Jayden Daniels [608x342]
Jayden Daniels [608x342] (Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Commanders don't want to rely on rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels' legs to protect him next season. But they might not have a choice.

Building a wall around the No. 2 overall pick has been a priority this offseason. But while they added two new starters via free agency, the Commanders still haven't settled on a left tackle to safeguard the elusive quarterback's blind side.

Last season, under a different coaching staff and front office, Washington first-year starting quarterback Sam Howell was sacked 65 times, smashing the previous franchise record of 49. After changing starters at four line spots in 2023, the Commanders have undergone more changes to their line in 2024. They will have three new starters -- at center, left guard and left tackle. But while the center is known (Tyler Biadasz) and the guard is likely known (Nick Allegretti), the competition at left tackle will continue into training camp.

As of now, the choices are veteran swing tackle Cornelius Lucas, third-round pick Brandon Coleman or Trent Scott, who has started 22 games over six NFL seasons. Of Lucas' 47 career starts, 39 have come in the past five years. The Commanders did not sign a left tackle in free agency.

"At that position specifically it's going to take more time," Quinn said.

The team will get a better feel for what each can do during training camp, once the players are in pads. Until then, the plan is to rotate them with the starting group.

"It's still a little early to say how confident we are in anything," offensive line coach Bobby Johnson said. "I'm pleased with the progress they've made. At this point, I don't see any red flags that give me pause. But once again, it's still early."

While they are unsure of who will start at left tackle, Washington's coaches do know the threat of Daniels' legs provides a bonus to the offense as a whole.

"It can help tremendously," said run game coordinator Anthony Lynn. "You have a quarterback that can create and move a little bit. You don't have to have [perennial Pro Bowl tackle] Trent Williams when you have a quarterback that can do that a little bit so that we can move the pocket, change the launch point."

En route to winning the Heisman trophy last season, Daniels averaged an NCAA-best 8.4 yards per carry on 135 carries -- 77 coming off scrambles.

"It becomes an eraser of sorts where whether it's because we identified it wrong or we missed a block or the quarterback took too long with the ball," quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard said. "When you have a guy that can get you out of trouble, it makes all the difference in the world. That's a big part of how we think about attacking people."

The Commanders also hope that Biadasz's addition provides a big boost. He started the past three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and will help Daniels with making protection calls.

"Exactly the type of guy you want in the middle of your line; very intellectual guy, gets everyone going on the right page and truly is another secondary voice from the head man," Commanders guard Andrew Wylie said. "He commands a lot of respect in the offense."

The coaches have also said they will emphasize the run this season. Last season, Washington ran the ball an NFL-low 359 times (298 by running backs).

"It only helps out the pass game when the run game is effective," Wylie said. "There's nothing that tells me there won't be a healthy balance this year."

But at some point they'll need to know the starting left tackle. Lucas has started 16 games at left tackle for Washington the past three years, filling in when previous starter Charles Leno Jr. was injured.

Johnson was an assistant offensive line coach in Detroit when Lucas signed there as an undrafted free agent in 2014.

"He kind of defied the odds of being an undrafted rookie," Johnson said. "I don't know that he was ever asked to compete for a job. I don't know. But I know that's the opportunity that we were looking for somebody to fill that role to compete. He was eager for that opportunity."

Then they drafted Coleman in the third round. Coleman (6-foot-4½, 320 pounds) played a variety of spots at TCU. And though there was debate by analysts and scouts about whether his best spot in the NFL is guard or tackle, Washington wants to try him at tackle first.

His arm length ranked ninth among tackles at the NFL combine, and his basketball days helped develop his footwork. The Commanders hope it results in a starting left tackle.

"He's got the feet, he's got the speed, he's got the strength, and he's got the intelligence and he's got the right mindset," general manager Adam Peters said last month.

It's also possible that, in August, another tackle becomes available who also can compete for the job -- at a time when Washington will have a better idea of what its line might look like and when (or if) Coleman might ascend to a starting role. For now, this is the group they have.

"We've got a long time," Quinn said. "[We're] in the beginning of it."