’t been good since 2019) and Bears (David Montgomery, really?). For those wondering, yes, all of these squads were ranked ahead of the Commanders in Tier 3.
In terms of Tier 2, Washington could easily rank ahead of the Raiders (No. 12), as Josh Jacobs stumbled last season and didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up, and the Bengals (No. 14), unless you consider Samaje Perine an elite backup. And what about the Panthers (No. 8)? Christian McCaffrey is a superstar, but he’s played 10 games over the last two years and Chub Hubbard posted 3.6 YPC as a rookie.
See what we’re saying? If our math is correct, we rattled off 12 teams the Commanders could easily rank ahead of here. That would slot them in at No. 14 overall, which is fair considering Gibson finished with 1331 scrimmage yards and 10 TDs in 2021 and JD McKissic has the second-most catches by a RB since 2020.
The disrespect is almost comical at this point.