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State of the 2024 Washington Commanders: Jayden Daniels must show he has what it takes to succeed

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Commanders organization, Commanders fans around the world and those who kind of liked when the club was known simply as "The Football Team" ...

2024 will be a year of transition in our nation's capital. And I'm not talking politics. The Commanders, one of the city's most cherished institutions, recently changed ownership, and a brand-new coach and quarterback were installed this offseason. Years ago, there was a man who came to Washington preaching hope. And that is what Commanders fans have right now: hope.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Dan Quinn
General manager Adam Peters
Offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury
Defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr.
Special teams coordinator Larry Izzo

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Commanders' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU (1-2) Marcus Mariota, QB Jacoby Brissett, QB
Jer'Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois (2-36) Austin Ekeler, RB Sam Howell, QB
Mike Sainristil, CB, Michigan (2-50) Zach Ertz, TE Antonio Gibson, RB
Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State (2-53) Nick Allegretti, OG Curtis Samuel, WR
Brandon Coleman, OL, TCU (3-67) Michael Deiter, OG Logan Thomas, TE
Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice (3-100) Tyler Biadasz, C Charles Leno Jr., OT
Jordan Magee, LB, Temple (5-139) Dorance Armstrong, DE Saahdiq Charles, OG
Dominique Hampton, S, Washington (5-161) Clelin Ferrell, DE Nick Gates, C
Javontae Jean-Baptiste, DE, Notre Dame (7-222) Dante Fowler Jr., DE Tyler Larsen, C
Frankie Luvu, LB James Smith-Williams, DE
Bobby Wagner, LB Casey Toohill, DE
Michael Davis, CB Cody Barton, LB
Jeremy Chinn, S Khaleke Hudson, LB
David Mayo, LB
Kendall Fuller, CB
Kamren Curl, S
Joey Slye, K

New faces to know

Washington Commanders head football coach Dan Quinn watches during an NFL rookie minicamp football practice in Ashburn, Va., Friday, May 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Dan Quinn
Head coach

Well, it seemed inevitable that, at some point, Quinn was going to be a head coach again, given the success he had as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys over the past few seasons -- especially in 2023, when Dallas ranked fifth in yards and points allowed. Quinn is a talented coach who led the Falcons to the Super Bowl during his last tenure in the big chair, and Dallas' defense improved in each of his three seasons as the Cowboys' DC. Yes, allowing the Packers' offense to score six touchdowns in the playoff loss to Green Bay left a bad taste, but don't let that erase everything that DQ accomplished in Big D.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury paces ther sidelines during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022 in Inglewood, Calif. The Cardinals defeated the Rams 27-17. (Greg Trott via AP)
Kliff Kingsbury
Offensive coordinator

And Quinn has Kliff running his offense! I really like this. Kingsbury lost more games than he won as head coach in Arizona, but his Cardinals teams did have their moments on offense. OK, so his hiring didn't presage Caleb Williams, whom Kingsbury coached at USC last year, . Even so, Kingsbury's past success with dynamic QBs like Williams, Kyler Murray and, yes, Patrick Mahomes is an encouraging sign when it comes to how he'll help Jayden Daniels develop.

Austin Ekeler
RB · Year 8

Oh, man -- I continue to believe this was a pretty good get for the Commanders. I always felt like they wanted Antonio Gibson to be an Ekeler-type back for them, so with the Gibby era ending (he headed to New England), why not go and get the actual Ekeler? I'm aware Ekeler just had one of his worst seasons as a pro in his final year with the Chargers, putting up just 4.6 yards per touch in 14 games. I'm also excited to see him bounce back in Washington, where the presence of fellow back Brian Robinson Jr. (733 rushing yards and five touchdowns in 2023) could keep the 29-year-old's workload at a more manageable level than it was at in 2021 and '22, when he ranked sixth in the NFL in touches (587).

State of the QB

Washington traded away Sam Howell, who led the NFL with 21 interceptions last year, and snagged Jayden Daniels with the second overall pick in the draft. The Commanders have had 12 starting quarterbacks since 2018, which is the highest total in the NFL in that span, and they're about to name a new Week 1 starting QB for the seventh consecutive season. Presuming Daniels gets the gig, though, this will be the first time in years Washington fans actually feel true hope (there's that word again!) at the game's most important position. In 2023, Daniels led the FBS with 4,946 total yards and won the Heisman Trophy. He threw for 40 touchdowns last year, with just four interceptions. And he added 10 rushing scores. Daniels is the first quarterback drafted by Washington with a top-10 pick since Robert Griffin III in 2012, and he's delivering the same type of excitement that RGIII did back then. I know a lot of fantasy people will be drafting him like they drafted Anthony Richardson last year. Hopefully, unlike Griffin and Richardson, Daniels enjoys a clean bill of health in Year 1.

Most important non-QB

Jonathan Allen
DT · Year 8

It's Allen for a couple of reasons. The Commanders allowed the most points per game (30.5), total yards per game (388.9) and passing yards per game (262.2) in the NFL in 2023. So Quinn and coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. have a lot of work to do with a defense that lost Chase Young and Montez Sweat at the trade deadline last year. Yes, the Commanders added up front, signing Dorance Armstrong, Dante Fowler Jr. and Clelin Ferrell and drafting Jer'Zhan Newton in Round 2. But the 29-year-old Allen is the only player on the roster who had at least five sacks for the team in 2023. He's either going to be the anchor of the defensive line -- or he's going to be another trade piece for a team still in rebuilding mode. The two-time Pro Bowler, who's racked up 22 sacks over the past three seasons, could fetch some intriguing draft capital. 

My HOTTEST Commanders fantasy take:

Keep setting me up with shares of Terry McLaurin.

McLaurin was kind of a disappointment in fantasy last year, but I'm blaming Sam Howell, not the receiver. Dude has had four straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards despite playing with a different primary starting quarterback each year. He's going to be the target leader for Jayden Daniels, so I'm continuing to buy in.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

  • Week 2: vs. New York Giants. The Commanders' home opener, against the hated Giants, will provide a nice barometer for two teams that have struggled in recent years.
  • Week 4: at Arizona Cardinals. The Kliff Kingsbury REVENGE GAME ... I guess? I do kind of wonder if Washington would have been better off holding on to Sam Howell, drafting receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (who went fourth overall to Arizona) and kicking the quarterback decision down the road for a year. I know most didn't agree with that approach. We can come back to this in a few seasons. I might just look foolish. (Not to mention, I just blamed Howell for Terry McLaurin's lack of production, so yeah ...)
  • Week 8: vs. Chicago Bears. I'm just letting you know, us Bears fans will be insufferable about this matchup between the first two overall picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. That's it. That's the statement. Things could be even worse for Washington if Caleb Williams has a great game and ex-Commander Montez Sweat has three sacks. (Bonus points if Jonathan Allen follows in Sweat's footsteps by being traded to the Bears this season.)

For 2024 to be a success, the Commanders MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: E) Show progress. This is the easiest one to call. It's great if a rebuilding team can become a surprise playoff power like the Texans did in 2023, but the Commanders shouldn't be upset if they don't do that. The most important piece of information Washington can come away with in 2024 is the answer to this question: Do they have a quarterback who can play? If the defense struggles but Daniels is out there lighting up the scoreboard, I'll consider that a pretty successful season.

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