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Taking a closer look at both the positives and negatives from the Commanders rookie CB vs New England.
On this play, the Patriots align in a three by one formation with three receivers to the right and one receiver isolated to the left. Forbes has primarily been used as a boundary corner by the Commanders, meaning he plays on the shorter side of the field so there is less space for him to have to cover. However, the downside of that is that offenses will typically align their three receivers to the field side, where there is more space for three receivers to operate, leaving their number one receiver isolated on the other side.
This means that as the boundary corner, Forbes often had to matchup against the Patriots top receiver in one-on-one coverage. As we’ve already established, that’s not necessarily his game, but even so, Forbes held up well against the Patriots. You can see on this play he’s isolated against Patriots receiver Jalen Reagor, who looks to break inside quickly on a slant. Forbes’ technique isn’t great here. Rather than staying square to the receiver, he allows his hip to open to the sideline on the receiver’s initial step. That allows the receiver the chance to cut across his face and get inside while Forbes has to sort his feet out.
Forbes does remarkably well to flip his hips back inside quickly enough to stay on top of the route. That hip fluidity and foot quickness is part of why he was such a promising draft prospect and it allows him to make up for bad technique. By being able to adjust so quickly, Forbes stays with the receiver as he breaks inside. The receiver is able to use his frame to box out Forbes as the ball arrives, but Forbes has the length to reach in with his arm and knock the ball away at the catch point.
From that play, you can see both the potential and the issues in Forbes’ game right now. The initial technique got him in a bad spot, but his fluidity gave him the ability to recover.
Pro Football Focus
Overall Rookie Grade: 49.3 (Rank: 14/18)
Principal Opponent: Jalen Reagor
Week 9 Snaps: 48
Week 9 Grade: 91.3
Forbes’ return to substantial action was incredible. His 91.3 overall grade was the third best among qualified cornerbacks through Sunday. He allowed just two catches, one of which was a screen, for 12 yards on seven targets. Both of those catches came on New England’s last drive of the game. He also had three pass breakups and nearly hauled in an interception after perfectly covering a Jalen Reagor go route. Forbes was Washington’s best player on Sunday. They’ll hope he continues that trend after a rough first half of the season.
Washington’s quest to find The Next quarterback has lasted decades. Howell is the 33rd player to start at quarterback since the franchise last won the Super Bowl, after the 1991 season. Since Kirk Cousins last played here in 2017, Washington has started 12 quarterbacks.
It’s not a high bar to step over, but Howell, in his second season, certainly hopes he can be the franchise’s long-term answer.
“I want to be the quarterback here for a really long time,” Howell said. “But how I’m going to get to that point is taking it one day at a time. That’s the way I look at it. I never worry about the future.”
The future can be difficult to predict in Washington. With a new owner in Josh Harris, nothing is guaranteed for the coaching staff, or football operations staff, beyond this season. And that could impact Howell’s future as well.
But the more good games he plays, the more he can cement himself in Washington. Howell has started only 10 games in Washington; the Commanders are 4-5 heading into Sunday’s game at the Seattle Seahawks (5-3). There’s a long way to go.
But Howell has injected hope that perhaps he, indeed, can be the answer. In the last five games, Howell has topped 300 yards three times. He has an NFL-high 1,510 passing yards during that stretch, while tying Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts for the most touchdowns with 10. Howell also became the first quarterback in franchise history to surpass 2,500 yards in only 10 games.
Regarding Sam Howell and his 2023 performance, Theismann emphasized, “He’s one tough son-of-a-gun. He’s been sacked 41 times, I think is the number.” Actually, it’s worse; he’s been sacked 44 times through nine games.
“I’m always curious when a quarterback gets knocked down, who’s helping him up? You watch some quarterbacks when they go down; there is not one lineman there helping them up. That is all you need to know about how that team feels about that individual.”
Theismann feels the Commanders team believes in Howell. “These guys appreciate Sam; they appreciate his work ethic. I am getting a kick out of watching Sam grow.”
While Ron Rivera has repeatedly mentioned Howell’s growth and development, Theismann also knows offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is still learning about Howell as well.
“Eric is still learning what Sam can do. We are talking about nine football games. Eric is still putting together the pieces of the puzzle with Sam.”
The more, the better.
This is why you never, ever tank for a player. Any given prospect is far too unpredictable.
I know all of our hindsight is 20/20, and now we all claim to have known C.J. Stroud was the real deal and Bryce Young would be a bust. But that isn’t what most people were saying just six months ago.
Back then, Young was next in the line of “can’t miss” prospects. Like Kyler Murray. Like Sam Darnold. Like Josh Rosen. Like Tua Tagovailoa. And Baker Mayfield. The list goes on.
We should all know by now - there is no such thing as a can’t-miss player. If you’ll permit me a mixed metaphor, can’t-miss players have a very poor batting average.
Do you know what has a great batting average? Math.
Math doesn’t lie. If it did, all the actuaries in the world would be out of work.
With that one piece of information, here is the best way to build a team - accumulate as many draft picks as you possibly can. If the selection process is a hit-or-miss proposition, then you must increase your odds. Get more throws at the dart board. That’s the only way to beat the system.
There used to be another way. Previous owner Jack Kent Cooke perfected it.
Wait to see which players from the draft hit and which missed - then scoop up the best of them once they hit free agency. You determined the best by hiring brilliant football minds like Bobby Beathard and Joe Gibbs to do your scouting and coaching. You left them alone.
The salary cap changed all that.
Proven free agents are more expensive than rookies. You can’t stock a roster with them. You need to hit on as many rookies as you can.
Washington Post (paywall)
If the team now called the (yawn) Commanders loses in Seattle on Sunday, the next day should be declared “Victory Monday.”
Why? Because if you ever want to see a championship NFL team in D.C. again, the more this team loses, the better. Washington last won the Super Bowl in January 1992 during the Joe Gibbs 1.0 era. That was the team’s third championship in 10 years. It hasn’t been anywhere close to that level since.
There is no way to wipe out the stench of Daniel Snyder’s ownership overnight, or even over the course of a season. It is to new owner Josh Harris’s credit that he hasn’t succumbed to Snyderitis and made snap football decisions.
No one would have blamed Harris if he had fired Coach Ron Rivera after the Thursday night debacle against the Chicago Bears. Rivera is in his fourth season with the Commanders, and it is pretty clear he is a decent man — and a mediocre coach. He is not Jim Zorn by any stretch — he has coached in a Super Bowl — but he is not Gibbs by any stretch, either.
That’s why every “Victory Monday” makes Harris’s job a little more difficult. Firing Rivera is almost certain to be easily justifiable at season’s end unless the team somehow slips into the playoffs, which is unlikely but not impossible in the paper-thin NFC, in which Washington sits one game out of a wild-card spot. Throw in Washington somehow pulling out a first-round win, and Harris could have a problem on his hands.
Podcasts & videos
Commanders Film Study: Sam Howell Shines, O-Line Improves in Win Over Patriots | Washington vs NE https://t.co/XAqG86M99l— The BnG® (@PhilipHughesNFL) November 8, 2023
Is calling for a higher usage of FB Alex Armah an antiquated philosophy?— RefTheDistrict (@RefTheDistrict) November 7, 2023
Or should Ron & EB up his usage?
We break down Armah's 9 snaps vs the Patriots and give our thoughts on his future usehttps://t.co/PBHPxSUK7o pic.twitter.com/SMjRtNdZ51
Episode 695 - Guest: @MarkBullockNFL. film breakdown:— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) November 8, 2023
- No. 1 reason Sam Howell is taking less sacks
- Sam's great work vs. Pats' blitz
- insight on Larsen & Forbes
- where #Commanders truly went wrong w/ the d-line
Also: #CarsonWentz, #Terps & #Hoyas.https://t.co/QOOUUQ5TEC
Russell: Jay Gruden on KJ Henry’s ‘sack’ turned penalty and more from Commanders’ win in New England
NFL league links
Pro Football Talk
Rodgers, who told Derwin James after Monday night’s loss to the Chargers that he could be “a few weeks” from returning, told Pat McAfee today that he didn’t mean that literally and didn’t know the ESPN microphones were picking up what he was saying.
“I didn’t realize that was going to get caught there. That was said a little tongue in cheek there. It’d be nice to be able to be back in a couple weeks. That’s probably not anywhere near a realistic timeline,” Rodgers said. “I said it smiling, joking. He was talking about how he’s excited for me to get back on the field at some point, I joked it would be a few weeks. Obviously going to be more than a couple weeks.”
If Rodgers is able to return to the field at any point this season, it would be an extraordinarily fast recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, which in the past has always been a season-ending injury for every player who suffered it during the season. The Jets’ regular-season finale is eight weeks and five days away.