The Commanders offense struggled in several moments throughout their Sunday night matchup against the New York Giants. But it wasn't all bad, as we know. Their run game showed promise, and their pass game had spurts of explosiveness.
Before we transition to the San Francisco 49ers, here are some of the good and bad from Washington's offense against New York.
Brian Robinson's growth has developed the offense.
The Commanders come out in 12 personnel (1 RB / 2 TE), aligning receiver Curtis Samuel in the backfield with RB Brian Robinson. Curtis Samuel's versatility in this offense is a threat to every defense Washington plays, and he was a key focus for the Giants on the night. Washington runs Counter, and at the snap, the Commanders use Samuel as eye candy to move the second-level defenders out of the playside gap. RG Andrew Norwell does a good job pulling and kicking out the Giants edge defender, while Logan Thomas serves as Robinson's lead blocker. The successful double team from Trai Turner and Cornelius Lucas drives the Giants 3-tech defender off the ball, and Brian Robinson's power takes over from there.
Washington calls Duo for Robinson on this play. Andrew Norwell and Wes Schweitzer and Charles Leno Jr, and John Bates are involved in double teams up front. Leno and Schweizter establish good positioning at the point of attack, allowing them to climb or take on declaring second-level defenders. Robinson makes the correct read (albeit the hole is huge) and displays good explosion getting to the second level and good balance being able to keep his feet and maintain a vertical track. His pad level and power allow him to gain yards after contact.
On this power run, similar to the Counter previously discussed, Washington utilizes 12 personnel again, but both tight ends are now split instead of aligning on the same side. Bates and Lucas execute a good double team on the Giants 4-tech defender, allowing Bates to take a good angle on the second-level linebacker, but cannot get a clean block on him. Once again, Robinson's power and leg drive create an additional five yards for the offense.
Robinson's playmaking ability is on full display in this rep. The Giants initially shut down the Commanders zone run. However, Robinson makes an instinctive play after the Giants cut off the sideline. Using good vision and quick feet in the open field, he makes a two-yard loss into a five-yard gain, shaking Landon Collins in the process. The most effective part of the run was how he used his eyes in open space. Robinson did not tell the defenders where his cuts were through his eyes, signs of a player becoming more and more comfortable as an NFL running back.
Because Brian Robinson has come into the league known for his power and contact balance, his speed quickly became an underrated aspect of his game. His speed is not elite; however, he does possess homerun potential, making him a threat on any given carry. Robinson takes this zone run and displays very good acceleration and foot speed to turn the corner for a 19-yard pickup.
Jahan Dotson is developing trust with Heinicke as he shines bright on Sunday night.
Washington's play-action was most effective throughout the night in their 12 personnel packages (refer to some Robinson runs above). Washington calls a Play-action deep shot on a three-man route. Heinicke manipulates the Giants Single-high Safety with eyes before rotating back to Dotson's Post, which helps create the space to make the throw. Heinicke delivers with good accuracy and timing within the route. Dotson has good acceleration and route tempo to close cushion and an effective double move at the top of his route, defeating the cornerback's leverage. Dotson finishes the play with an excellent catch in traffic for the score.
Washington again takes another downfield shot off of play-action out of 12 personnel, connecting with Dotson on a big-time play. As Dotson sells a corner route, the Giants cornerback begins passing Dotson off to the Safety, leaving Dotson in a 1-on-1 situation. While some social media controversy has suggested that this should have been a touchdown, Dotson didn't have a step on the Safety. Heinicke allows Dotson to make it against the defender, and he delivers with an Elite contested adjustment reeling in the pass with one hand.
There is plenty of potential in Washington's play-action pass game.
Play 37 and 38 were more play-action shots out of 12 personnel, and play 41 was a new wrinkle as Scott Turner knew that Washington had the Giants defense on the ropes. From 11 personnel, the Commanders utilized a split-back formation with Antonio Gibson and Curtis Samuel on opposite sides of Taylor Heinicke. The Commanders use Samuel in a play-action look which quickly freezes the second-level defender on the weak side. That freeze allows the Commanders offensive linemen to get out in space and create a tunnel for Terry McLaurin to run through. McLaurin's explosion, foot speed, and vision took over after the catch, and he had a very good chance of scoring had he been able to split the defenders.
Missed Opportunities cause Washington a chance to win.
On a drive that ended in a punt, Washington had a 1st and ten at the Giants 34-yard line. Washington aligns in a 3x1 formation out of 12 personnel on this play. On the three side, McLaurin runs a Post, Dotson a Corner, and Thomas chips and releases into the flat. The Giants are running a Cover Four defense, so McLaurin's Post takes the outside cornerback upfield and away from the sideline. With the cornerback away from the sideline, the slot cornerback is put in conflict, and Heinicke is left with two options. Dotson on the Corner or Thomas in the flat. While Thomas was open, Heinicke misread the cornerback, who chose to crash down on Thomas, leaving Dotson open downfield.
On the game's last drive, Washington had a touchdown opportunity to Curtis Samuel. Unfortunately, Heinicke delivered an inaccurate pass as Samuel had a free release down the sideline, forcing Samuel to settle for a toe-tap catch.
A few plays later, Heinicke had another opportunity to score on the last drive, taking matters into his own hands. However, Heinicke passed on a cutback opportunity that would have gotten him in the endzone. Instead, he chose a race to the pylon before tripping, trying to cut late when he recognized Kayvon Thibodeaux beat him to the spot.
On to San Francisco, but while we wait for kickoff, check out several other key moments from the Giants-Commanders game in the Trap or Dive film session.