1. Simplify things for Sam Howell.
Sam Howell was able to pick at the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense, setting career highs in yards, completions and touchdowns. The Eagles, while stout on that side of the ball, run a simple scheme with more traditional coverage concepts. That’s not going to be the case against the Patriots.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 27-9 coaching against first year starting quarterbacks, and part of that is because he makes life so difficult for them. He uses a system that is known for confusing signal-callers, even some of the best at the position like Peyton Manning. Linebackers line up in usual spots; coverages are disguised to look like foreign concepts; and Belichick is willing to employ any method possible to get offenses off balance.
“Every week will be a huge test, but obviously when you’re going against Bill Belichick and his defense, there’s always a challenge,” said assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. “These guys are pretty good. They do a hell of a job. They’re a well-coached staff, they got some good players. We got to go out and be on top of our game.”
Knowing how much Howell tends to struggle against more complicated defenses, as all young quarterbacks do, the Commanders will need to find ways of simplifying the game plan to give him easier decisions. They were exceptional at that against the Eagles, giving Howell quick throws closer to the line of scrimmage and implementing more screens.
The Commanders also use more sprint outs to get Howell on the move. As Howell has said in previous weeks, that can’t be used all time because it cuts the field in half, but it also limits what Howell needs to look at before making a decision.
Howell completed 20-of-23 passes either behind or within five yards of the line of scrimmage against the Eagles. So, giving him shorter, quicker throws should lead to more success against the Patriots.
Washington Post (paywall)
A four-game stretch shifted Washington’s focus. Let’s check in with the team at the NFL season’s halfway point.
The third quarter of the season, much like the second, includes the two worst teams in the NFL by point differential: the Patriots (minus-90) and Giants (minus-92). Washington lost both such games in the second quarter.
Seattle did the opposite of Washington at the trade deadline, acquiring pass-rusher Leonard Williams from the Giants, and has a solid offense with quarterback Geno Smith.
Washington’s first meeting with Dallas will be a classic Thanksgiving matchup. It’s the first time they will meet on Turkey Day since Washington thrashed the Cowboys, 41-16, in 2020, one of the best wins of Rivera’s tenure.
If the Commanders want to make a push for the playoffs, they will probably have to win at least two of the next four games. A difficult final quarter looms, with home games against Miami, San Francisco and Dallas and road games against the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets.
Chris Simms said “it’s over” for Ron Rivera and his time as the Washington Commanders’ head coach.
With the Commanders revealing their hand by trading their top two pass rushers, NBC analyst Chris Simms said on his show, Simms Unbuttoned, that he would call it quits if he were in Rivera’s shoes. Simms also noted that even if the Commanders upset the Philadelphia Eagles (7-1) this past Sunday, they were going to trade Young and Sweat.
“If I’m Ron Rivera, I quit today,” Simms said. “It’s over. They told you it’s over by what they did [on Tuesday]...I had heard on Sunday, even if they won, I think there was people high up in the front office that were like it’s over, we want to trade no matter what.”
While beginning a rebuild and accumulating picks may have been the direction some of the Commanders’ front office chose while their struggles persisted, Simms said there was back-and-forth in the building over the direction they should take.
“There was a little bit of a civil war in the building still going like “hey, we still can turn this around and do all of that.’ They lost, obviously, so that wasn’t even a discussion, and yes, I would say now [with] those two guys being gone, Ron Rivera, does he want to finish out the year? Does he want to quit? I don’t know, but it’s over.”
Could these names be considered?
Commanders could hire Ryan Day - Head Coach | Ohio State University
Last year, Ryan Day was seventh on my list of possible coaching replacements for Ron Rivera. Now he is sixth, but it’s on the “dark horse” list.
That’s kind of like going from seventh in the FBS top 20 to sixth.
The bloom has come off the rose just a bit for Day. He has struggled to keep up with Jim Harbaugh at Michigan in my opinion, but I’m sure that others would disagree with his team sitting at No. 1 in the college football standings heading into this weekend’s action.
Harbaugh, in case you were wondering, is not on my list. I don’t want him. He might be good for a year or two, but I don’t want him.
Day has some intrigue attached, that’s for sure. He’s got NFL experience coaching quarterbacks for both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. He has run a top-flight program at one of the biggest schools in the country and is responsible for molding plenty of current NFL stars currently making their way around the league.
He is 44 years old, which is an ideal age. Although he has a fierce temperament, Day doesn’t feel the need to
show off how brilliant he is like some other younger coaches do. Raise your hand if you remember Chip Kelly.
Commanders could hire Mike LaFleur - Offensive Coordinator | Los Angeles Rams
Looking for pedigree? Mike LaFleur has coached under both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. He is also the younger brother of Matt LaFleur, head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Even though the 36-year-old doesn’t have direct ties to the Washington Commanders, he kind of does through osmosis. That makes him an intriguing head coaching candidate should Ron Rivera be removed from his duties at some stage.
LaFleur has been coaching offenses at the pro level for a decade. Despite never having an elite quarterback, he put together effective units for both the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets over the past five years.
McVay hired him as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams this year. Despite having a banged-up roster, he has managed a top-10 offense thus far, which is no mean feat when one considers how much this team was expected to struggle before the campaign.
As with Kellen Moore, LaFleur will be a head coach shortly. I think he’d be an even better gamble than Moore in 2024, but there’s just no telling for sure what the Commanders are thinking until it’s confirmed one way or another.
It would be a surprise if LaFleur wasn’t on the shortlist. This is also in keeping with Josh Harris’ desire to get ahead of the game, to a certain extent.
Burgundy & Gold Report
As it stands, free agency will be slim pickings at tackle (players of note Tryon Smith and Duane Brown), but players always get released prior to free agency and the draft.
Cornerback will also be a position of need heading into the offseason, but like offensive tackle, pickings are slim at this time (Adoree Jackson, Jeff Okudah & Stephon Gilmore).
Although it’s only November, it’s never too early to have a look at some priority free agents that should be on Washington’s radar.
2024 Free Agent Wish List
DE Brian Burns (25 yrs old)
*SS Kamren Curl (24 yrs old)
ILB Devin White (25 yrs old)
ILB Patrick Queen (24 yrs old)
*DE James Smith-Williams (26 yrs old)
*DE Casey Toohill (27 yrs old)
As the season progresses The Burgundy and Gold Report will publish NFL Draft prospect scouting reports, but 3 prospects are on the early BIg Board.
UGA Tight End Brock Bowers
- 2022 John Mackey Award Winner
- 2022 FWAA All-America First Team
- 2022 Academic All-America First Team
PSU OT Olu Fashanu
- 2022 Second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches
- 2022 Second-team Associated Press All-Big Ten
- 2022 Second-team Pro Football Focus All-Big Ten
- 2022 Dick Maginnis Memorial Award for most outstanding offensive lineman...
- 2022 Academic All-Big Ten honoree
ND Offensive Tackle Joe Alt
- 2022 First Team All-American
- 2022 Second Team USA Today All-American
- 2022 Joe Moore Award Midseason Honor Roll
Podcasts & videos
On video with the great @MikeReiss talking Patriots: Bill Belichick’s future in New England; Christian Gonzalez pre-injury success; Mac Jones and more. Why the slide in NE? Areas to attack. More. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/p8nstJlxO2— John Keim (@john_keim) November 3, 2023
Why Ryan Clarke thinks the Commanders will beat the Patriots
Episode 692 - #WASvsNE preview. #Commanders even at 3-5 are just are one game behind Minnesota for NFC's No. 7 seed...— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) November 3, 2023
How will Sam Howell do vs. Belichick's defense?
How will new-look defensive line do?
Key comments from EB & JDR, Rhyming Keys & more.https://t.co/vOnC3S34fL
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders: New England Patriots Tendencies and Week 9 Keys to Victory
Hoffman: What’s at stake in Commanders-Patriots?
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders wrapping up their week of practice for the New England Patriots
Sources: Monumental has asked D.C. for $600 million of public funding for a major renovation of Capital One Arenahttps://t.co/Up6dzApcm9— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) November 4, 2023
NFC East links
The Athletic (paywall)
Which team is better positioned to turn itself around over the next few years, the Giants or Commanders?
Standig: Put me down for the team with something closer to a blank slate. That’s Washington. Allen and Payne are under contract. Same with wide receiver Terry McLaurin. That’s the Commanders’ three best players even before the Sweat/Young moves. Granted, get past wide receiver Jahan Dotson, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and running back Brian Robinson, and the roster thins out, but I expect them to try to extend safety Kamren Curl. This is where the aforementioned picks and cap space matter. Neither Rivera nor a new football staff will be hamstrung with a bloated payroll — or a QB obligation based on an existing hefty contract, unlike the Giants.
Kubena: There’s little better for a team trying to turn itself around than playing well with a young quarterback in the second year of a late-round rookie contract. Even if I don’t yet fully believe in Howell, there’s enough firepower in McLaurin, Dotson and Robinson to support a favorable progression, which means the Commanders can spend their wealth of draft picks and salary-cap space elsewhere, or support the next quarterback when Washington uses the same assets to secure another high-profile passer in a QB-heavy draft. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones signed a four-year, $160 million deal and ranks 35th in quarterback rating.
Carroll: While the Commanders seem to be on the right track, I’ve got to go with the Giants right now. Maybe that hinges on whether you believe in Jones, but if he’s the answer they thought he was a few months ago when they paid him, then they already have their quarterback under contract along with All-Pros in Lawrence and Andrew Thomas, some exciting young players (cornerback Deonte Banks and receiver Jalin Hyatt) along with premium draft capital. And while the season hasn’t gone the way the Giants had hoped, they still have the reigning NFL Coach of the Year in Daboll.
Machota: I don’t believe Jones is the answer in New York. So both teams still need to find that franchise quarterback. With the picks the Commanders have now after the trades of Young and Sweat, they are probably a little closer to using a high pick to acquire that franchise QB of the future. It’s close, though. The change in ownership is a factor here. There’s no chance I would’ve picked Washington under its previous owner.