Pete’s Post Office: O-line and Samuel’s RB usage expectations appeared first on NBC Sports Washington
mVery Tuesday, Pete Hailey will answer questions from Washington Commanders fans about their beloved and always interesting team. From depth chart inquiries to random what it’s like to cover Washington, he hopes to provide insight into whatever is on the minds of those who care so much about the organization.
In this edition, Pete touches on the offensive line outlook as well as whether Curtis Samuel will be in the mix at running back.
There’s no shortage of spots I’m nervous about on the Commanders’ 2022 roster. Cornerback, linebacker and defensive end lead that list, and quarterback (strictly Carson Wentz) is up there as well.
The offensive line, on the other hand, is a unit I trust.
Much of this is due to John Matsko, a respected assistant who could turn you, one of your friends, one of your brothers, the janitor in the lobby of my apartment building, and me into a capable front if he had a few weeks to do so.
And the rest of that confidence is due to a word that cannot be used in the places I blew up a few paragraphs above: depth.
Charles Leno Jr. and Sam Cosmi have Cornelius Lucas backing them up at tackle, and Lucas is a starting caliber player.
At guard, Andrew Norwell, Trai Turner and Wes Schweitzer are available to man left and right, with whoever doesn’t get the nod for this Sunday’s opener against the Jaguars being the first blocker off the bench.
Then, in center, Chase Roullier returns from the foot injury that sent him on injured reserve midway through the 2021 campaign. Tyler Larsen, who will slide behind Roullier whenever he’s healthy enough, is experienced, and Schweitzer is able to handle center duties if needed by that date.
Saahdiq Charles and Chris Paul round out the line, which as a whole is versatile and largely battle-tested.
No, there aren’t stars like Trent Williams or Brandon Scherf serving as headliners here, and some of the team’s advanced metrics might knock Wentz at quarterback, as he has a reputation for holding onto the ball in an effort to produce heroics projects. Even so, this Macko-led crew should be, at worst, mediocre and, at best, surprising as a high-quality operation.
The year before Curtis Samuel arrived in Washington in free agency, he had 41 rushing attempts for 200 yards and two touchdowns. That average of nearly five yards per carry shows he can be useful in the backfield for the Commanders this season.
However, even with Brian Robinson Jr. recovering from being shot multiple times in a robbery attempt, I don’t expect Samuel to develop very much as a traditional running back.
That’s not to say coordinator Scott Turner won’t sprinkle in a handful of reels for the former Panther here and there. Remember when Turner called Samuel’s name on a crucial third-and-4 against the Raiders in 2021 and Samuel picked up just three yards, forcing Brian Johnson to punt a 48-yarder with less than a minute left for the win? You probably don’t because you have better things taking up space in your brain, but this is a fact that happened.
In training camp, Samuel also got manhandled at times in addition to the screens he caught and the jet sweep moves he ran before the snap. In an offense that’s loaded with versatile options, Samuel might just be the most versatile guy of them all.
However, Antonio Gibson, JD McKissic and Jonathan Williams are currently on the depth chart and when Robinson Jr. returns after his stint on the Non-Football Injury List, that will give Turner and Ron Rivera four players to feed. When Samuel rotated with Carolina for those 41 attempts, he did so in part because Christian McCaffrey could only play in three games and that team needed a lot of help on the ground. The Commanders, at least right now, appear pretty beefed up at running back.
So, after all, expect Samuel to be involved often and in a variety of ways starting this Sunday. However, expect the vast majority of his touches to come on receptions rather than runs designed for him.