5. The offense has struggled to perform at the level as its defense.
By now, it’s clear the Patriots defense and offense are entirely different skill levels
Despite a few injuries throughout the season, New England’s defense has been a sound unit. They do give up 26 points per game, but they only give up 97 yards per game on the ground and rank 12th in third-down conversion rate.
And while the defense will prove to be a challenge for Washington to outplay, the offense has had more struggles, particularly when it comes to sustaining drives, running the ball and scoring points, as they have been held to less than 20 points in six games.
A primary grievance in New England is the inconsistent performance of Jones, who has yet to be able to complete a pass over 20 air yards since week 5. His passes don’t extend the significant length and, therefore, limit advances the Patriots are making offensively, and he’s thrown the second most interceptions in the league.
If Washington shows up to Gillette stadium with the same offense that put up 31 points against a talented Eagles defense, they could put themselves in solid position to get back on track.
Halfway through the season with a losing record Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera sees franchise leading potential in quarterback Sam Howell.
In his first season RGIII led his team to a nine win season with 3,200 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, and just five interceptions.
Obviously Howell has passed Griffin in interceptions, but is also on pace to pass him in yards and touchdowns thrown as well.
Cousins’ first year as the full-time starter also resulted in nine wins as he threw for more than 4,000 yards and threw for 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Perhaps that’s too high a bar to set for Howell considering Cousins did that in his fourth NFL season, but again the young quarterback is on pace to challenge all of those stats this year.
Again, stats are numbers and we can’t paint a franchise quarterback picture out of them.
But as Rivera claims to have found the Commanders’ next potential savior, the numbers certainly aren’t proving him wrong.
The only one that might throw the whole claim sideways would be the amount of sacks Howell has taken - of which not all can be blamed on him of course - but that number dipped to one against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8.
If that’s a sign of what’s to come this weekend against the New England Patriots then Howell may be taking another step forward to verifying his coach’s bold statements.
Although the decisions to move on from Sweat and Young do show a fundamental shift in the Commanders’ future, they don’t believe it hinders them from winning games in 2023. They intend to be competitive and push for the playoffs this season, and they still believe they have the talent to put pressure on quarterbacks.
“It’s an opportunity to see what else we have,” head coach **Ron Rivera** said during his Wednesday press conference.
With Sweat and Young gone, that means that Casey Toohill is now the Commanders’ leader in sacks with four in eight games. While he only has 41 snaps in the last three games combined, he has been noticeably efficient with three of his sacks coming in those games.
Toohill’s production was at its peak against the Atlanta Falcons, when he recorded two tackles, three quarterback hits and brought down Desmond Ridder two times. Both of his sacks came on third down in the second half, which helped keep the Commanders’ 24-10 lead intact.
2020 seventh-round James Smith-Williams is another player expected to see a bump in his playing time going forward. Like Toohill, Smith-Williams has made splash plays in a rotational role. Against the Denver Broncos, for example, he took down Russell Wilson for a one-yard loss in the first quarter. That was his only sack of the season so far, but he does know how to put pressure on quarterbacks, as he’s third on the team with four quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.
Toohill and Smith-Williams are familiar with having to step up in the past. They had to do so during the 2021 season, when both Sweat and Young were dealing with injuries.
“We’ve been here before,” Toohill said. “Nothing changes. I don’t think you make it a bigger deal than it is, and you just come to work every day and do your absolute best to prepare.”
The Commanders can also get a better look at their current draft class with KJ Henry and Andre Jones Jr. expected to get more snaps behind Toohill and Smith-Williams.
Washington Post (paywall)
“We still have a lot of football left this year, and we’re not just fully set on rebuilding,” Howell said. “We’re trying to win right now, and we feel like we have the players to do that.”
A reporter asked Curl, who’s set to be a free agent this offseason, whether the trades made him wonder about his next contract. He seemed somewhat surprised by the question.
“I’m not thinking about next year,” he said. “I’m thinking about the Patriots. We got to play them.”
In a far corner of the locker room, where Young’s two stalls and Sweat’s stall sat mostly empty, reporters clustered around Toohill. Two other defensive linemen, Smith-Williams and Efe Obada, joked about Toohill’s new stardom, recording him with their phones as he tried to keep a straight face. Obada sang a lyric from the song “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill: “I used to pray for times like this!”
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Breaking down the schematic changes that are likely to come as a result of trading away Young and Sweat
The Commanders now have to try and put together a plan of how they can replace what they’ve lost in Young and Sweat.
Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams are likely the next two defensive ends on the depth chart, so they will presumably start. The team also has Efe Obada and rookies Andre Jones and KJ Henry to mix into the rotation too. I suspect the team will also be bringing in some free agents to try out and perhaps add to the practice squad over the next week or two as well. But despite not having bad depth, none of those players listed offer the same amount of pass rush ability as Young and Sweat, so to simply just elevate Toohill and Smith-Williams while running the same style of defense won’t work.
Fortunately, we’ve seen a glimpse of how the Commanders might adjust to this situation a few years ago. Young and Sweat both missed time injured and Toohill and Smith-Williams took over. The defensive scheme was adjusted significantly and the team actually saw an uptick in performance because of it. That’s not to say it will fix all the defensive issues again, but it will likely look different to what we have seen so far this year. Here’s what to expect from the Commanders defense going forward.
The Athletic (paywall)
Ron Rivera has shortcomings. Barring an unforeseen magical second half for his 3-5 squad, they will likely cost him his job after the season.
But what you cannot say about the Washington Commanders’ coach is that he puts his own interests ahead of the team’s.
Tuesday’s double-barreled jettisoning of both Chase Young and Montez Sweat just before the NFL trade deadline was a wallop, but the Commanders didn’t engage in a full-blown fire sale. Washington still has Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson and Kendall Fuller and Jacoby Brissett on its roster, signaling it still harbors long-shot wild-card dreams.
But it also was not the action of a head coach trying to save his own behind. To be sure, the trades signal the organization wanted to move on without two of its cornerstone first-round draft picks of this era — a new direction led by Josh Harris and his new ownership group. But that also was a recalculation supported by a coach who needs every single solitary win he can get to make a case for his return in 2024.
Dealing two starters who’ve both been solid in 2023 for a 2024 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick — picks Rivera probably won’t get to make — is not normally how coaches in charge of the whole deal organizationally go about making that case.
Rivera is a grown man. He knows the deal. Coaches have to win to survive, and he hasn’t won enough here. There have been too many Sundays when the Commanders have played down to mediocre opposition, or Rivera’s made questionable in-game decisions, for him to survive a fourth season without posting a winning record. Ultimately, Tuesday was a referendum on his penchant for using the team’s highest picks primarily on the defensive side of the ball, with middling-at-best results. That era is indeed over.
It was a big call...
In terms of the Sweat deal received from the Chicago Bears, it’s a best-case scenario. The second-round pick is going to be high barring a turnaround of epic proportions from the struggling NFC North outfit, which gives the Commanders plenty of options to strengthen problem position groups.
It was an offer the Commanders couldn’t refuse. It just made too much business sense given the current state of affairs. Even if Sweat will be sorely missed.
As for Young, it’s slightly different.
Whether the rumors about lack of focus and ignoring assignments are truthful or not is irrelevant. The Commanders wanted Young gone by any means necessary and a compensatory third-rounder from the San Francisco 49ers was all it took for a once-generational pass-rushing talent who was taken No. 2 overall in 2020.
Durability and lasting implications surrounding the knee played a role in this thought process. But Ben Standig of The Athletic’s report that stated Young’s departure might end up being an addition by subtraction is a damning indictment of how his performances and overall influence were perceived by those in positions of power.
This was the right move. One that signals the start of an exciting new era that can hopefully bring a prosperous future for the Commanders - something their fanbase desperately deserves.
Podcasts & videos
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Week 9 Storylines, Key Matchups, and Factors vs. New England Patriots
Jamison Crowder gets buckets against Kyrie Irving at Duke | Next Man Up | Washington Commanders
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Episode 691 - Commentary on & scheduled fun with Ron Rivera's comments on trading Montez Sweat & Chase Young. Take a shot every time Ron mentions Sam Howell...— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) November 2, 2023
I also discuss the best of Sam's press conference & talk #ALLCAPS/Nicklas Backstrom & #WizHawks.https://t.co/iJLi3eTAIF
The Washington Commanders were back on the field for their second day of practice before take on the New England Patriots.
NFL league links
Pro Football Talk
On Sunday, YouTube TV had its first batch of widespread glitches with the NFL’s Sunday Ticket package,
Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, YouTube executive Lori Conkling said Thursday at the SBJ Media Innovators conference that the situation has been resolved.
“It’s completely mitigated,” Conkling said.
“People can have confidence in this Sunday, but it is top of mind for us that we are responsible for delivering the exceptional experience that we have promised to our viewers,” she added. “So we take that very seriously, and we have done everything possible to ensure it does not happen again.”
Asked whether she is confident the fix will work, she said, “We are.”