Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera spoke to the media after the team practiced in the bubble. This is a short week, with Washington traveling to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Rivera announced that LB Cody Barton would be activated from injured reserve tomorrow, and was more than ready to return to action.
The team has done more mental preparation for the Cowboys, but also spent time earlier looking at what went wrong vs the Giants on Sunday. Rivera said that Sam Howell played a string of good games heading into that division matchup, and he would learn from his mistakes. He was also asked about ball security after Washington lost three fumbles to New York defenders.
LIVE: Coach Rivera speaks to the media after practice https://t.co/JOPsiCLAdO— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) November 21, 2023
Ron Rivera said Cody Barton will be activated tomorrow. He'll play Thursday. Allows Jamin Davis to go back to what Rivera called his more natural role at LB.— John Keim (@john_keim) November 21, 2023
They’re good. They moved around well and it was good to see them out there. We’re going to activate Cody tomorrow, just to give you guys a heads up on that. He’s had a good couple of days. He had actually a good week last week, and he’s chomping at the bit, he’s been a pain.
How having Barton back helps the team:
Well, I think what it does is it puts Jamin back at his more natural position that he’s been playing the last couple of years and just kind of settle him back down. That’d be really good for Jamin. And just his overall communication skills as an inside guy. I don’t know if we’ll have to rely on as many different personnel groupings either on defense, but I thought David Mayo came in and did a heck of a job for us.
Why Sam Howell can bounce back after a tough game:
Oh, I just think because he learns, he learns from those mistakes. I mean, you think about it too. He stacked several good games in a row, so somewhere along the line he was going to have one that he was going to struggle with. So, just anticipating him to get an opportunity to reset himself and get himself ready to go and just got a lot of confidence in who he is.
Team’s mentality this week:
Rivera says the response has been good since Sunday, said they brought some energy to the walk through today and seem to be in a good place— George Wallace (@GWallaceWTOP) November 21, 2023
I think it’s been pretty good. Like I said yesterday, for the most part the guys came in and were really steady, really focused in on getting ready for Dallas. So, feel pretty good about them. I think they had a good day today, brought some energy out at walkthrough.
Different approach to this Thursday game compared to the home game vs the Bears:
Yeah, different thought process as far as I’m concerned in my messaging with the players, hopefully it’s the right one. I think our guys have gotten the message. I think they’ve come in and they had a good day today. They really seemed focused and brought some energy. They seem to be in a good place right now.
Positive takeaways from beating the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18 last season:
Well, I think we can, just knowing that, again, that was Dallas’ first unit and they were still playing for playoff positioning. I mean, they were in, but it was all about positioning at that point. They came out and gave a good effort and I thought Sam handled the situation pretty well.
Does being a running back screen heavy offense help the defense prepare for Dallas?:
It does. Again, just having a feel for those types of things and hopefully, we will be on it. They do run several screens and for the most part, they use a specific personnel grouping and then they try to manipulate it by the movements and actions that they use and try to get it the backs. Hopefully we’ve studied that and prepared ourselves and hopefully our guys get that as one of their tips and clues as they look into it.
Is there a greater emphasis on the mental side of things coming out of last week:
I think the biggest thing more than anything else is just really trying to understand your opponent, what they’re trying to do and when and how. I mean, that’s probably the thing that we as coaches look at and try and give those ideas, those clues, those tips to the offensive and defensive players so that they’re prepared, and they’re ready for those things.
Getting the offense and defense in sync:
Every day you try to get these guys to understand that, and you do what you can. Each game has a personality and as it unfolds, you try to get things corrected during the game. And hopefully, going into a game like this, our guys know what’s at stake, what the opportunity is, who your opponent is. They’re playing in one of the greatest football rivalries, period. And so, they should understand. And if they don’t know it now, I think they’ll learn, especially the young guys what this is really all about.
Biggest challenge for the defense:
I think the biggest thing more than anything else really is just explosive plays. CeeDee Lamb is about as good a player as there is in this league right now. Explosive, dynamic player. A lot of things that they do are surrounded around him. And so, it’s about being able to contain him. Got to have somebody over the top and just understanding where and how they’re going to try and use him and then you got to be careful. You spend too much time on him and they’ve got running backs that are dynamic runners and you’ve got to pay attention to them because not only do they run the ball well, but they’re also a threat with the ball thrown to them. Tight end has always been a part of what they do offensively. They’ve got enough offensive firepower that you really have to be aware.
Why Dak Prescott is playing so well:
One of the things it looks like is he’s getting the ball out of his hands quicker. I think a lot of it has to do with some of the things that Coach has done in terms of taking some of the things he did in Green Bay and implementing them.
I think early on, Jerry Jones figured that’s the guy he wanted. When the owner is all in and does that for his quarterback, that signals a pretty clear message to everybody that this is our guy, unless something crazy happens to him.
Working on fumble prevention at this stage of the season on a short week:
On the short week is hard because your time is trying to prepare to get ready to play. And the X’s and O’s are all part of it. But I know you guys see it because we constantly work on it. You guys have had the scene in front of you when our running backs are working with Coach King and Coach Jordan are working with those guys.
We do a takeaway Thursday where both the offense and the defense work a circuit and are trying to create takeaways and trying to protect the football. It’s something that just, you got to continue to work on and make sure it’s fresh in the minds.
Last year when you were in Dallas, Dan Snyder hadn’t even announced he was putting the team up for sale. Do you ever stop and reflect, I know you’ve had a lot of whirlwind years here, on how much has changed since last year?:
Oh yeah, I have, but the biggest thing, the most important thing, more so than anything else really is just putting this team in a good spot and working to continue to grow and develop.
What’s different about the messaging to his team this week versus the short week in Week 5:
I think the biggest thing more than anything else is this is a divisional game and it’s against probably our archrival. So, it’s a different kind of messaging, it’s a different kind of outlook and approach, more so than anything else.
I asked Commanders team captain Terry McLaurin about the criticism head coach Ron Rivera has been receiving over the last couple of days.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 21, 2023
Terry told me, "it's an indictment on all of us"
Full response below pic.twitter.com/D3MVwTGOBl
The heat is on.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 21, 2023
The job security of Ron Rivera has been the big story line this week in town.
I asked team captain Jonathan Allen about the criticism Rivera has received.
Allen told me, "everyone is going to have an opinion when you're losing, I understand that." pic.twitter.com/CXUTFyPTyd
The Commanders fan base wants to see change.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 21, 2023
Head coach Ron Rivera has that bullseye on him right now.
Tight end Logan Thomas told me, "we tune it out. He tunes it out....that's how we treat it." pic.twitter.com/Xs7EKhTw1C
Living out the dream.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 21, 2023
I love this for @BowieState grad and @commanders DE @_retsnom55.
He's about to play his second career NFL game and it's on the big stage.
Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys!@bowiestatefb @BSU_Sports_Info pic.twitter.com/5YkGtmMYDL