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Commanders veterans brace for possibility of another offseason of change

Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) cannot catch a pass while being defended by Miami Dolphins safety Brandon Jones, left, and safety DeShon Elliott (21) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) cannot catch a pass while being defended by Miami Dolphins safety Brandon Jones, left, and safety DeShon Elliott (21) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Since being drafted in 2017, Jonathan Allen has played for three different coaches, while representing three different team names, all in Washington.

At 4-9, more change is possible after the season for the Commanders. Entering the bye week, Allen said in a radio interview he is considering asking to be traded to a contender instead of enduring another cycle of rebuilding.

“At the end of the day, I just want to be competitive, and I want to compete,” he said Wednesday. “And I think we can do that here. I really do. Like I said, my goal is to win, and I’m gonna do everything in my power to put myself in a position to help an organization do that, and help this organization do it.”

After some rest and relaxation in Florida during the bye week, Allen said he’s committed to finishing out the season strong, and that motivation won’t be an issue for the defense, last in the league in points allowed, over the season’s final four weeks.

While making the playoffs is unlikely, individual goals remain up for grabs for several members of the Commanders, especially those with expiring contracts.

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“For a lot of guys in the locker room, a lot of them are playing for the fame, a lot of them are playing for money, so it really just depends,” he said. “But for me, besides competing to win, I’m playing for the legacy, and the name on the back of my jersey.”

Receiver Terry McLaurin has also played for all three coaches (Jay Gruden, Bill Callahan and Ron Rivera), and all three team names (including the interim “Washington Football Team”).

With only 694 receiving yards this season, he’s in danger of missing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since his rookie season in 2019.

Still, his veteran leadership has been lauded by young Commanders players, including quarterback Sam Howell.

They said McLaurin has voiced his concerns and frustrations, but in a tactful way that shows a commitment to the team.

“I think the way he’s handled it, the way he’s been just so professional ever since I’ve been here about everything, just the way he goes about his life and just how he handles things on the field, off the field, it’s exactly what you want,” Howell said.

"He has a right to be frustrated. You want people to be frustrated when they’re not getting the ball as much as they should be getting the ball. That’s what you want from those good players, those good receivers."

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With a new ownership group in Washington, led by Josh Harris, Allen and McLaurin would represent potential value to a new regime looking to stockpile draft picks, just as pass rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat were dealt at the trade deadline.

McLaurin said he doesn’t want to focus on the future until that time comes, and like Allen, he sees no shortage of desire to finish strong in an otherwise forgettable season.

“I’ve been through it before,” said McLaurin, who was a part of a 3-13 season in 2019. “You just handle it as it comes. But right now we look forward to having these last four games of the season, enjoying this team we’ve got, enjoying the guys we have around here. Because we do have a really good group. I’ve enjoyed playing with these guys. So we’re gonna go out there and try to win these games as we finish up.”

One player who may have an additional showcase opportunity down the stretch is running back Antonio Gibson. He had been splitting carries with Brian Robinson Jr., but Robinson missed Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury.

Gibson is on the final season of his rookie contract. He said even as the season has slipped away, he hasn’t seen a decline in practice habits.

“Regardless of how it’s going and how it went, we put in the work,” Gibson said. “We come here, day in and day out. We’re away from family a lot. We spend a lot of time with each other. I’d just say finish strong, you know, fight for yourself. For pride. Not giving up these last four weeks, and going out there and putting some good stuff on film.”

The final stretch starts Sunday with a road game against the Los Angeles Rams, then includes back-to-back matchups against dominant defenses, the Jets and the 49ers.

That’s bad news for a potential turnaround for a team not officially eliminated from the playoffs, but potentially good news for draft position. Entering Week 15, Washington holds the No. 4 overall selection.

Inside the team’s Ashburn facility, there was an acknowledgement on Wednesday that the focus now shifts to individuals playing for their own futures, instead of the initial team goal of a playoff appearance.

“Everybody’s got something to gain, whether it’s the coaches, whether it’s the players, we all have something personal to accomplish, whether you’re a rookie trying to make it or you’re an old guy still trying to get it done,” said tight end Logan Thomas. "So for us, you take that approach, you play for the man next to you, and all those things will fall into place."

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