32 NFL Teams in 32 Days: The Commanders Are More Stable Than They’ve Been in Years

Washington has a new owner, new coach and new quarterback. The team will hope to finally have new results as the Jayden Daniels era begins.
Daniels (center) and his fellow quarterbacks go through drills at OTAs
Daniels (center) and his fellow quarterbacks go through drills at OTAs / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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Welcome to 32 teams in 32 days. To get us through the offseason, we’ll be taking a closer look at every team in the NFL, in order of projected 2024 win totals. Up next: the Commanders.

For decades, the Washington Commanders have been an afterthought.

In 24 seasons under the leadership of former owner Dan Snyder, the Commanders had more monikers (three) than playoff victories (two). However, a new day dawned last year with Snyder selling to Josh Harris, who already owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.

With Harris in charge, Washington has been making smart decisions. The hiring of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters put in place a quality brain trust, while free agency saw a litany of measured signings. Then the draft brought Jayden Daniels from LSU with the No. 2 pick.

Washington is far from a Super Bowl contender, but for the first time in a quarter century, it’s being run like a real organization.

Biggest gamble this offseason: Drafting Daniels over Drake Maye

This may prove one of the best moves in franchise history. It could also go the other way.

For the better part of a year, most everyone believed Maye would go No. 2 behind Caleb Williams. Instead, it was Daniels, who won the Heisman Trophy with LSU after accounting for 50 total touchdowns.

For Peters, it’s a career-defining decision. If he’s right and Daniels proves to be a star, he’ll have a job for the next 15 years in Washington. If he’s wrong, though, Peters will be fighting uphill in an effort to build a contender. 

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 3 to 6

Washington will be challenged early. The Commanders have a rough stretch ending September and beginning October, starting with a Monday-nighter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium.

Afterward, the team will head right back out on the road, traveling cross country to take on the Arizona Cardinals, despite being on short rest. From there, the Commanders will come back to the nation’s capital for a date with the Cleveland Browns, before heading up the corridor for a tilt with the Baltimore Ravens.

If Washington can manage to split those four games, it should be seen as a major victory.

Breakout player to watch: DE Dorance Armstrong

Armstrong might be in position to shine after playing solid football for the past six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. 

Now with the Commanders to stay with Quinn, his former DC, Armstrong will be on a talented front alongside defensive tackles Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Over the past two seasons, Armstrong has posted 16 total sacks. However, the 27-year-old has never reached true stardom, something that’s on the table in 2024. 

As Washington’s best edge rusher, look for Armstrong to blow by his previous season high of snaps, which topped out at 56% in Dallas. And with the increased playing time, he should be a Pro Bowl–caliber player. 

Best-case scenario: Daniels is electrifying and the free-agent moves work out

Few teams were more active in free agency, and yet it can be argued Washington wasn’t overly aggressive.

The Commanders spent, but did so cautiously, eschewing big contracts for a host of mid-level deals including the signings of Armstrong, safety Jeremy Chinn, guard Nick Allegretti, center Tyler Biadasz, running back Austin Ekeler, linebackers Frankie Luvu and Bobby Wagner, and tight end Zach Ertz. 

While none of those acquisitions are billboard-worthy, they combine to raise Washington’s floor. Enter Daniels, who is charged with raising the ceiling. 

If Daniels can have an immediate impact on the offense, the Commanders could be a surprise playoff team in the NFC.

Worst-case scenario: Offensive lines woes and a rookie QB sink the team

Washington did plenty to upgrade the defense this offseason, but the main offensive addition was Daniels. Fair enough, but what happens if Daniels plays like a typical rookie with a bad front wall?

The Commanders signed Allegretti and Biadasz as quality interior pieces, but there are real questions about left tackle Brandon Coleman and a right side featuring Sam Cosmi and Andrew Wylie.

If that trio doesn’t hold up, Washington could watch Daniels scrambling for his proverbial life, while the defense is forced to keep opponents under 20 points every game. In 2024, that’s almost impossible without significant possession time.

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

No. 23: Quinn (17) and Daniels (29)

Quinn gets his second chance as a head coach. The first time, he oversaw the Atlanta Falcons for six years, posting a 43–42 record including a 2016 Super Bowl trip in which the Falcons famously surrendered a 28–3 lead to the New England Patriots and lost in overtime. He now pairs with Daniels, the No. 2 pick who took home the Heisman Trophy at LSU last year.

Fantasy sleeper pick: Daniels

I love quarterbacks who can run, so it’s fitting that I have Daniels listed among my top fantasy breakout candidates this season. Daniels rushed for over 2,000 combined yards and 21 touchdowns in his final two years at LSU. He also completed over 72% of his passes in his final collegiate season, so Daniels isn’t a one-trick pony. Like Robert Griffin III before him, Daniels could become a top-10 asset in Year 1. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet: Daniels OROY (+600) at DraftKings

There are two rookie QBs who should start for their teams on Day 1: Caleb Williams and Daniels, and a quarterback has taken home the award in three of the past five seasons.  Williams is the front-runner for a reason, but this payout is attractive for Daniels, who could be a surprise surrounded by a solid supporting cast that includes talented wideouts Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, as well as Ekeler. —Jennifer Piacenti 

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is a staff writer for Sports Illustrated covering the NFL. Before joining SI in March 2023, he wrote for wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Verderame is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.