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Daily Slop - 2 Nov 23: Toohill, Smith-Williams, Obada prepare to step up as Montez slow plays Bears contract extension

A collection of articles, podcasts & tweets from around the web to keep you in touch with the Commanders, the NFC East and the NFL in general

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The Athletic (paywall)

As Commanders move on without Chase Young, Montez Sweat, opportunities abound

“This doesn’t happen in college,” the fifth-round rookie [KJ Henry] said, referring to teammates being traded. “Two guys that you bonded with, who helped you start your career, not being here today. Definitely a weird feeling.”

Henry’s been around his fellow defensive ends for only a few months. Terry McLaurin entered the league in the same 2019 draft as Sweat and played collegiately at Ohio State with Young. On Tuesday, the wide receiver learned on social media that the pass rushers were now ex-teammates. His eyes and ears verified the reality in the locker room Wednesday.

“You never know it will be real until it’s real. It kind of sinks in when you come in here, and you don’t hear them, you don’t see them,” McLaurin said. “They’re two big guys walking around here, so they’re hard to miss.”

The sentiments echoed throughout the Commanders’ locker room 24 hours after Washington traded away half of its touted starting defensive line. Players, perhaps wisely, chose not to offer opinions on the moves directed by head coach Ron Rivera and other decision-makers, including managing partner Josh Harris.

[Casey] Toohill and James Smith-Williams, who are both set to be 2024 free agents, are the likely replacements for Sweat and Young in the starting lineup, with Efe Obada likely seeing more snaps as well. That’s a role all three have performed when the starters missed time with injuries. Back then, Sweat and Young would eventually return. Now, the key reserves have the chance to show they should be kept around.

Henry, who was a healthy inactive for the first eight games, worked toward his likely NFL regular-season debut. Fellow rookie Andre Jones Jr.’s primary contributions have come on special teams. That will likely change this week. Get ready. The NFL season doesn’t stop for anyone.


Rivera sees ‘opportunity to see what else’ Commanders have after trades

Toohill has three sacks this season; Smith-Williams has one.

“You see them boys flying around making plays,” Washington defensive tackle Daron Payne said, “and playing hard, rushing hard. It ain’t like we’re dropping. They’re some good players.”

Rivera also pointed to quarterback Sam Howell’s development as another reason he remains upbeat about the rest of the season. Howell is coming off a 397-yard, four-touchdown game in a 38-31 loss to Philadelphia. He now has thrown 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Howell is the 33rd quarterback to start for Washington since it last won the Super Bowl after the 1991 season.

“I know this franchise has been looking for quite some time [for a quarterback] and for the first time in a while, I think that that guy might be here,” Rivera said. “I really do. I mean, I just got done looking at a bunch of stuff the analytics of football and they’re all pointing in the right direction as far as the quarterback is concerned.”

Riggo’s Rag

What were some critical observations from the Washington Commanders’ decision to trade Montez Sweat and Chase Young before the deadline?

Since 2000, the Washington Commanders have selected 22 players in the first round of the NFL Draft. Montez Sweat and Chase Young become the fifth and sixth first-rounders the team has traded away for draft picks.

They join Rod Gardner, Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell, and Trent Williams on that dubious list.

The first two trades barely mattered. Campbell was jettisoned after Washington acquired Donovan McNabb. And Williams was dealt from a position of extraordinary weakness based on a highly fractured relationship.

But to the best of my knowledge, the Commanders have never traded two former first-rounders on the same day. At least the haul was better than those previous trades. The previous three yielded just one Day 2 selection along with four Day 3 picks.

Looking back, the biggest takeaway from Tuesday is that this constitutes a total repudiation of the strategy that this team has been employing over the past decade.

First and foremost, this trade was orchestrated by Josh Harris and the new ownership group. There is a very good chance that they assessed where the team is, and where the league is, and came to the conclusion that the Washington Commanders were heavily over-invested in the defense.

While defensive production certainly continues to matter in today’s NFL, if you don’t have a dynamic offense, you are going nowhere.

I think this signals a change in direction which was fairly inevitable regardless of these trades. The Commanders will assess quarterback Sam Howell for the remainder of 2023 and decide whether he is their man going forward. If so, they will surround him with as much dynamic talent as possible.

That means a rebuilt offensive line, along with better playmakers at tight end and running back. I love Brian Robinson Jr.’s toughness, but Washington is going to be looking for the next Jahmyr Gibbs.

If Howell is deemed below standard, then Washington will move heaven and earth to land a top-flight quarterback prospect next season. That is never a sure thing. Not even Caleb Williams is a sure thing. But if the Commanders find themselves with a chance to grab him, they will do it.

Because, going forward, the biggest takeaway from the huge day in Commanders’ history is this...

The new ownership team is fully prepared to blow things up. They will make deals. They will walk away from things that in the past seemed sacrosanct.

All these trades do is confirm that - and perhaps speed up the entire process.

For instance, the one player I thought was untouchable on this team was Terry McLaurin. I still think it’s highly unlikely he’ll be moved, but now I could at least imagine it.

If you’re looking for an upside going forward, here are a couple. First, I’m no longer worried about re-signing Kamren Curl. I’m not saying the Commanders will do it, but now they will certainly be able to if they so choose.

Commanders Wire

Former Commanders DE Montez Sweat not ready to sign an extension

“I feel really confident that we can get a deal done,” Poles said via Alyssa Barbieri of Bears Wire.

As for Sweat, he’s obviously eager to sign a long-term deal. Sweat is playing this season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. Not so fast.

“I just want to consider everything around me before I make a decision,” Sweat said.

According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the Atlanta Falcons wanted Sweat and were working with Washington on a deal, but the Bears offered more, and the Commanders took Chicago’s offer.

Sweat is from Georgia, and returning home to play appealed to him.

While the Bears may be concerned about their ability to re-sign Sweat, they can apply the franchise tag on him, securing his rights for 2024.

Commanders Wire

New Commanders’ head of analytics played a role in Tuesday’s trades

Rivera was asked if Tuesday was the best day to trade Young and Sweat because, as the saying goes, “deadlines spur action.”

“I think when you look at what the options were and what the opportunities were in terms of the value, and that’s where Eugene Shen comes in, is being able to talk about what the potential value is,” Rivera said. “Those things all came into play.”

To be clear, Rivera didn’t say Shen was in the building. But Harris, who relies heavily on analytics with his other franchises, wanted Shen’s expert input.

The Commanders received a second-round pick from Chicago for Sweat and a third-round pick from San Francisco for Young.

Now, the Commanders have nine picks in the 2024 NFL draft, including three expected to be inside the top 50.

Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)

How the Commanders let A.J. Brown dominate them again

Breaking down the terrible plan that led to Eagles WR A.J. Brown dominating the Commanders a second time this season

All the action at the trade deadline has distracted from what was an abysmal defensive performance by the Washington Commanders against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Commanders gave up 38 points and it could easily have been more had they not caused two fumbles inside their own five yard line. One of the standout failings of the Commanders was the inability to stop Eagles receiver A.J. Brown.

This is yet another third down situation, with the Eagles facing third and seven. Somehow the Commanders defensive coaching staff refuses to learn their lesson because they once again line up Forbes against Brown and this time they do call for man coverage. The only slight difference is that the team plays what’s known as two-man, with two deep safeties over the top to try and help protect the deep ball while playing man coverage underneath that.

Once again, I’ll say that this isn’t a situation the Commanders coaches should ever have allowed to happen. Forbes shouldn’t even be on the same side of the field as Brown, let alone in man coverage against him. But even if they are going to expose Forbes to that, he should have more help. The safety over the top should be focused purely on doubling Brown, either with an inside-out bracket or a high-low bracket. Instead, the safety isn’t focused on Brown at all. In fact, he more concerned with staying over the top of the tight end in the slot rather than having eyes on Brown, which means the call was just a normal two-man coverage rather than a specific double team.

Brown predictably gets the better of Forbes down the sideline and Hurts pulls the trigger. This time with a safety over the top, Hurts deliberately takes something off the throw to try and work Brown’s back shoulder and protect him from the safety. This gives Forbes a chance to get back but Brown goes up and makes the catch over the top of him before then falling forward into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.

Now, from a players perspective, you’d obviously like to see Forbes and St-Juste do better against Brown in these situations. Forbes didn’t cover himself in glory here, but the context is important too. Given what happened in the first game, it’s coaching malpractice to have subjected Forbes, or really any corner on the roster, to those types of situations against Brown. They really should have adjusted and come up with a better plan to defend Brown instead of just playing man coverage with a different corner than the one that got burned last time.

I think we all suspect Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio will be fired at the end of this season anyway, but this game showed that the players are not being put in positions to be successful and the game plans aren’t good enough. How they saw Brown light them up for 175 yards and two touchdowns a few weeks ago and then decided to play man coverage without any additional help, exposing Forbes of all people to Brown again, is completely baffling. The 130 yards and two touchdowns in this game is far more on the coaching staff than the players in my eyes.

Podcasts & videos

Breaking Down the Deadline Deals | Command Center Podcast | Washington Commanders


PHOTOS | Commanders practice, 11/01

Check out the best photos of the Washington Commanders going through their first practice of the week as they prepare for the New England Patriots.


NFL league links


Washington Post (paywall)

Bears fire RBs coach, who is their second assistant to abruptly depart

Chicago Bears running back coach David Walker was fired Wednesday, but head coach Matt Eberflus declined to tell reporters why, saying only that Walker did not meet the team’s “standards.”

The 53-year-old Walker, who was in his second year with Chicago, became the second Bears assistant to abruptly depart since the season began. In September, defensive coordinator Alan Williams resigned for what he described as a need to “take care of my health and my family.” ESPN subsequently reported that “inappropriate activity” by Williams led to the involvement of the Bears’ human resources department and contributed to his departure.

According to multiple reports, the HR department was also involved in the firing of Walker. Eberflus said he was “not going to get into details” beyond telling media members at a news conference, “As the head coach, we are building a program and have standards to uphold as a staff and organization both on and off the field, and those standards were not met.”

Asked about his sense of accountability, having hired Walker and Williams, Eberflus replied: “It’s disappointing from my vantage point, but we have a standard to uphold. When that standard is not met, we act accordingly, and that’s what we did today.”

Washington Post (paywall)

At a quiet NFL trade deadline, these teams were the biggest losers

Chicago Bears

They whiffed at the trade deadline a year ago, giving away what became the equivalent of a first-round pick for suspect wide receiver Chase Claypool, and did so again this year, trading a second-round pick for Washington Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat and not moving disgruntled cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Multiple general managers — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid without damaging their ability to negotiate with teams in the future — complained that the Bears waited until effectively midnight to make Johnson available, minimizing the window to land him.

“[Bears General Manager Ryan] Poles f---ed it up again,” said one general manager who was in the cornerback market.

“You can’t wait until midnight and then tell everyone in the middle of the night, ‘Now he can seek a trade,’ ” said another general manager, “and then expect teams to compete to negotiate the deal and get to know the player and work something out with the agent. That should have happened two weeks ago.” Another executive who was in talks with Poles said: “He has a really difficult time under the clock. Personally, I don’t get what they did. That’s going to be, what, the 35th pick for Sweat?” Others also panned that deal.

“You can’t make that trade without having him signed,” the second general manager said. “Can you imagine what happens if Sweat gets hurt and they don’t have a deal? What’s the comp pick going to be then [if he leaves as a free agent]? I heard he was going to Atlanta for a [third-round pick] and then Poles swooped in and blew them away. I don’t get it.”

Las Vegas Raiders

So, yeah, when an owner decides, heading into the final game of Week 8, less than 24 hours before the trade deadline, that he is probably going to fire his coach and general manager, and when his team had been viewed by the market as a great place to shop for potential major deals, that’s going to complicate things.

The Raiders entertained talks on everyone from long-available fringe wideout Hunter Renfrow to former all-pro wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs, and it was well-established among execs around the league how badly those players wanted out of Las Vegas. “I thought we were going to at least get Renfrow and then all of a sudden, by Monday, everything went silent,” the second general manager said. “You couldn’t get anybody on the phone. It’s like everything stopped. Obviously now we know why.”

Of course, owner Mark Davis could have avoided this by parting with coach Josh McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler following Week 7’s debacle at Chicago, and then allowing an interim regime to facilitate trades.

“Jacobs is a free agent, and Adams will get traded in the offseason,” the first general manager said. “They could have had a bidding war for them, but they bailed.”

New York Giants

“Why is Saquon [Barkley] still there?” the second general manager asked. “That’s over. He won’t be back there next year.” Making matters worse, a potential trade of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson to the 49ers failed to get completed by the 4 p.m. cutoff time.

“They should have converted his salary down to the minimum by Monday, at the latest,” the second general manager said. “I don’t know why teams wait so long to do that stuff.”

The Athletic (paywall)

Who’s next? Five NFL head coaches who could be on the hot seat

The Commanders are officially in rebuild mode, and Rivera seems unlikely to be a part of it. Harris and the members of his leadership team are in evaluation mode, but with every damning tweet offered by Magic Johnson after a loss by Rivera’s squad, the coach’s footing appears increasingly shaky. The only question is whether Rivera will make it through this campaign, or get the ax in season. At this point, neither defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio nor offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy seems fit to take the reins in the interim given the struggles of their respective units. So Rivera may wind up finishing out the season.

Bill Belichick

The great Belichick going out on anything but his own terms once seemed unfathomable. But with each passing display of ineptitude from his latest Patriots team, it’s not at all hard to wonder just how much patience owner Robert Kraft has. Belichick swung and missed on Mac Jones. He committed malpractice by entrusting the young quarterback to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge rather than a talented offensive coach, and now that he has brought back Bill O’Brien, it feels like the damage to Jones has already been done. Otherwise, Belichick has made bad personnel decisions, leaving this team devoid of game-changing talent across the board. It’s still hard to envision Kraft firing Belichick in-season, but a “mutually agreed to part ways” news release after the season would surprise no one.

Sports Illustrated

Washington Commanders Ex Taylor Heinicke Named Atlanta Falcons Starting QB - NFL Tracker

Former Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke will start for the Atlanta Falcons this weekend.

The Atlanta Falcons have benched quarterback Desmond Ridder for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, turning to former Washington Commanders signal caller Taylor Heinicke.

Falcons coach Arthur Smith announced the decision to reporters Wednesday and noted that Ridder, who was removed prematurely from last week’s 28-23 loss to the Tennessee Titans after being checked for a concussion, has cleared protocol.

Smith said his choice ultimately came down to “a lot of variables” and was done with the short-term picture in mind. He didn’t choose to elaborate whether the move will continue in the weeks to come.