Adversity struck for Washington Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and quarterback Sam Howell following the Buffalo Bills performance, but both individuals bounced back against the Philadelphia Eagles in a significant way. It was an encouraging sign for the future of this offense, both immediately and long-term, as they clearly showed an ability to adjust their game-planning and game-play throughout a 60-minute game.
There were several instances where Howell and Bieniemy rose to the occasion from a pass-game standpoint; here, I look at some key moments of the game for the Commanders offense.
Washington takes advantage of this one-on-one matchup with Terry McLaurin. It starts with Howell's processing, reading his proper keys on this run-pass option before firing the back shoulder throw to McLaurin. What made things easier for McLaurin at the catch point was the advantage that Howell had on cornerback Josh Jobe, who, because safety Reed Blakenship crashed down on the run-action, knew he had an excellent opportunity with Jobe's back toward him. Howell showed very good ball placement, and McLaurin finished the play, highpointing the football and using very good grip strength to maintain possession through Jobe's defense.
Eric Bieniemy uses a stacked alignment with Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson to create conflict with the Eagles' coverage rules. Bieniemy calls a high-low concept for Howell but motions Samuel from the opposite side of the formation, which helps indicate the coverage for Howell and Samuel. At the snap, Samuel does an excellent job of processing the coverage along with Howell and sitting in the open void of the defense instead of potentially carrying his route into linebacker Nicholas Morrow. The stacked alignment helped Howell process where to throw the football because of how the cornerbacks play it; Bradberry and Slay both follow the vertical route, leaving Samuel unaccounted for.
Another way that Eric Bieniemy helped out Sam Howell and the offensive line is by a designed quick touch to Terry McLaurin. On this 2nd and 9, Bieniemy uses misdirection with McLaurin and Brian Robinson behind the line of scrimmage to freeze the second level of the defense, but what's also beneficial with this play call is that Darius Slay, the playside cornerback, is unable to see the jet-action behind the line of scrimmage because it's hidden. It allows for a quick five-yard gain that puts Washington in a favorable distance for third down.
Following the quick pass to Terry, Washington faced a third and four, and Howell did a good job of patiently standing in the pocket, working through progressions that allowed him to find Terry on the backside of the play. The Eagles showed double A-gap pressure before dropping their linebackers into coverage. Howell quickly processed what the Eagles were doing and moved on from his initial read that was ultimately covered. Like Samuel earlier, McLaurin does a good job sitting in the zone void for Howell and picks up an extra ten yards after the catch.
Howell does a good job on this 1st and five, recognizing the leverage advantage that Logan Thomas had pre- and post-snap. The pre-snap motion from Brian Robinson helped to indicate the coverage Philadelphia used, and the defensive shift showed that Blankenship, who was playing 12 yards off of the football, gave Thomas the inside back toward the middle of the field. Good ball placement under pressure to his 6'6" target and good grip strength and physical toughness from Logan to reel in the pass and maintain possession.
When pressure started getting home to Howell, Bieniemy wasted no time adjusting in-game to continue applying pressure to the Eagles' defense. On this 1st down call, following an Eagles sack to end the Commanders' previous drive, Bieniemy utilized a simple sprint out pass with a six-man protection to Dotson for nine yards. It was a good change-up for Bieniemy to use a play that the Eagles had not seen during this game.
Like Thomas's big red zone catch, Howell helped his offensive line out, recognizing the coverage quickly and finding Thomas on a quick hitch. Howell motioned Thomas to the field side pre-snap; both he and Thomas did a good job identifying the depth of Blankenship at the snap, and Thomas quickly showed his numbers to Howell for an easy six-yard catch on first down.
As previously mentioned, Bieniemy continued applying pressure on the Eagles' defense, and this is another example of a change-up following an Eagles drive-ending sack—a quick screen to Terry for a five-yard pickup against an aggressive Eagles front.
Howell did a good job on the day using his legs to extend plays downfield or scramble for whatever was in front of him. Here, it's as simple as Howell navigating the pocket, feeling the backside pressure, and eluding it to race to the sticks before eventually taking on a big hit that led to a personal foul penalty on Philadelphia.
From a schematic standpoint, Bieniemy utilized concepts that used constant chip blocks, six or seven-man protections, rollouts, effective motioning, or quick passes that kept the offense ahead of the sticks. Additionally, Howell brought to life Bieniemy's offense by making it a point to work through his progressions, keep the play alive for receivers in the progressions, or identify his hot routes. He also made several plays with his arm and coverage processing, attacking voids in the defense or exploiting mismatches.
There were several standouts on the Commanders offense, but what were your key takeaways from Bieniemy and Howell's performance?