The Athletic (paywall)
Following their NFL trade deadline activity, the Washington Commanders now have five picks in the 2024 draft’s first three rounds and three in the top 50.
For weeks I was told the team was willing to move either Chase Young or Montez Sweat, not both. Then something changed. General managers around the league sensed that Washington was open for business on both players because the Commanders called teams the week before the deadline to gauge their markets, multiple sources shared.
Though Ron Rivera and the front office were on board with moving their two star pass rushers after several discussions, I was told the final seal of approval was made by ownership. It’s not unusual for an owner to be part of moves that involve multiple star players on a roster. There isn’t a coach in the NFL who wants to lose talent in a win-now season, but it was explained to me by a high-ranking official that this is all about longer-term planning. There is a strong belief in the building that the Commanders have found their franchise quarterback in Sam Howell, and now it’s about building for 2024.
We still don’t know if ownership will stick with Rivera, general manager Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of player personnel Marty Hurney, but I can tell you they aren’t giving up on the season whether they are part of the future of the new Commanders or not.
Washington Post (paywall)
.229 winning percentage
Belichick’s reputation for bamboozling young opposing quarterbacks is well deserved and will be a test for Sam Howell this week. Since 2000, quarterbacks in their first or second seasons have gone 19-64 (.229) against him, according to the website TruMedia. Other stats are just as abysmal: 55.4 completion percentage, 190 passing yards per game, 88 touchdowns to 109 interceptions.
Over the past two seasons, even as serious cracks have started to show in the program, Belichick hasn’t really faltered against young passers, embarrassing the Colts’ Sam Ehlinger and the Jets’ Zach Wilson (twice). In 2022, Justin Fields was able to use his arms and legs to lead Chicago past the Patriots, 33-14.
36.3 percent blitz rate
For the second time in three weeks, Washington will face a blitz-heavy defense. The Patriots send pressure 36.3 percent of the time, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Commanders Coach Ron Rivera stressed that New England’s scheme is already difficult because of how well the unit disguises its intentions by mixing up the appearances of fronts, coverages, stunts, alignments and personnel groupings.
“Across the board, they try not to give you the clues [to figure out the defense presnap],” he said. “You can do the different motions and shifts that you do, and for the most part, that’s going to help you. But sometimes it’s going to lie to you as well. That’s the thing that we’ve tried to get across to Sam: ‘You’ve just got to be prepared for the looks that you get presnap and post-snap.’ And so he’ll have to make his decisions quickly.”
The lead writers of FanNation’s Commander Country and Patriots Country recently provided insight on their respective teams for their Week 9 matchup at Gillette Stadium.
2. Who’s an offensive player to watch for the Patriots going into the game?
PC: Despite his 5-8, 180-pound frame, rookie Demario Douglas is most effective out of the slot in short yardage. In order to compensate for the usual height differential with his opponent, he has developed a knack of anticipating defenders attacking him — a strategy which has served him well to date. However, he also has the skill set to evades tacklers when he has the ball in his hands in open space. As a result, Douglas’ acceleration and speed may be essential to helping Mac Jones and the Pats offense put the Commanders on their heels early —especially if their defense mistakenly plays him in soft coverage.
4. What’s a matchup that you are looking forward to seeing?
PC: With pass-rush specialists Montez Sweat and Chase Young now residing elsewhere, the Patriots offensive line will look to provide Jones with additional time to progress through his reads and make his throws. Washington will undoubtedly look to counter that by using defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and DaRon Payne to test the mettle of Patriots guards Cole Strange and Sidy Sow. Knowing Jones needs extra time to be effective, Allen and Payne will attempt to collapse the pocket to keep the Pats quarterback off balance. If Strange and Sow can win a notable number of those battles, things could get interesting on Sunday in Foxboro.
Washington Post (paywall)
Since Ron Rivera took over as coach with control over personnel in 2020, his attempts to fix the flawed roster he inherited have resulted in modest successes getting undermined by glaring misses in the draft, free agency and trade market. With Rivera coaching in the fourth year of a five-year contract, the Commanders continue to pay for those problems, literally and figuratively.
The offensive line has undergone multiple iterations, the defensive line failed to meet expectations, the linebacking corps is still problematic, and the secondary is often a liability.
It’s enough to obscure what has worked out. The team selected safety Kam Curl in the seventh round in 2020, and he’s a staple of the defense. So are cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and safety Darrick Forrest, third- and fifth-round picks in 2021 who impressed in relief roles and prompted the Commanders to find ways to get them more snaps.
And last year, one of the Commanders’ more savvy decisions was trading back in the first round of the draft to select wide receiver Jahan Dotson and use the extra picks to grab running back Brian Robinson Jr. (third round), quarterback Sam Howell (fifth) and tight end Cole Turner (fifth).
But the problem is that when Washington manages to find pieces that fit, too many holes remain.
Washington Post (paywall)
Defensive end Montez Sweat agreed to a four-year, $98 million contract extension with the Chicago Bears that includes more than $72 million in guarantees, a person with knowledge of the terms said Saturday.
The deal makes Sweat the fifth-highest-paid edge rusher in the NFL in average annual value ($24.5 million), according to contracts website Over the Cap, and allows Chicago to preserve its franchise tag for 2024.
In his four-plus seasons with the Commanders, Sweat totaled 35.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits, nine forced fumbles.
In acquiring Sweat and retaining him for the long term, the Bears get one of the league’s more productive edge rushers and consistent run defenders. And they could use the help up front. Chicago has recorded a league-low 10 sacks this season, five of which came against the Commanders in Week 5.mbles and 11 passes defended.
Pro Football Talk
Within 30 days of signing, $9.875 million of the signing bonus will be paid. Another $9.875 million will be paid on or about March 31, 2024. The amount reflecting his 17th game check ($676,471) also will be paid on or about March 31, 2024.
The contract has $41.965 million fully guaranteed at signing, with a practical guarantee of $62.865 million. The key is that the 2025 injury guarantee becomes fully guaranteed in early 2024; to avoid it, the Bears would have to cut Sweat — which means they would have paid him $41.965 million for one year.
The deal has a total value at signing of $105 million, with a new-money total of $98 million. That equates to a new-money average of $24.5 million.
Days after he was traded from the Washington Commanders to the Chicago Bears defensive end Montez Sweat sent a message to the franchise that drafted him and the city that supported him.
“Man.. as I sit here with so many emotions and try to gather the words to express my gratitude to the (Commanders) organization, & fan base, I don’t even know where to start,” Sweat posted on Instagram three days after the trade that sent him to the Chicago Bears. “Since 2019, you guys embraced me and welcomed me with open arms to the great city of Washington, D.C. The last 5 years have been filled with ups and downs..we went through it all together & I will always call this place home. The DMV will hold a special place in my heart forever. To my teammates, that have developed into life-long brothers.. Those relationships were never taken for granted and every teammate I’ve come across impacted me on this journey and helped mold me into the player I am today, thank you. This is all part of God’s plan for me, I’m excited & looking forward to what’s to come. All Luv DC. - 90”
Keeping these threats quiet will be crucial...
Commanders must double-team Christian Barmore
He’s not always the most consistent, but third-year defensive lineman Christian Barmore can dominate when fully focused. Big No. 90 is proving more disruptive this season, logging three sacks and six pressures in eight games, after notching just 2.5 quarterback takedowns and nine pressures in 10 contests last year.
Barmore is fast becoming the Patriots’ most effective pass-rusher while stud edge defender Matthew Judon is out with a biceps injury. It was the Alabama product who made plays against both phases of the Miami Dolphins’ high-powered offense in Week 8.
His multiple alignments at Hard Rock Stadium were highlighted by Evan Lazar of Patriots.com.
#Patriots DT Christian Barmore has been great over the last three games: two sacks, six QB pressures, ten run stuffs.— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 1, 2023
Flashing his rookie season pass-rush skill and range in the run game with improved power at the point of attack. pic.twitter.com/tOZHJvLQRu
Wherever he lines up, the Washington Commanders need to assign more than one blocker to handle Barmore. Otherwise, he has the scope to wreck this contest to their detriment.
Toohill, despite limited snaps this season, is third on the team with four sacks, just one behind Young. The fourth-year defensive end from Stanford is eager for an increased role.
“It’s always, in this business, it’s always sad to see people you spend a lot of time with, people you have a lot of respect for, go,” Toohill said. “Obviously, Chase and Tez are incredible players, good friends of both (Smith-Williams) of ours, so that was, sad to see them go. It always is, and that’s a part of the business that never gets easier. So that was a hard day for everyone involved.”
While Toohill will miss Sweat and Young, he understands he and Smith-Williams have a job to do, and they’re prepared.
“I don’t think anything changes in terms of, like James and I, our preparation,” Toohill said. “We’ve been here before, our rookie year, when they were both hurt. 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.”
Chase Young is gone.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 1, 2023
So is Montez Sweat.
What now? Casey Toohill will get a great opportunity to shine in the Commanders defense.
Casey told me, "it's always exciting, but you can't focus too much on that. My preparation doesn't change." pic.twitter.com/8c6OdWtfkK
What about his good friend Smith-Williams?
“You always want to play as much as you possibly can, right?” Smith-Williams said. “Looking forward to that and preparing the same as I have all year.”
Here comes James Smith-Williams.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) November 1, 2023
The Commanders defensive end will get his reps now.
He is looking forward to the opportunity! pic.twitter.com/UaaE9Jarwp
Much like Sweat and Young were close, Toohill and Smith-Williams are also close friends. Now, both players have a chance to show the Commanders they should be around in 2024.
Podcasts & videos
Clinton Portis Has The Answer For Why Running Backs Aren’t Getting Paid In Today’s NFL
NFC East links
The 31-year-old was a big-name signing in free agency for a Giants team coming off a surprise playoff berth, and even though both he and Big Blue have been underwhelming through eight games, it’s a massive blow.
Waller has been the brightest spot in a dim operation that ranks 32nd in passing yards. He leads the team with 36 receptions and 384 yards.
Tight end Daniel Bellinger will step into a starting role and be expected to step up, and Barkley could see even more work in the short passing game during Waller’s absence.
While Waller’s injury disrupts New York’s starting lineup, Taylor going to IR with a rib injury is equally concerning.
He’s a sturdy veteran behind Jones, who has already dealt with a neck injury this year. The journeyman QB has gone 1-2 in relief work, passing for 579 yards and two touchdowns on 57-of-87 passing in 2023.
With Jones’ favorite target on the shelf and his backup sidelined, as well, the Giants have a few extra obstacles to overcome if they are to pull themselves out of a 2-6 hole.
Pro Football Focus
Washington Commanders: Jamison Crowder (90.6)
Jamison Crowder has primarily served as Washington’s punt returner in his first season back with the team (nine receiving snaps entering Week 8), but he saw his volume increase with 19 receiving snaps against the Eagles. Crowder responded with his best receiving day since Week 8 of 2021 (84 yards). He caught each of his targets and gained five first downs. Crowder had three explosive gains, including a 26-yard touchdown catch over James Bradberry with 1:08 remaining in the game and Washington down by eight. Crowder averaged 5.00 yards per route run and finished with a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted.
Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb (91.1)
Dallas got off to a fast start against the Rams with a 17-3 first-quarter lead and never looked back. CeeDee Lamb had a monster day. He led all receivers in Week 8 in yards (158), missed tackles forced (six) and explosive gains. He tied for first in first-down gains (seven) and accounted for four plays of 20-plus yards. Lamb finished the first half with nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He has 19 catches for 270 yards over his past two games. He also has 14 first-down gains and 11 explosive plays in that span.
New York Giants: Isaiah Hodgins (54.8) (No Targets)
The Giants found themselves in a tough situation after a rib injury forced Tyrod Taylor to leave the game in the second quarter. Tommy DeVito finished the game, and the Giants relied on their rushing attack for the rest of the day. They went into halftime with -8 passing yards and attempted just one pass in the second half, to Darius Slayton. Daniel Jones continues to recover from his neck injury, and Tyrod Taylor is listed as day-to-day. The Giants signed Matt Barkley on Tuesday to provide depth to their ailing quarterback group.
Philadelphia Eagles: A.J. Brown (85.8)
A.J. Brown once again looked like a man amongst boys against Washington’s secondary. He caught every target and recorded five explosive gains. Two of those plays went for touchdowns. Brown finished third in yards this week and forced two missed tackles. He leads all receivers with 13 missed tackles forced this season. Brown finishes his 2023 matchups against Washington with 17 catches for 305 yards and four touchdowns. He made history by recording his sixth straight game with at least 125 receiving yards and has 21 explosive gains during that span (tied for first). He enters Week 9 ranked second in receiving yards (939) and PFF grade (91.9) among wide receivers.
NFL league links
Pro Football Talk
As Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to recover from his torn Achilles tendon, he showed up on Saturday at the Breeder’s Cup. And he was interviewed by Britney Eurton of NBC Sports while attending the races in California.
The segment included a question about Rodgers’s ongoing efforts to get back on the field.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I do rehab every single day. This is part of my rehab, walking down to the betting window over here to grab some food or drink, which my trainers will be happy with that. I’m trying to put my leg up as much as I can. I’ve got my dad shoes on, my rockers, so I can walk without any pain. But it’s a process. Step by step. Day by day. There’s some great days, some rough days. But the goal for me is to come back this year. It’s got to be, otherwise I think it’d be a lot of rehab and pain. We’ll see what happens. I’ve got to hit some markers before that. I’ve got to be able to move around. I’ve got to be able to avoid putting myself in harm’s way.
“But the team’s been playing good. Proud of Zach [Wilson]. Proud of the boys. We’re 4-3. We’ve got a big one on Monday night, and one coming up on NBC [against the Raiders] the following week. So excited to head back there tomorrow and see the fellas, cheer on a win, and keep getting better.”
It remains unclear whether Rodgers actually will make it back onto the field. It’s possible, as he suggested, that he has created an unrealistic goal in order to make it easier to endure the entire rehab process.