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In the Washington Commanders’ first game without Chase Young and Montez Sweat, the pass rush didn’t produce. The team had one sack (negated by a penalty) and its lowest pressure rate this season (21.7 percent). But, to be fair, the New England Patriots didn’t afford the pass rush many opportunities. They used lots of quick-passing concepts, and quarterback Mac Jones consistently got the ball out of his hands fast.
For the rest of this year, at least, the edge plan seems set. There are the backups turned starters (James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill) and the rookies turned backups (Andre Jones Jr. and KJ Henry), and Efe Obada will probably play a sizable role. The line should have a better chance to generate pressure Sunday in Seattle because Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith holds the ball. Smith’s average time to throw this year is 2.95 seconds, tied for the sixth-slowest mark in the NFL, though the metric also captures Smith’s ability to extend plays and throw on the run.
“There’s some things that you can do to help the pass rush,” Coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ll work on those things, and hopefully it’ll show on Sunday.”
Going forward, the team could just go cheap at edge and leave its pass rush to the highly paid tackles. But both have generated pressure at disappointing rates this season; Allen is near a career low (9.9 percent), and Daron Payne is at one (5.8 percent). Both are big parts of the Commanders’ future, though, so the front office would have to bolster the pass rush by adding an edge rusher.
Under a different coaching staff or front office, maybe Sweat and Young could have produced more or more consistently. We’ll never know. For the rest of their careers, if they play well and Washington fails to find suitable replacements, the trades could look shortsighted. The team could have kept Young or Sweat; managing partner Josh Harris greenlit trading both.
There will be pressure on Washington (and Harris) to succeed without Sweat and Young, to not have a redo of the Trent Williams trade, where, in the transition of regimes, the franchise flipped an elite talent for less than he was worth.
Stopping this trio is imperative...
Commanders need brawn to stop D.K. Metcalf
Emmanuel Forbes acquitted himself well against the New England Patriots, putting his benching earlier this season firmly in the rearview mirror. Yet, the Washington Commanders’ top pick isn’t the right matchup to combat D.K. Metcalf.
Receivers were pushing Forbes all over the field during the season’s opening weeks. It’s reasonable to expect 6-foot-4, 235-pounder Metcalf would do the same, so the Commanders need to put their brawn over No. 14.
Enter Benjamin St-Juste, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound cornerback playing some of his best football in 2023. He is leading the NFL in “forced incompletions,” according to PFF Commanders.
Using St-Juste to shadow Metcalf is the best way to shut down the Seattle Seahawks’ best receiver. Especially if Metcalf is less than 100 percent. He didn’t practice on Thursday because of a hip injury, but there’s no indication the Pro Bowler won’t be ready to go Sunday.
Anticipation and expectations were trending upward for Gibson with the arrival of new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy from Kansas City. Surely, Bieniemy would be getting the ball to Gibson early, often, and in the open field.
However, Gibson put the ball on the ground, stopping a deep drive against the Cardinals in the season opener. The former Memphis Tiger then fumbled again in consecutive losses to the Bills (37-3) and Eagles (34-31 OT).
Thus, Gibson has only run the ball 26 times through the team’s first nine games. Yet, Gibson has averaged 4.8 yards a carry on those 26 rushing attempts.
It is worth noticing that Gibson has been on the receiving end of five receptions in each of the last two games against the Eagles at FedEx and last week in New England.
Even more, against the Patriots, Gibson ran the ball six times for 34 yards (5.7 yards per carry), and his five receptions also produced another 42 yards (8.4 yards per reception). The 11 touches against the Patriots were a season-high for Gibson.
Consequently, Gibson produced 76 yards from scrimmage last week, which surpassed his previous season-high of 64 against the Bears. Gibson definitely has an open-field ability, and so one can’t help but wonder if this is Eric Bieniemy again warming up to Gibson, providing him more opportunities to contribute.
Washington Commanders second-year receiver Jahan Dotson has improved in performance after having some early-season struggles.
Washington Commanders receiver Jahan Dotson is on the verge of setting some significant career milestones including being on pace to break the 1,000-yard receiving mark after the last two weeks.
Unfortunately, the Commanders receiver has already set a career-high in dropped passes, something he’s been working through while quarterback Sam Howell and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has maintained faith in him.
Despite some of his struggles Howell ensured Dotson received five or more targets in five of the last six Washington outings, resulting in improved play and 12 catches for 17 yards and two touchdowns in the past two weeks.
“For sure, definitely felt good to get back to doing what I know I can do, and that’s (making) plays for this team,” Dotson said about his performances in the past two weeks. “When I’m making plays I feel like our team (has) a better opportunity to win football games. Honestly, just being back to help out the team in any way possible has been really good.”
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Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders getting on the plane for their trip to take on the Seattle Seahawks
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Pro Football Talk
The Giants activated outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari from injured reserve, the team announced Saturday.
Ojulari has not played since Week 5, going on injured reserve an ankle injury. He missed two games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury.
The Giants also announced they elevated kicker Randy Bullock and tight end Tyree Jackson to the active roster from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
It’s the second consecutive elevation for Bullock, who was signed to the practice squad Nov. 3. He was the Giants’ kicker last week in Las Vegas but did not have an attempt. Both of his kickoffs were touchbacks.
Blogging the Boys
If Dallas is going to run away with this game as projected, why not give their developmental QB some playing time?
Since joining the Cowboys in a late-August trade with the 49ers, Lance has been in the lab and on the practice field but has not taken a snap in a game. He’s been Dallas’ emergency quarterback behind Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush on game days, only eligible to play if both the starter and backup are injured and declared unable to return.
Thankfully, Lance hasn’t been needed in that capacity so far. But because he hasn’t been fully activated for a game so far this year, it’s also kept him from being playable when the Cowboys have been on one end of a blowout. In three big wins over the Giants, Jets, and Rams, Cooper Rush came in for the victory laps. And when Dallas got creamed by San Francisco in Week 5, Rush played the final possessions.
It’s understandable that Lance hasn’t been active so far. He’s needed time to learn the offense, and the emergency provision has allowed him to provide depth without costing a more necessary backup or special teams player a spot on the active roster for games. But if this game against the Giants is going to be as lopsided as we think, it could be a good time to let the third-year quarterback put in some work.
Big Blue View
Only 38 percent of fans think Jones will be the starting QB next year
The Giants were probably going to have a high pick in the 2024 NFL Draft prior to Jones’ injury, but now it’s all but assured. As we’ve talked about extensively since Jones’ injury, the Giants’ situation is complicated by Jones’ injury history, uncertainty regarding his recovery timeline, his contract structure, and the (projected) strength of the 2024 quarterback class.
With all that in mind, SB Nation Reacts asked Giants fans if they believe that Daniel Jones will be the Giants starting quarterback in 2024. A full 62 percent of fans responded that they believe Jones will not be the starter next year.
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Washington Post (paywall)
D.J. Hayden, the 2013 first-round draft pick who overcame a life-threatening injury to play eight NFL seasons, was one of six people who died early Saturday in a Houston car crash that also claimed the lives of two former teammates. Hayden was 33.
The accident occurred around 2 a.m. when a car sped through a red light while an SUV carrying Hayden had the right of way through a green light, according to the Houston Police Department. Drivers of both vehicles lost control and the SUV flipped, according to Houston television station KTRK.
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene. Four others were taken to a hospital, where two more were pronounced dead. Police said one of the surviving passengers is in critical condition with life-threatening injuries. Another was alert and talked to investigators, police said.