Did the Washington Commanders get better after an underwhelming draft and lackluster free agency?
Frankly, the answer comes down to incoming quarterback Carson Wentz. Free agency did little while watching defensive and offensive line starters and depth depart. The draft found more role players than breakout stars.
Mostly, the offseason that Washington once regularly won via flashy free agent signings and draft picks was more boring than a congressional hearing. Lot of talk, little done.
But there are two reasons for optimism this fall. The schedule is easier after a 7-10 season. And, the team traded for a quarterback that hopefully lasts longer than 26 snaps like last year.
The NFL always comes down to passers and Washington's fate is no different. It's banking on another journeyman playing his best. Sometimes it works like Alex Smith off to a 6-3 start before being injured in 2018, while Mark Brunell was productive from 2004-06. However, Donovan McNabb was an expensive bust in 2010 and Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't make it to the opener's halftime before being injured last season.
Wentz was solid in Philadelphia from 2017-19 before faltering in 2020. He played well last year in Indianapolis with 27 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 3,563 yards and a 94.6 rating. Washington will take those numbers this season.
Washington surrounded Wentz with help by drafting receiver Jahan Dotson in the first round and running back Brian Robinson in the third. By giving running back Antonio Gibson more receiving opportunities and with injured tight end Logan Thomas returning, offensive coordinator Scott Turner can expand the offense to more than throwing to Terry McLaurin and a running game of three yards per carry.
But, Washington also needs to regroup defensively after a tremendous downfall last year. It starts with defensive end Chase Young returning after a midseason knee injury. He was disappointing before the injury, too. Montez Sweat needs to also improve after a myriad of problems. And, Daron Payne can't let the outside noise bother him while playing in a contract year.
The secondary and linebackers need big improvement, too. No more looking at who busted coverage to allow a long touchdown. Either put William Jackson III in the proper schemes or move on. And, keep using that Buffalo nickel that helped last season.
Washington is a decent team, but that's about it. Maybe 10-7 if healthy. The roster really didn't upgrade overall aside from quarterback, so Wentz either plays well or it's another middling year.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.