Commanders See Glimmer of Hope in New NFL Rankings

Brian Robinson

Getty Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson.

When you’ve been down this long, like the Washington Commanders have, any sort of progress need to be welcomed.

PFF’s Jim Wyman and Dalton Wasserman placed the Commanders at No. 27 in their latest NFL roster rankings ahead of the 2024 NFL season — a small step up for a team that finished tied for the second-worst record in the NFL at 4-13 in 2023 and hasn’t had a winning season since 2016.

Washington made a big splash in the 204 NFL draft when they selected Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels out of LSU.

The Commanders have 6.5 wins set as an over/under win total for 2024.

“While it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Commanders approach or even surpass this win total, they are still starting a rookie quarterback and need immense improvement on defense,” PFF wrote. “This season is more about Daniels and the rest of the rookie class progressing than it is about any number of victories.”

Rushing Attack Could Buoy Commanders’ Offense

PFF identified the Commanders’ rushing attack as the team’s greatest strength in 2024, no doubt buoyed by the addition of Daniels after he rushed 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2023 on 135 carries — an amazing 8.4 yards per carry.

The Commanders will have a pair of running backs on the roster who passed over 1,000 yards of total offense in 2023 with Brian Robinson and free-agent signee Austin Ekeler.

Robinson had 1,101 yards of total offense and 9 touchdowns (733 rushing yards and 368 receiving yards). Ekeler had 1,065 yards of total offense and 6 touchdowns (628 rushing yards and 436 passing yards).

“The Commanders struggled across the board last season but ranked 15th in rushing grade,” PFF wrote. “Capable ball-carriers like Brian Robinson and Chris Rodriguez Jr. led the way. The issue for the run game was a lack of designed carries due to the team being behind so often. The incumbent running backs, along with new quarterback Jayden Daniels should give Washington a functional rushing attack in 2024 and beyond.”

Defense Remains Liability for Washington

The Commanders brought in a defensive-minded head coach in Dan Quinn to fix what was the NFL’s worst defense in 2023.

PFF identified Washington’s run defense as the team’s biggest weakness in 2024.

Of Washington’s projected starters in 2024, only free-agent linebacker Bobby Wagner and free-agent linebacker Frankie Luvu graded out above 80 percent in 2023.

Defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, who are scheduled to make a combined $31.6 million in 2024, each graded out below 62 percent. The highest grade for a returning player who is a projected starter on the Commanders’ defense is safety Darrick Forrest, who only played in 5 games before being put on injured reserve but graded out at 67 percent.

Forrest was a fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2021 and showed some promise in 2022, playing in all 17 games with career-highs of 11 starts, 4 interceptions, 88 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 1 fumble recovery.

“The Commanders allowed the most points in the NFL last season, and the primary culprit was a run-defense unit that finished 31st in run-defense grade last season,” PFF wrote. “They’ve since added viable players at multiple levels, including linebackers Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu. Head coach Dan Quinn is making his new defense a priority.”

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