Del Rio becomes latest from Commanders to commend Cole Holcomb


First, it was Ron Rivera. Then, it was Martin Mayhew. And now, it's Jack Del Rio.

After Washington's head coach and general manager both praised Cole Holcomb's performance in 2021 as well as his potential for 2022, the Commanders' defensive coordinator got in on the Holcomb hyping in a recent interview posted on the team's YouTube page.

"Last year, [Holcomb] took a huge step forward," Del Rio said. "He really played very well. In fact, a lot of the guys that are getting the pub around the league, he played as well or better than."

With free agency and the NFL Draft complete, the time for roster construction is largely over. Yes, there are veterans that are still available to sign, and there's always the chance that others join that list in the coming months, yet the bulk of the building is done.

One place that Washington conspicuously has yet to address is middle linebacker, which was a glaring weakness on an overall weak unit a season ago. Ever since Rivera arrived, actually, he's been searching for a three-down, skilled solution there.

But as the disappointment over the club's total performance on that side of the ball has faded, the Commanders' compliments of Holcomb have increased.

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"We've had a real good evaluation of our personnel," Rivera said in March. "One of the things we did talk about was Cole and Cole's development, how it's going. I feel really good about what he's done." 

"We feel like Cole Holcomb has a chance to go in there and play Mike for us, so there's not a tremendous urgency to go and do something right there," Mayhew, also in March, explained.

At first, the lauding of Holcomb felt like a way for the franchise to point to him as their guy in the middle all along in the event that the team couldn't identify a superior alternative.

Now, though, it sure sounds like Rivera, Mayhew and Del Rio are treating him as a serious candidate to start at Mike, a complicated gig he manned for the majority of 2021 and "grew in," according to Mayhew.

On Friday, however, Rivera did say in a press conference he'd like to "be a bit deeper" at linebacker and, preferably, do so by finding a "veteran-type" with experience.

There are a few Rivera could pick up, and if he can grab one with the chops for the middle, that would allow Holcomb and last year's first-rounder Jamin Davis to line up at the pair of outside positions.

Yet the belief in Holcomb does appear to be legitimate, and with each week that passes without the acquisition of another linebacker, the likelihood of him emerging as the Week 1 Mike become more so, too.

"Don't sleep on Cole Holcomb," Del Rio said. "He's a pretty good football player."

Del Rio also presented an assessment of Davis' debut campaign — one that lacked the enthusiasm he had for Holcomb's work.

"Jamin had a rough rookie year," Del Rio said. "It wasn't a great rookie year. But the amazing thing, when you go back and look at it, if you take like 30 splash plays out of the year, it's like, 'Oh my god. This guy's a great player.'

"What we need from Jamin is more consistency," Del Rio continued. "And I think you'll see that growth in his second year. Things will settle down a little bit for him and you see a little more of that athletic ability come to the forefront."

It's unrealistic to expect an organization to shore up every piece of its depth chart with new names each offseason, meaning at some spots the in-house options must contribute more than they did previously.

Barring a sudden change, the Commanders will be leaning on Holcomb and Davis to lead a linebacking resurgence in the fall and winter. They'll come across as brilliant or bullheaded for doing so.