The Commanders’ offensive supporting cast is no longer a barren bunch

Commanders' offensive supporting cast is no longer a barren bunch originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Commanders have, very clearly, endured a wild ride at quarterback since Ron Rivera took over. It hasn’t been one of those fun, exhilarating wild rides, either. Instead, it’s been an experience that can’t end soon enough.

However, Washington’s depth at the skill positions dating back to 2020 also haven’t been all that pleasant. Terry McLaurin, of course, has consistently delivered for Rivera, while others like Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic and Logan Thomas have contributed, too. 

Now, while the franchise is anxious to see if Carson Wentz will prove to be the right call at signal caller, it feels like what’s been assembled at wideout, running back and tight end will truly be an upgrade. The former is dicey, but the latter is definitely realistic. 

“I think we got some guys that can make some plays and I’m excited to see them go out and show that,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Thursday.

Gone are names like Dontrelle Inman, Isaiah Wright, Adam Humphries, Peyton Barber and Ricky Seals-Jones. Those players did chip in here and there for Rivera and Turner in the past, but that was more because their sections of the depth chart were lacking as opposed to them being high-priority options. 

Fortunately, heading into 2022, the stalwarts like McLaurin and Gibson actually have help. Potentially lots of it.

At receiver, first-round pick Jahan Dotson seems prepared to hold his own. Then there’s Curtis Samuel, who’s aching to ball out and not literally aching anymore. McLaurin no longer appears to be the lone reputable outside target.

In the backfield, Gibson and McKissic will hopefully be joined by Brian Robinson Jr. in the near future; the rookie was on track to be the group’s starter before being shot in an attempted robbery. Yet Gibson, McKissic and Jonathan Williams figure to be a solid trio as Robinson Jr. continues to heal. 

Lastly, at tight end, Thomas is backed up by John Bates, Cole Turner and Armani Rogers, with the final two possessing intriguing pass-catching potential. In 2020, Thomas was responsible for a ridiculous 72 of the 75 receptions that came from the position. He shouldn’t be so alone this time around.

So, finally, with this club — and yes, this is all entirely dependent on health and a few youngsters developing, two factors that are always unstable in the NFL — there’s a legitimate question about whether there’ll be enough touches to go around.

Unsurprisingly, that makes the man in charge of the offense quite happy.

“Balance isn’t just run and pass,” Turner said. “Balance is being able to spread the ball to your eligible players, and I think we’re working toward a situation where the ball can get spread out and that’s when you can really be dangerous and effective on offense, is when the ball’s going to everybody.”

“We definitely have a very diverse group, definitely a lot of guys who can make plays,” McLaurin said about his bunch in particular. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we all mesh together and see who’s able to make the plays we need to to win the games.”

Again, stating that a crew that scored 19.7 points per contest in 2021 (which was the 23rd-best mark in the league) is suddenly drowning in studs is an argument that might be majorly mocked by, say, Week 6. Still, is Turner stressed about needing to keep all members of the operation involved?

Based on the personality of his offense, no, not at all.

“They’re all eager and hungry,” Turner said. “Of course they want the ball, they’re competitors. But they want to win.”

Williams echoed that in terms of the running backs’ situation.

“Everybody’s ready to do what’s asked of them and whoever’s out on the field, we’re rooting for that guy,” he said. “There’s no selfishness.”

Now, what separates Washington’s current attack from the sport’s truly elite is that it’s rather fragile. This story’s excitement does have its limits, after all.

There’s no Aaron Rodgers under center who can turn a desk chair into a 50-catch threat, and if Samuel’s injury issues resurface or Thomas isn’t the same off of his torn ACL or Gibson has additional struggles with fumbling, then the Commanders likely won’t reach their ceiling.

Even so, the skill spots for Rivera and Turner, at long last, feature plenty of skill. If Wentz is merely a capable quarterback, then Washington will be more familiar with the end zone than it has been in years.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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