It’s back-to-back NFC East matchups for the Detroit Lions to kick off the 2022 season. After last week’s shootout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions will host a Washington Commanders team that doesn’t quite have the same hype around them as the Eagles do.
Washington finished their 2021 season with a whimper, and aside from trading for a quarterback that had his name dragged through the mud all offseason, they didn’t really make any inspiring moves this offseason.
They aren’t a bad team, exactly, but it’s also a bit hard to find any reasons to believe they could be something special this year, despite a Week 1 victory. Let’s take a closer look at the Washington Commanders in our Week 2 Detroit Lions scouting report.
7-10 record (3rd in NFC East)
23rd in points scored, 25th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 22nd (21st on offense, 27th on defense)
Last season, Washington wasn’t the luckiest of teams. They lost starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1, forcing them to rely on Taylor Heinicke for the rest of the year. But the injuries didn’t stop there. According to Football Outsiders, the Commanders suffered the seventh-most injuries per their “Adjusted Games Lost” metric. They were also hit hard at tight end (second-most injuries).
So it should come as little surprise that Washington’s offense wasn’t very good. Heinicke threw for 20 TDs and 15 INTs, while leading running back Antonio Gibson averaged just 4.0 yards per carry. That said, the offensive line was formidable, finishing as PFF’s sixth-best unit.
Defensively is where they really struggled, though. They allowed 5.7 yards per play (seventh-highest), and a 100.8 passer rating (fifth-worst). However, they were pretty solid against the run, allowing just 4.1 per carry (ninth-best) and ranking seventh in run defense DVOA.
At the beginning of December, Washington was in the hunt to win the NFC East at 6-6, but they immediately lost four in a row, only ending the skid in the season finale against a woeful Giants team. While there are some legitimate excuses for Washington’s downfall—they had a bad COVID outbreak and more injuries—it doesn’t change the fact that this was always a mediocre-at-best team.
Key free agent additions: LG Andrew Norwell, RG Trai Turner, LB David Mayo, DT Efe Obada
Key losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, G Brandon Scherff, G Ereck Flowers, S Landon Collins, DT Matt Ioannidis
Trade additions: QB Carson Wentz
2022 NFL draft picks:
Round 1: WR Jahan Dotson
Round 2: DT Phidarian Mathis
Round 3: RB Brian Robinson Jr.
Round 4: S Percy Butler
Round 5: QB Sam Howell
Round 5: TE Cole Turner
Round 7: G Chris Paul
Round 7: CB Christian Holmes
Outside of their big move to get quarterback Carson Wentz, it was a pretty subdued offseason for the Commanders. That said, they did make some changes to the offensive line—a surprise given how successful it was last year. They were unable to retain right guard Brandon Scherff, who signed a monster deal with the Jaguars, and replaced him with Trai Turner, who has been a bit of a journeyman lately. They also replaced left guard Ereck Flowers with veteran Andrew Norwell. They found capable replacements for both players, but, at best, this is a wash from their group, perhaps a slight downgrade.
The addition of Jahan Dotson, however, is quite intriguing considering their receiving corps. Adding him to a solid duo of Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin is good enough, but add in a pair of receiving backs in Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, plus an underrated tight end in Logan Thomas, and they’ve got an impressive, overlooked set of receiving weapons.
Defensively, this team doesn’t look that much different, which should be a concern for Washington moving forward.
2022 season thus far (1-0)
Week 1: Beat Jaguars, 28-22
- 5th in points scored, 19th in points allowed
- 16th in DVOA — 13th on offense, 22nd on defense, 12th on special teams
Washington won an evenly-matched Week 1 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Commanders jumped out to a 14-3 lead at halftime, but after a pair of Carson Wentz interceptions, the Jaguars suddenly had a 22-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
That didn’t last long, as Wentz hit Terry McLaurin for a 49-yard touchdown pass just two minutes later, and a big 13-play, 90-yard drive gave Washington the lead with just 1:46 left.
Despite the two interceptions, it was an overly positive game for Wentz—the team’s big offseason addition. He finished the game 27-of-41 for 313 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, a 101.0 passer rating and the 11th best PFF passing grade of any quarterback in Week 1.
Rookie Jahan Dotson only had three catches in his debut, but two went for touchdowns. Meanwhile, running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic were non-factors in the running game (17 carries, 66 yards), but huge players in the passing game (10 catches, 92 yards).
Defensively, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Washington, in particular, struggled to stop the run, allowing Jacksonville to rack up 123 rushing yards on just 18 carries (6.8 YPC). They also had no answer for Christian Kirk, who caught six passes for 117 yards.
They did do one thing very well defensively on Sunday, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Key injuries: EDGE Chase Young (PUP), DT Phidarian Mathis (IR), RB Brian Robinson (NFI), S Kam Curl (thumb), TE Cole Turner
The Commanders have had bad luck with their 2022 rookie class already. Third-round pick Brian Robinson has been on the NFI since the start of camp after suffering gunshot wounds, fifth-round tight end Cole Turner missed a large chunk of training camp, and although he’s been limited in practice, Washington held him out of the season opener. He could make his debut Sunday.
But second-round defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis got the worst luck of the bunch. On Sunday against the Jaguars, Mathis was carted off after tearing his meniscus just three snaps into his career. He will require surgery and miss the remainder of his rookie season.
I’m burying the lede here, of course, because the Commanders’ best defensive player—edge rusher Chase Young—is on the Physically Unable to Perform list and will not play until at least Week 5.
Washington was able to generate plenty of pressure without Young last week, though. The Commanders logged 10 quarterback hits—three from both Montez Sweat and Daron Payne—and two sacks. In fact, they posted the second-best pass rush win rate according to ESPN (just behind the Eagles, ironically enough).
Biggest strength: Receivers
As I mentioned above, the Commanders boast a sneakily good receiving corps, and now with a quarterback capable of getting the ball to them, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Washington among the top passing teams in yardage when the season comes to an end. It’s only Week 1, but Washington already ranks fifth in passing yards, second in passing touchdowns, and 11th in passer rating. Against the Jaguars, Wentz really spread the ball around, with five different receivers catching at least three passes—and McLaurin wasn’t one of them.
This should be a unique test for the Lions after getting beat on the ground last week. With a less mobile quarterback, the Lions pass rush has a better chance this week, but Detroit’s questionable secondary will get a much bigger test on Sunday.
I almost put Washington’s pass rush here, because of their Week 1 performance, but I need a bigger sample size here, especially with no Chase Young.
Biggest weakness: Secondary
Last week, Trevor Lawrence had a modest day, completing 24-of-42 passes for 275 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, but the Jaguars left a lot of plays out there. Lawrence wasn’t at his most accurate... and this happened, too:
....Etienne with a huge drop pic.twitter.com/yXlAqXtKU0— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) September 11, 2022
Washington’s cornerback duo of Kendall Fuller (32.6) and William Jackson III (54.5) graded out horribly per PFF, although that was a bit of an anomaly for Fuller—not so much for Jackson. We’ll see if Curl can play this week, although it’s worth noting his replacement—2021 fifth-round pick Darrick Forrest—played extremely well in his first start.
Also, keep an eye on Washington’s run defense. They were really good last year, but Jacksonville had a very productive day on the ground Sunday, and after one week the Commanders’ run defense ranks 31st in DVOA. Small sample size here, but that would obviously pair nicely with how Detroit ran the ball last week.
Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 2.5.