- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 18, 2022

ASHBURN — Washington Commanders linebacker Nathan Gerry did something Thursday that he hadn’t done since high school: He practiced as a tight end. 

No, Gerry is not switching positions. Rather, the move reflected just how thin the Commanders currently are at tight end. Washington had just two of its normal players — Armani Rogers and Eli Wolf — available at the position as Logan Thomas (ACL), John Bates (calf), Cole Turner (hamstring), Curtis Hodges (unknown), Sammis Reyes (injured reserve) and Alex Armah (injured reserve) are all out. 

Rogers, by the way, is an undrafted free agent who played quarterback in college. Wolf signed last week.

“It’s a little bit scarier because now I have people coming for me rather than coming for them,” Gerry said. 

Tight end isn’t the only place Washington is thin. Coaches have had to get creative with the interior offensive line in recent days with the team’s top three options — guards Andrew Norwell, Trai Tuner and Wes Schweitzer — out. Starting center Chase Roullier, working his way back from a fractured leg, is also on a pitch count.

The injuries have left Ron Rivera and his staff scrambling ahead of Saturday’s preseason game at the Kansas City Chiefs. The coach said he would ideally like his starters to play an entire half, but injuries may prevent that.

“A lot of it has to do with the health of specific players,” Rivera said. “When we do certain things on the offensive side, it’s gonna impact how all the other guys play so hopefully we can stay healthy and get them in.”

The most obvious example of that impact is how the injuries upfront could affect quarterback Carson Wentz. The last thing Washington would want is for Wentz to get hurt after playing behind a patchwork offensive line.

Rivera was already furious over the contact that third-string quarterback Sam Howell took in practice earlier this week. While Howell wasn’t hurt, guard Aaron Montiero was tackled to the ground and rolled into the signal-caller — bringing the rookie down with him. After the session, Rivera laid into his team for around six minutes to urge them to play smarter. 

No one would blame Rivera if he wanted to avoid that same type of contact happening to Wentz, who has a checkered injury history. The 29-year-old played in every game last year, but knee, back and head injuries have cut past seasons short. 

Still, Rivera views the preseason as a valuable opportunity to prepare for real action. The Commanders played their starters into the second quarter last weekend against the Carolina Panthers, differing from other teams like the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers who take a more conservative approach. Wentz, getting used to a new offense, played 22 snaps against Carolina.

Teams generally increase the reps for the starters in the second preseason game, too. Last year, Washington had quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — remember him? — play 14 snaps in the team’s first preseason game before upping that number to 23 a week later.  (Despite the action, Fitzpatrick got hurt in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season with a hip injury)

Washington’s starters did not play in the third week of the preseason, and it won’t be a surprise if the team takes a similar approach this year. That means this weekend will likely serve as a dress rehearsal for the Burgundy and Gold — only it could depend on how many players dress.

“Ideally, I’d like to play them the whole half,” Rivera said. “I really would, but I don’t know if we can get that done with some of the soft tissue injuries we’ve had to deal with.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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