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Commanders Vs. Panthers (Preseason Game One) - Studs and Duds

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Commanders donned their new uniforms for the first time in a semi-official capacity in front of fans at Fed Ex Field - and JEEZ, did those white digs look fresh!

In other news, Washington fell 23-21 at the hands of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and company to kick off their three game preseason slate. Although the loss in and of itself wasn’t particularly concerning, some of the issues we have seen over the past few seasons were.

Antonio Gibson CONTINUES to put the football on the ground (he led the league in fumbles in 2021), the defense continued to give up third down conversions and the linebacking corps continues to struggle.

There were some very bright spots however, including impressive play from rookie quarterback Sam Howell, interior pressure from Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Phil Mathis and others, and some youngsters in the secondary who opened some eyes.

Below are my Studs and Duds, followed by some notes.


Brian Robinson - The rookie third rounder looked the part in limited action, gaining 26 yards on six carries and scoring a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 15 yards. Most importantly, he didn’t fumble. Gibson SHOULD be looking over his shoulder - especially if he continues to put the ball on the ground, as this talented back possesses legit NFL skills.

Sam Howell - Howell was the third quarterback to enter the game, but he made the biggest impact on it. He showed a strong arm (the ball just explodes off his hand), good pocket awareness, solid accuracy and sneaky mobility (however, those who saw him play at UNC will tell you all about this). He led all passers with 145 yards, scored two rushing touchdowns and hit Erickson for a two-point conversion.

Darrick Forrest - The second-year safety looked good in limited action. There were times when he, Curl and McCain were on the field together, and that trio appeared to communicate and preform well.

Steven Parker - The 6’1” 210 pound safety looked the part and played the part. He flashed his athleticism with a few really nice tackles and had two passes defended. He may be a long-shot to make the team, but performances like todays wont hurt his cause.


Antonio Gibson - Yeah, the fumble was pretty bad. Folks are going to say - well, it’s only the preseason, but when you led the league in fumbles last season, all eyes will be on you. On the afternoon, Gibson carried four times for two yards, and hauled in one pass for two yards.

Danny Johnson - Johnson was getting picked on in the second quarter at left outside corner. He was credited with four tackles, but I think they were all on intermediate completions that happened in front of him in coverage; three of which I believe were for first downs.

Taylor Heinicke - Heinicke completed just four of his nine attempts for 21 yards and threw an interception. To his defense, he was hit on the arm as he released the pass, but to his detriment, that happened because he, yet again, refused to step up in the pocket. He was very erratic missing a few guys high and throwing a ball that could have gotten Dyami Brown hurt.

Rashod Hill - Who? may be asking. Hill was the backup left tackle who played most of the game. The former Viking looked very bad, getting blown up on a few occasions, and being hit with two penalties.


- Carson Wentz did some nice things, including taking some of the shorter throws the Panthers’ defense gave him. The ball he absolutely ripped to McLaurin was a thing of beauty. He just missed Dotson in the corner which I believe will be a ball you see him routinely complete during the regular season.

- Rookie Phidarian Mathis flashed on a few plays showing his power and aggression. He moves pretty well for such a big man.

- Both James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill showed the ability to bend the edge and get pressure. Toohill looks fast coming around the corner.

- Speaking of EDGE rushers, Shaka Toney, going against the Panthers third and fourth string guys, was fairly neutralized. On one rush later in the game, he was pushed completely around the backside of the quarterback and literally kept going completing a 180 degree large arch.

- As you all know, we have MAJOR problems at linebacker behind our starting two. Neither Holcomb nor Davis did anything to stand out, although neither committed any egregious mistakes. However, the reserves, aside from the big hit by Eifler, looked extremely pedestrian.

- Percy Butler showed some nice burst and hitting ability. He should have had an interception. He’ll be one to watch over the next two games.

- Dax Milne looks like a valuable fifth/sixth wide receiver/return man.

- Jeremy Reaves needs to be more disciplined. His illegal contact penalty on what should have went down as a sack, was pretty bad. He did however have some bright moments - including a nice sack on a blitz.