Washington Post (paywall)
In the third quarter of the Commanders’ Week 4 loss in Philadelphia, Dotson beat his defender on a crossing route on third and four. But he failed to grasp the ball as it sailed through his hands, squandering a Washington drive and setting up an Eagles go-ahead touchdown.
Then early against the Falcons in Week 6, Dotson ran a deep cross and again beat his man for a possible big play, but he bobbled the ball as he ran out of bounds. That was his only target of the game.
And a week after that, on a fourth-and-five play with about a minute left against the Giants, Dotson ran a shallow crossing route for what could have been at least a first down if not a tying score. Instead, the ball bounced off his chest to seal an ugly Commanders loss.
So drastic times called for unusual measures for Dotson — including watching his own college video while in team meetings.
“Whenever I’m kind of going through tough times or when things feel off, I kind of just go back to when I was having success and really hone in on the details that I was doing to make sure that I had that success,” he said Thursday. “I was going back and watching college film, seeing how some of the creative plays that I had and the different types of routes I was running and the creativity I was using just to get open.”
Watching it was one thing. Working at it was next. In recent weeks, Dotson started coming to the team’s facility on Tuesdays, when players are typically off. With the help of assistants, he spent a lot of time on the JUGS throwing machines, which he also regularly uses post-practice for about 10 minutes a day.
“For me, it’s weird because when I make a mistake or something like that, I’m the type of person who wants the ball in my hands right away,” he said. “So it’s really hard when, like the Atlanta game [this season], that was my only target of the game. I was feeling that one a lot.”
His recent turnaround has felt much better.
“It definitely felt good to get back to doing what I know I can do and that’s make plays for this team because I feel like when I’m making plays, our team has a better opportunity to win football games,” Dotson said. “It was kind of just getting back to the basics and really honing in on details and making sure that I stay on top of my stuff.”
Washington Post (paywall)
In the past couple of weeks, after Washington altered its interior offensive line, with Tyler Larsen taking over at center and Chris Paul filling in at left guard, Sam Howell has seemed to come into his own. No quarterback had more passing yards across Weeks 8 and 9 than Howell’s 722. On the season, he is second in the league with 2,471 passing yards. Only Kirk Cousins, who threw for 2,716 yards in 2016 and 2,474 in 2017, had more yards through the first nine games of a season for Washington.
Howell is the only quarterback in NFL history to have a 66.0 competition percentage or higher, throw for at least 2,600 yards and rush for at least 190 yards in his first 10 career games.
So, when defensive coordinator Del Rio was asked Thursday what is keeping this unit from rating as highly as the defensive unit last season in 2022.
“Yeah, explosive plays allowed. That’s been the big problem. We’re playing solid in a lot of areas, but the explosive plays allowed. Many of them kind of gift-type situations are the ones that keep us from ranking well and being able to beat our chest and say, look at our rank right here, which doesn’t mean a whole lot. I think what really means the most is give your football team a chance to win, play complementary football, and make sure we’re getting the ball back for our offense as often as possible.”
One player who was giving up some explosive plays prior to last week was rookie corner Emmanuel Forbes, Jr. However, last week, Forbes played well enough that PFF graded Forbes as the highest Commanders defensive player last week. The performance pleased Del Rio.
“I think he’s just working at it. You know, he’s a good young player. We believe in him. He’s just gotta grind and work. That’s what he has done, and that allowed him to get himself back in the game, and then he played well.”
1. Manage the crowd.
Here’s one thing we know about the Commanders’ game this weekend: it’s going to be loud.
Lumen Field is known for being one of the most difficult places to play because of the crowd noise. The stadium itself has been engineered to focus all of the cheers and music down to the field, and as a result, it can be almost impossible for opponents to hear each other, even when they’re just inches away.
It’s easy to see how that could cause some problems for the Commanders and Sam Howell, who will play the Seahawks on the road for the first time in his career. Howell has been in loud environments before dating back to his time at North Carolina, but he admitted during his Wednesday press conference that he doesn’t know what to expect this weekend.
“It can definitely be a problem as far as checking out the line of scrimmage,” Howell said. “You got to have more signals than normal just because you can’t verbally communicate. We’ll be ready to go for whatever we need.”
Assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has experience being in loud stadiums himself. Arrowhead Stadium is also known for its crowd noise, and it’s routinely placed at the top of lists of loudest stadiums in the NFL. Granted, it’s different when that crowd is determined to get you off your rhythm, so Bieniemy’s biggest advice to Howell is to remain calm.
“I want him to remain poised under pressure, as he always does,” Bieniemy said. “But the biggest thing is it’s a part of being a professional player. He has to learn to handle the environment and it will be a loud and hostile environment, but we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
Not every competent QB on a rookie contract merits an all-in approach
The wet dream of every NFL franchise is a good quarterback on a rookie contract. It’s GM porn, and the slightest flash or jiggle of competency turns teams into ’90s studio execs. The latest object of their fascination is Sam Howell. The Washington Commander quarterback is stacking up the kinds of numbers that make front offices and media members want to propose.
So why haven’t they? What’s keeping Washington from going for broke the next two years? Howell will be playing for pennies through 2025, he’s second in the league in passing yards, and seventh in touchdown passes. SIGN HIM UP, RON!
The Commanders’ approach is slightly cynical, as evidenced by the Chase Young and Montez Sweat departures, but that’s better than making f*ck-me eyes at Howell because you’re deprived. Ron Rivera is a modern-day Jeff Fisher, so this 4-5 start shouldn’t be a shock, nor prompt an overreaction.
New owner Josh Harris isn’t a new owner in the same way that Matt Ishbia is a new owner, and that’s a good thing. One of the few Bill Simmons-isms that I still prescribe to is new owner syndrome, which often leads to unwarranted gambles, or short-sighted trades. This isn’t Harris’ first venture into professional sports, and so far there haven’t been any win-now moves, because Washington isn’t winning anything right now.
Let’s see the kid beat a team with a winning record before exalting him to franchise-cornerstone status. Yes, [Washington] has a lot to be excited about, including maybe Sam Howell, but my god show some patience, and put away the ED pills.
Podcasts & videos
Quan Martin “Belongs Here” | Next Man Up | Washington Commanders
Quan Martin reflects on his first career interception, facing Seattle with Kevin Sheehan
Episode 697 - #WASvsSEA preview. Big game. A win gets the #Commanders back to .500 & gives them tiebreakers over Seattle & Atlanta. Will the rise of Sam Howell continue?— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) November 10, 2023
- analysis of Seahawks' offense & defense
- key comments from EB & JDR
- Rhyming Keyshttps://t.co/yY5ZNRRjFe
Terry McLaurin Can SILENCE the 12th Man in Seattle | Command Center Podcast | Washington Commanders
Dancing on the Field and on TikTok | Hang Time Ep. 4 | Emmanuel Forbes Jr.
Sam HOWell about THAT! | The Player’s Club | Washington Commanders
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders preparing for their Week 10 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.
NFC East links
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: SEA -6.5 (44.5)
Storyline to watch: Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith is mired in a turnover funk, with six interceptions plus two lost fumbles over the past four games. Not all of those were Smith’s fault, and the Seahawks’ offensive issues go well beyond their quarterback. After one of the worst losses of the Pete Carroll era last week, the Seahawks have a bounce-back opportunity against the Commanders’ 28th-ranked defense, which is allowing 368.9 yards per game. Washington traded two big defensive threats, defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young, at the deadline. — Brady Henderson
Bold prediction: Seattle will have three pass plays of 25 yards or more, with receiver Tyler Lockett grabbing two of those — one for a touchdown. Washington has allowed 22 pass plays of 25 yards or more, second most in the NFL, and it would have been more had New England executed better on several opportunities last week. The Seahawks have only 16 such pass plays, 14th in the league, but preventing these plays has been the Commanders’ No. 1 issue on defense. — John Keim
Stat to know: Seahawks linebacker Boye Mafe has six straight games with at least one full sack, tied for the longest streak by a Seahawks player since 1982, when sacks became official (Michael Sinclair, six straight from 1997 to ‘98). He faces Washington QB Sam Howell, who has been sacked a league-high 44 times.
Matchup X factor: Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Kendall Fuller is having a very nice season, but the Seahawks have two great receivers who need stopping in DK Metcalf and Lockett. St-Juste’s numbers haven’t been good: He’s allowing 1.7 yards per coverage snap, per NFL Next Gen Stats, fourth most among outside corners with at least 200 coverage snaps. — Walder
What to know for fantasy: Quarterbacks have scored the second-most fantasy points per game against the Commanders’ defense. However, over the past four games the Seahawks have scored a touchdown on just 13% of their drives. Smith’s fantasy ceiling could be low in this game unless this improves. See Week 10 rankings. — Moody
Betting nugget: The Commanders are 4-0 ATS as road underdogs. They are 4-1 ATS overall on the road. The Commanders are also 8-2-2 ATS in their past 12 games as underdogs.
4:25 p.m. ET | FOX | Spread: DAL -17 (38.5)
Storyline to watch: Dak Prescott has won 11 straight games against the Giants after losing both contests to New York as a rookie. He has 23 touchdown passes against the Giants, the most against any team. It seems likely he’ll get to 12 consecutive wins, as the Giants will start undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito at quarterback with Daniel Jones out for the season because of a torn ACL. The Cowboys are 3-0 at AT&T Stadium with an average margin of victory of 26 points. — Todd Archer
Bold prediction: The Giants will hold Dallas under 20 points. Let’s consider last week in Las Vegas a blip on the radar. New York’s defense had allowed 33 points in the previous three games, which included a matchup with Josh Allen in Buffalo. This group has pride, and the game plan will be to slow down this contest. The Giants will do that with their defense and running game (Saquon Barkley). — Jordan Raanan
Stat to know: The Cowboys are 10-1 following a loss since the start of the 2021 season, the best win percentage in the NFL. Dallas has outscored its opponents by more than 16 points per game in that situation (32.4-16.3) and has a plus-17 turnover differential. The Cowboys have not suffered consecutive regular-season losses since Weeks 11 and 12 of the 2021 season.
Matchup X factor: Giants edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. It seems hard to imagine the Giants scoring on offense, so they probably will need pick-sixes or strip sacks galore to have a chance. Thibodeaux has 8.5 sacks. — Walder
What to know for fantasy: CeeDee Lamb shares a Cowboys franchise record with Michael Irvin for the most games with 10 receptions and 150 receiving yards, each achieving this feat three times. In his career, Lamb has averaged 16 fantasy points per game against the Giants. See Week 10 rankings. — Moody
Betting nugget: Giants games are 8-1 to the under, the highest under percentage in the NFL. Giants games have gone under the total in seven straight games, the longest active streak.
NFL league links
Looking at the chaos of a crowded bench area may make you wonder: Who are all those people? Unsurprisingly, everyone has a job and everyone has a story. Here’s a look at the typically unsung people who help keep an NFL team running.
When we started this project, we didn’t know the Dolphins would be one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. We chose them to offer a portrait of an ordinary NFL Sunday, then witnessed one that was anything but. The goal was to spotlight the support staff, the essential sideline personnel, the unsung heroes of not just game day but every day across the NFL.
Looking back on that day of glowing afternoon sunshine, in which Miami temperatures reached the high 80s and the Dolphins’ point total nearly followed suit, the pummeling was less like a rock anthem and more like a sweeping orchestral performance. This is what it looks like when the tiny details fretted over and unseen grunt work at odd hours all pay off. When every member of an ensemble hits just the right notes.