How Many Rookies Make The Roster?
The Washington Commanders opening day roster will contain several new faces when they take the field in September. The real question is, how many of those players will be rookies?
The answer to that and many other questions will likely come by the end of the preseason. Until then, let’s take a look at what we do know.
With eight drafted players and 14 undrafted free agents, the Commanders have quite a collection of first-year talent currently on the 90-man roster.
Of those 22 rookies, six stand out above the rest as locks to make the final 53-man roster. Receiver Jahan Dotson, DT Phidarian Mathis, RB Brian Robinson, QB Sam Howell, TE Cole Turner, and safety Percy Butler.
Jahan Dotson appears to be a systematic fit as well as a pass-catching machine. During his time at Penn State, he routinely made circus-act one-handed catches while clearly being the program’s best weapon. With Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel already on the roster, it’ll be interesting to see where Dotson lines up.
Phidarian Mathis will be joining two players in the defensive line room from the same program he just left at Alabama in Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. These three are already aware of each other and together should form a tough rotation on the defensive line. Mathis is more of a nose tackle meant for a 3-4 when the defensive shifts that direction, but can play in four-man fronts as well.
Brian Robinson could unseat Antonio Gibson as the primary ball carrier in 2022, especially if Gibson continues with his fumbling issues. Robinson is more of a prototypical power back who can do real damage in-between the tackles. His role will likely be as the team’s short-yardage/goal-line option.
While the team might not have a role for Sam Howell as of yet, rest assured he’ll make the roster even if he isn’t allowed to threaten for a backup spot. Howell had the best arm of any of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but is coming from an air raid offense and will need some time to catch up to the playbook.
Tight End Cole Turner is the wildcard in this talented group of rookies. His wide catch radius along with sneaky speed will make him a vertical threat opposing teams will have to gameplan for. Turner still has a long way to go in terms of blocking but could find himself in the rotation, especially if starter Logan Thomas starts the year on the Physically Unable to Perform list (PUP).
The last roster lock among the rookies is defensive back Percy Butler, who Commanders coach Ron Rivera spoke very highly of after the draft. “He’ll be part of our buffalo and nickel packages,” Rivera said. “He’ll get an opportunity to play the nickel position. And when we go to big nickel, he could end up as the safety, or he could end up as the big nickel.”
The idea is that Butler could be used as a nickel corner, and in possible dime situations as well as safety. His position versatility is something Rivera has fallen in love with.
The Rest Of The Rookies
The rest of the drafted Commanders rookies includes guard Chris Paul, and cornerback Christain Holmes. Ultimately, both Paul and Holmes will probably make the team, but they’re in for some competition from the rest of the current roster.
In Paul’s case, he’s got Wes Schweitzer, Trai Turner, and Andrew Norwell to compete with among others.
Holmes is in a room that already includes William Jackson III, Kendall Fuller, Benjamin St-Juste, Corn Elder, and Danny Johnson.
The Commanders signed more undrafted rookies this year than ever before during Ron Rivera’s tenure. Among the group, Sam Houston receiver/returner Jequez Ezzard, Arizona State TE Curtis Hodge, and Ohio University TE Armani Rogers should make the biggest push for roster spots.
For Hodge and Rogers, starting on the practice squad could be a real thing with the team already having four viable options ahead of them on the depth chart. Rogers could very well be the next Logan Thomas as he makes his transition from tight end to quarterback.
The rest of the undrafted rookies are listed below:
Virginia S Devante Cross
California CB Josh Drayden
Louisiana-Lafayette LB Ferrod Gardner
SE Lousiana QB Cole Kelley
Georgia Tech WR Kyric McGowan
Oklahoma OT Tyrese Robinson
Idaho LB Tre Walker
Michigan State DE Jacub Panasiuk
Notre Dame LB Drew White