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Commanders fans give Terry & Carson a thumbs up, but are pessimistic about Sunday vs. the Eagles

We’ve got poll results!!

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Washington Commanders Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington football fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in regular email surveys.

In this week’s Reacts survey, Hogs Haven went hog wild by asking fans to answer 4 questions.

The best wide receiver

Let’s start with the question about receivers.

This week, offensive coordinator Scott Turner was asked about some of his players. Here’s what he had to say about Curtis Samuel:

Curtis can do a lot of different things as you guys have seen. He also brings energy, so [it’s] not just a schematic deal, but just having another guy that’s going to go out there and make a bunch of plays. You can see he’s been getting the ball quite a bit. Some of that’s by design and some of that’s just kind of how it’s ended up — how the plays ended up in the progression. But Curtis is a very good player, very smart player. I’ve said that to you before. And it’s a big help to us to have him back.

Samuel was explosive on the field early against the Jaguars in Week 1, with Washington fans really getting their first look at him in a burgundy & gold uniform showing why the team went out and signed him in the ‘21 offeseason. He had 8 receptions in that opening game, and another 7 against the Lions in Week 2. He has scored a touchdown in each game — in fact he was the first player to score a regular season touchdown in a Commanders uniform — and he ranks 11th in the NFL in yards after catch. If it weren’t for running out of room on the field and running into that pesky end zone twice, he might even rank higher.

Washington Commanders v Detroit Lions Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Rookie Jahan Dotson won Offensive Rookie of the Week honors for Week 1 when he scored two touchdowns in his first-ever game as a professional. He followed that performance up with another TD in Week 2. Here’s what his offensive coordinator had to say about him on Thursday:

[Jahan has] really good balance and body control that enables him to get in and out of things. He is a young player ,so he has to learn to always play fast all the time. But you know the best way [to] describe him is that he is always under control, and I think that’s why you’ve seen him make those adjustments that he’s made with catching ball. Obviously, he has great hands, but because he plays with such a good control, he can make adjustments. When you’re flying, it’s harder to do those types of things, but he’s got balance and quickness and he’s definitely a very good route runner — and he is only going to get better. You know, he’s only played two games.

Dotson has caught 70% of his targets while averaging 14.1 yards per reception and a touchdown on about every other pass that he catches. Not a bad start to what looks like a promising career for a young man that most observers said was ‘overdrafted’ by Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew.

Still, the receiving corps in Washington seems to be led by Curtis’ Samuel’s former Ohio State teammate, roommate and best friend, 4th year receiver Terry McLaurin. The two of them (McLaurin and Samuel) are tied for 24th in the league in receiving yards. While Curtis has done it with relatively short receptions followed by lots of run-after-catch, Terry has done it downfield. Scary Terry is 3rd in the NFL in yards per reception, at 22.2, and he has the 15th longest reception in the NFL so far this season, at 49 yards.

Basically, Washington seems to be flush with talent at the wide receiver position. It’s early, but the performance of these three in their first two games together has many younger fans thinking about Garcon, Jackson & Crowder, and many older fans reminiscing about Monk, Clark and Sanders. Time will tell if those comparisons are warranted.

Commanders wide receivers through 2 games

We asked fans to say which of these 3 young players (McLaurin is the oldest at 27; Samuel has been in the league the longest, drafted in 2017) is the best.

While it is a hard question, the result was probably never going to be a surprise. Washington fans love them some Terry McLaurin!

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The Captain garnered 77% of the vote, which is pretty incredible when you consider the strength of the competition.

But the overwhelming support for Terry goes beyond statistics and speaks to who he has been for Washington fans in the three years (and a bit) that he’s been with the team. Amazingly, Terry McLaurin was drafted by the Redskins in their last-ever draft under that moniker, played both seasons that the team took the field in the Washington Football Team numbered helmets, and has now helped usher in the Commanders era. He played for Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan, and transitioned smoothly to the Ron Rivera regime. He was here for the final days of Bruce Allen, and has lived through the investigations (plural) of Dan Snyder and his organization, yet, just recently, he signed a 3-year contract extension to stay in Washington and continue helping to build the dream.

The best thing I can say about Dotson and Samuel is that they seem cut from the same cloth as McLaurin — thoughtful, passionate, hard working and talented. We seem to be blessed with a trio of receivers that will soon be the envy of every fan base in the NFL.

The Quarterback

As the 2021 season drew to a close, it was obvious that the team had to find a quarterback. For all his heart and gritty play, Taylor Heinicke was simply too limited to be “the man” long term.

In January and February, nothing occupied the minds of fans and the headlines of sports pages in Washington more than the question of who the quarterback would be in 2022. I won’t rehash the list of possibilities here, but I think it’s fair to say that only a handful of people had Carson Wentz at the top of their wish list.

The news that the team was committing to former Philadelphia Eagle Carson Wentz as the starting quarterback would have been difficult for a lot of Washington fans in any event, but the circumstances of the trade made it even less palatable. Washington sent a 2022 3rd round draft pick to the Colts that will probably be supplemented with a 2023 2nd round pick, and took on the entire remaining contracted salary for the 7th year quarterback — roughly $27m per year for three seasons. The feeling at the time was that the Colts were so desperate to move on from Wentz that any acquiring team could have gotten a deal on draft picks, or gotten the Colts to subsidize the 2022 salary, or both. It was widely believed that the team was ready to cut Wentz ahead of the new league year if Indy’s GM Chris Ballard couldn’t find a trade partner, meaning that some NFL team could have secured Wentz cheaply as a free agent, though obviously that team wouldn’t have had the same 100% certainty of getting Wentz that would have come with a trade.

The feeling among the fan base at the time the trade was announced was that, while Wentz may have been about as good as most other alternatives, he was much more expensive in terms of draft picks and salary; in other words, Ron Rivera had been more desperate than Chris Ballard, and had done a bad deal, overpaying just to be sure Washington wasn’t caught without a chair when the music stopped in the offseason game of quarterback musical chairs.

So Carson Wentz ended up in Washington where he was greeted by an uneasy fan base who were leery of their new starting signal caller. But then something happened.

An intriguing dynamic occurred from that point to the end of training camp. Colts owner Jim Irsay had been extremely vocal in his criticism of the veteran quarterback following the whimper-like end to the Colts’ 2021 season, standing in front of his private jet and laying the blame for the Colts’ failure on one man’s shoulders — Carson Wentz.

Throughout the offseason, and after the trade was announced, Irsay piled on. He took repeated opportunities to dump on Wentz and continue to scapegoat him.

NFL: JAN 09 Colts at Jaguars Photo by Icon Sportswire

Analysts and fans from around the NFL community laughed at the Commanders front office for committing to Wentz; the refrain was heard just about daily: There’s a reason he’s on his third team in three seasons (though that reason generally remained unspoken).

And, as “ranking season” arrived with preparations for fantasy football drafts, pundits were ranking Wentz, not in the bottom third of starting quarterbacks, but down in the 40s, behind multiple backup quarterbacks.

The cumulative effect of all the disrespect finally started to move the needle with Washington fans. It was one thing for us to grouse about the cost of the trade and bitch about Ron Rivera, but it was something else entirely to listen to the entire NFL community of fans and analysts criticize and laugh at the Commanders organization while repeatedly taking shots at the player. The thought started to ferment (or foment, depending on your interpretation of events): Dammit, that’s MY quarterback they’re laughing at!

Washington fans, even many who had been deeply opposed to the trade, started looking for reasons to argue against the critics — reasons to support Carson Wentz and expectations that he would perform well in 2022. Interestingly, after the Colts acquired Matt Ryan as Wentz’s replacement, this was also manifest as a somewhat gleeful pattern of taking shots at Ryan and rooting for him and the Colts to fail in 2023 — just to show everyone what an asshat Irsay is and how wrong he was about OUR QUARTERBACK.

And then the season started. The team has played two games, and Wentz’s play has been uneven.

Washington Commanders v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After he started Week 1 with two touchdowns, followed by back-to-back interceptions, followed by two more touchdowns to get the win, we heard all about how the Eagles fans and Colts fans had warned us about “the Carson Wentz Experience”. (Meanwhile, the Colts fans watched their team play to an unsatisfying tie that Irsay blamed on the kicker).

One week later, the entire team came out flat for the Week 2 game in Detroit; they looked shellshocked. Wentz seemed unprepared for the defense he was facing, and suffered several 3 & out drives en route to a 22-0 halftime deficit. However, he came out in the second half firing, and led the team to 4 touchdowns, including 3 passing scores. Fans were rightly critical of the horrible first half performance, but grudgingly admired the fight on display by the quarterback and the team in the second half, despite the loss.

Reader comment:

Last week the first half was squarely on Scott Turner and his game plan, IMHO. He did Wentz and the offense no favors until late 2nd quarter when he finally adjusted the plan and play calls for Detroit’s defensive plan.

Reader comment:

I think Wentz has played on par with his expectations. He seems to be a top 10-15 QB on any given Sunday who, has the potential to be in a top 5 discussion, if he were to ever put it all together. With Wentz, as it is with most QBs, time will ultimately be the telling factor, since consistency is all that he really lacked. Is he perfect? Nah, nope and not even close. He’s gotten in trouble staring down receivers, not going through his reads and he is still holding onto the ball too long. These are things he has to fix. However, I think his overall play is fine and is a huge step in the right direction for the Team.

For me the real gripes are with the coaching. I can sum up my angst with this: Scott for the love of god why didn’t you attack the damn LBs in the first half when they were obviously teeing off on the run? Curtis Samuel was gashing the shizzle out of them. We watched the human hibachi go out and eat, whenever, whatever and wherever he wanted, all day. The triple threat is real. This group of WO are gonna be fun to watch, each and every game.

So, this week, we at Hogs Haven wondered how fans are feeling about “the Carson Wentz Experience”. We asked readers to give Wentz a grade.

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The results of the survey question about Carson Wentz are encouraging if not unconditional. Of the Hogs Haven readers who responded to the survey, 82% gave Carson Wentz an A or B, while only 3% graded him below a C.

It seems as if fans, based on the first two games, are feeling reasonably positive about the new quarterback. Certainly, there’s plenty of blame to go around for this week’s loss to the Lions. The team looked unprepared in all three phases of the game in the first half, with the special teams returner making bad decisions, the coverage team giving up big returns, and (in the 2nd half) the kicker missing an extra point and then pushing an onside kick only 5 yards, while the defense surrendered 420 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 34 points. It’s hard to lay too much blame at the feet of Wentz, who threw for over 300 yards on the day, with 3 TDs and 1 INT.

When compared to the other starting quarterbacks in the league, Wentz is shining statistically. He is tied for 1st in touchdowns (7) with Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa, and is 2nd in passing yards (650) behind Tua. Carson’s 100.3 passer rating is 8th in the league through the first two weeks of the season, and, while fans are disappointed to have lost the Lions game, only 6 teams in the NFL are 2-0, though, unfortunately, two of those teams reside in the NFC East (Giants and Eagles).

By the way, no team in the NFL has a better record than the NFC East through two weeks. Only the AFC East can also boast a 6-2 overall record.

Surprisingly, the NFC East is the ONLY division in the NFL not to have had an intra-divisional game played yet, which means it is the only division in the league to have chalked up 6 wins against non-divisional opponents. Can you say, “Best division in football”?

Expectation for the division race

The Giants play the Cowboys this week while Washington hosts the Eagles at FedEx Field, so it’s a big weekend for the division. In Week 4, Philly and New York play outside the division while Washington travels to Dallas.

We asked Hogs Haven readers to predict the Commanders’ division record after those two games against the Eagles (home) and Cowboys (on the road).

Most Hogs Haven readers expect the team to split the games, with a loss this week to Philly being followed by a rare road victory in Dallas, with the Cowboys playing with Cooper Rush under center in place of the injured Dak Prescott.

Reader comments:

We will beat the Girls and lose to the Philadelphia Football Team. Jalen Hurts is looking like a real QB this season.

I think because this team is all over they have a chance to beat the much much MUCH better Philly team but then get smoked by cooper rush.

Alternatively they get stomped as expected this week and feel compelled to show up vs Dallas.

1-1 is a reasonable expectation.

Of course, not everyone agrees. In fact, 29% of voters say that the Commanders will be 0-2 in the division (1-3 overall) by the time they leave Dallas.

Reader comment:

I predict 0-2 in the Div after the games against PHI and DAL. I don’t see the D turning around in the next two weeks.

Fan Confidence

This final pessimistic outlook is in line with overall fan confidence, which took a dive in the polling results following Sunday’s disconcerting showing against the Lions.

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The NFC East

Commanders fan confidence plummeted from last week’s 80% figure to a new low for the year at just 38%. This means that Washington fans are now the least confident in the NFC East. Dallas fan confidence rebounded sharply from last week’s low of 5% to a relatively robust 48% this week. Meanwhile, fans of the division’s two undefeated teams remain hugely confident, with Giants fans at 97% and Eagles fans at 99% confident, which ties Philly fans with those in Buffalo and Detroit as the most confident in the NFL.

The highs

Interestingly, the Bills Mafia registered 100% confidence level a week ago, but that slipped to 99% following their 41-7 beatdown of the Titans on Monday night. I guess they wanted to see more.

Meanwhile, Lions fans were hugely encouraged by their team’s performance against Washington as their confidence level rose to the highest point for as long as SB Nation has been polling confidence.

The lows

The least confident fans in the NFL right now are those who back the Tennessee Titans, who were on the receiving end of that beatdown by the Bills, and who have opened the season 0-2 after scoring just 27 points in 2 weeks and suffering the worst point differential (-35) in the league.

Week 3 projected winnners

Every week, the Reacts survey is sent to SB Nation readers across the 32 fan bases, asking, among other things, who will win every game. Here are the results for Week 3:

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It looks like Washington will need to bring its “A game” to FedEx Field this weekend to avoid falling to 1-2.

It’s interesting that national fans are picking the Giants to beat the Cowboys on Monday night, despite what Dallas accomplished by beating the Bengals with Cooper Rush under center in Week 2. If the SB Nation voters are correct, and the Eagles and Giants prevail, then having two undefeated teams and a pair of 1-2 teams would put huge pressure on both the Commanders and Cowboys to win in Week 4 or risk seeing their respective seasons begin to unravel quickly.

Based on this week’s polling results, it looks like Washington fans believe that the Commanders have the offensive weapons to compete with anyone; now we just need the coaches to prepare the right game plan, and the defense and special teams to show up before the opening kickoff.

Buckle up! It should be a packed house and an intense game on Sunday at 1pm at FedEx Field.