The Commanders’ 2022 offensive line was one of the league’s most beleaguered position groups last year. The team dealt with multiple injuries throughout the season, handicapping a group that already was lacking in star talent. A good amount of turnover is expected from last year’s lineup, but is it nearly enough to not be a hindrance to quarterback Sam Howell‘s first season as a Day 1 starter?
In terms of turnover, Trai Turner, who started 12 games at guard last season, has departed as a free agent. Wes Schweitzer, who started six games at guard, is now on the Jets. Nick Martin and Chase Roullier have also made their way to free agency, and Andrew Norwell is soon set to join them. It was announced a little over a month ago that the team was waiting to release Norwell until he could pass a physical, but he’s still currently on the roster today.
In terms of new blood, the Commanders signed former Chiefs tackle Andrew Wylie, who followed new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City. The team also added former Giants interior lineman Nick Gates with the intent to play him at center. Washington did re-sign Tyler Larsen, who started eight games at center for the team last year. The loser of the starting battle between Gates and Larsen will become an experienced depth piece on the interior line. Additionally, the team used both a third- and a fourth-round draft pick to address the offensive line, bringing in rookie center Ricky Stromberg from Arkansas and rookie tackle Braeden Daniels from Utah. While both could project as long-term starters for the future, neither rookie seems to be a contender to make an impact this season.
With the offseason moves, we’re starting to see the line take shape. Left tackle Charles Leno is the only sure thing on the line. He’s a definitive starter and should produce at a consistent level. The Commanders spent too much money on Wylie for him not to start. It’s been a couple years since his best performances (he allowed nine sacks last year), but his starting experience for a Super Bowl-winning team is likely enough to cement him at right tackle.
Gates likewise is being paid at a starters’ rate, so he’s the odds-on favorite to take the starting job at center. In that case, it ends up being a smart move to have retained Larsen, since over the past two years, Gates has only appeared in 12 games. If Gates continues to struggle to stay on the field, Washington knows Larsen can step up. With the addition of Stromberg in the draft, the Commanders are certainly attempting to feel secure after a season that decimated their centers room.
Samuel Cosmi is an interesting piece in the line. He was drafted out of Texas in the second round two years ago as a top tackle prospect, and while he’s gotten some run there in Washington, he’s also filled in a bit at guard. With Wylie and Leno likely securing starting roles on the outside, Cosmi can either become a strong depth piece at tackle or continue working as a starter at guard.
The other guard spot seems fairly open. Saahdiq Charles is currently one of the top candidates for the starting role. In three years with the team, Charles has started eight games, but he’s not really expected to excel as a starting guard. His main competition for the position seems to be last year’s seventh-round pick Chris Paul. Paul only made his NFL debut when he started the season finale for the Commanders last year, but Rivera has heaped praise on the progress and abilities of the young man. If he continues to impress, he could push Charles for the starting spot opposite Cosmi.
So, did the Commanders piece together a line that their second-year passer can be confident behind? It’s almost certainly too soon to tell. There’s an argument to be made that they were able to increase the talent of their two-deep, but the biggest thing they could improve on to better their chances of success this year is just health.