Ron Rivera remains confident in his approach to building Commanders’ roster

Rivera confident in his approach to building Commanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

For the second straight season, the Washington Commanders/Football Team have been eliminated from playoff contention. For potentially the third consecutive year, the team could finish with seven wins if they were to lose to the 12-4 Dallas Cowboys in their final game of the campaign.

Head coach Ron Rivera doesn’t feel the need to change his approach to building the Commanders into a contender, though. In an interview with NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay, Rivera emphasized the role injuries played in Washington’s season and how the team has identified the way they have to play to be successful. 

“It’s just depth, you run out of depth,” Rivera said. “That’s what happens eventually. When corners get hurt, you start getting to your depth and you start having to use your depth…We played a lot of young guys, but that’s good for growth. If you can be successful playing young guys, you gotta sit there and say, ‘Wow, we are growing the right way.’”

According to Man Games Lost NFL, Washington was one of the 12 most injured teams in the league this season, which saw a constant revolving door along the offensive line, rookie defensive backs getting snaps, and virtually every other position affected to some degree. 

Some of those stories ended up being tremendous opportunities for players who otherwise wouldn’t see much action (see Jeremy Reaves earning his first Pro Bowl nod or Darrick Forrest emerging as one of the Commanders’ most energetic safeties). But for the most part, injuries decimated Washington’s playoff hopes.

Even with the Commanders on the cusp of a third-straight seven-win season under Rivera, the head coach still feels as though progress was made in 2022.

“I’m looking at [things] differently, but I still feel like we made a jump,” Rivera said. “I still feel we have identified what we can be.”

Rivera went into detail about different groups, starting with the defense, which has indeed played extremely well despite dealing with a slew of injuries the last six weeks.

“I like the way our skill positions have stepped up. I think our receiving core is solid and can be comparable to other teams in the league, led by Terry [McLaurin] and Curtis [Samuel] and Jahan [Dotson]. I like the development potential of our tight end group…I like our running back situation.”

To the casual fan, though, the most glaring issue plaguing Washington this year was the quarterback position. Carson Wentz underwhelmed during his brief tenure as a starter before he went down with a hand injury. Taylor Heinicke led the team to a 5-3-1 record in Wentz’s absence, but that was mostly due to stellar defensive play. Sam Howell will take the reins as the starter in a meaningless Week 18 game vs. Dallas, but that position still needs to be figured out before 2023.

“We gotta answer the one question. It was a question I was asked at the beginning of the year: What’s the difference? Well, the difference being the quarterback position,” Rivera said. “We have to answer that question again.”

Washington has been eliminated for the second time in three seasons under Ron Rivera. There could be a pending ownership change coming this offseason as well, which would complicate matters further. But as it stands, the Commanders will finish dead last in a stacked NFC East. Will Rivera consider changing the formula for building a roster heading into the spring?

“Not necessarily, just because if you can sustain the depth, if you can keep the right kind of guys around and can stay relatively healthy or be able to just replenish it, you can sustain it,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it happens. At the end of the year, the team that’s usually at the top, teams that are usually top two-three-four, are the guys that have the least [amount of] injuries. Go ahead and chart that. I promise you that’s what’s gonna come up.”

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