Rookie QB Could Determine Commanders’ Playoff Fate

Jayden Daniels

Getty Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels.

The Washington Commanders believe they can be a playoff team in 2024 — even if no one else quite sees it that way yet.

The biggest hurdle the franchise has in making the postseason also represents the biggest investment the team has made in years in a single player and whether or not rookie quarterback and 2024 No. 2 overall pick Jayden Daniels can adapt quickly.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder listed the development of Daniels and how quickly he can take control of an NFL offense as the biggest question mark for the Commanders headed into 2024.

“While most people might not be expecting much from the Commanders this year, the front office brought in several veterans in free agency to suggest the organization feels the team is ready to compete for a playoff spot this fall,” Holder wrote. “But the biggest factor in that equation is if the rookie quarterback is ready to go.”

While the Commanders have yet to officially name Daniels as the starting quarterback, it seems like the decision to bring in veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota on a 1-year, $6 million contract seems to indicate that Daniels will be given every chance to lead.

How Has Daniels Progressed in Offseason?

Since being drafted, Daniels seems to have spent the majority of his time working with the Commanders’ coaching staff and learning offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s offense.

“I think the situation work, we’ve been working really hard on, and so, some of the timing and mechanics are different from college in a two-minute setting than it is in the NFL,” Washington head coach Dan Quinn said on June 5. “So to see, every day, him going through those mechanics out of two minute … at the end of the half working down in a clock situation, where it’s still moving on the first down and that type of urgency. Seeing him being comfortable in that environment, I would say that’s one example of many that shows the work that he’s put in.”

In 2023, Sam Howell became the first quarterback to start every game in a single season for the Commanders since Kirk Cousins in 2017, but was an abject failure in doing so as the team stumbled to a 4-13 record and Howell led the league in interceptions (21) and sacks taken (65).

Howell was also the 13th quarterback to start a game for Washington in the six seasons since Cousins left in free agency.

First-Round Rookies Who Could Start in 2024

Of the record-tying six quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft, only No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams has been named a starter so far, with the Chicago Bears wasting little time pronouncing him QB1.

Daniels seems like he is the next most logical of the six quarterbacks to be named a starter. No. 3 overall pick Drake Maye seems like he could start the season as a backup to Jacoby Brissett on the New England Patriots.

The Atlanta Falcons won’t start No. 8 overall pick Michael Penix Jr. over Cousins, who signed a 4-year, $180 million free-agent contract in the offseason. The Minnesota Vikings seem likely to start Sam Darnold over No. 10 overall pick J.J. McCarthy.

After Daniels, Denver’s Bo Nix, the No. 12 overall pick, seems like he has a real chance to win a three-way quarterback battle with Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson.

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