Washington Post (paywall)
In the locker room after Sunday’s win at New England, the Washington Commanders’ offensive linemen sat at their stalls, exhausted. The offense had just taken 78 snaps, tied for its most this season. And for the second straight week, quarterback Sam Howell had been hit and sacked at some of the lowest rates of the year. The linemen and Howell praised each other’s growth, especially against cover-zero blitzes.
Larsen is an unlikely hero for the line. At 32, he’s one of the team’s oldest players. He’s coming off two season-ending leg injuries in a row. Washington acquired two centers this offseason — signing Gates to a three-year, $16.5 million deal and using a third-round draft pick on Ricky Stromberg — and cut Larsen from its initial 53-man roster. Yet the line looks the best it has all year when helmed by the former undrafted free agent out of Utah State.
On the field, Larsen communicates the protection calls and determines which way the line should slide. In the running game, he identifies the middle linebacker and helps organize the blocking assignments. It’s sometimes hard to pick up on his impact because he’s not theatrical and doing lots of arm-waving or chest-beating.
In his re-watch of the Patriots game, Rivera said, Larsen stood out when he picked up a three-man stunt. Cosmi was stuck on a rusher, so Larsen realized there would be an unfilled gap and slid over. He blocked the rusher, who otherwise would have broken through.
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Breaking down why the Commanders have been able to cut down on sacks
On this play, the Patriots look to run a three-man stunt to the left side of the Commanders offensive line. Both defensive tackles stunt outside to the left side while the edge rusher loops around back inside. Larsen struggles to pick up the nose tackle as he rushes to his left shoulder, so much so that he gets turned around almost instantly. Paul attempts to help out but he doesn’t get anywhere near enough contact on the defender to prevent him from bursting through. Fortunately, Howell does a great job getting the ball out and delivering a perfect pass to Terry McLaurin just as the defender arrives and lands a big hit on him.
It’s tough to say who is more at fault without knowing the protection call, but I don’t think either Larsen or Paul covered themselves in glory here. Larsen really struggled with the initial move but he was perhaps expecting more help from Paul, who should really have been in position to cut off that rush given the overall stunt being run. In an ideal world, Larsen probably passes that defensive tackle off to Paul and then slides back inside to pick up the looping defensive end, but in the end neither of those things happened and the defender landed a big hit on Howell, who did amazingly well to deliver the quality of throw he did under that pressure.
Pro Football Focus (subscription)
20. Washington Commanders (Down 1)
Projected Week 10 starters:
• Charles Leno Jr. earned an 84.1 run-blocking grade in Week 9, fourth among all offensive tackles.
• Tyler Larsen earned a positive grade on 28.0% of run plays against the Patriots, the second-best rate among centers in Week 9.
Best player: Sam Cosmi
• Cosmi has earned a positive grade on 17.9% of run plays this season, the sixth-best rate among all guards.
Washington Post (paywall)
The Washington Commanders will look to start a winning streak Sunday in Seattle, a city where the franchise has had a surprising amount of success — at least during the regular season — over the past 40 years. Washington lost a road divisional playoff game to the Seahawks in January 2006 and a first-round matchup two years later but is 7-1 in all other road games against Seattle. As you might expect, that’s the franchise’s best regular season road record against any team.
the Burgundy and Gold’s regular season success in the Emerald City is difficult to explain. The Seahawks have won 117 regular season games at home since their current stadium, now known as Lumen Field, opened in 2002, which is the fifth most in the NFL during that span. Washington is 4-0 during the regular season in the famously loud venue, where fans known as the 12scontribute to false starts and generally make life miserable for opposing offenses. Excluding the Seahawks’ NFC West division foes, only the Atlanta Falcons, who are 4-3 in seven regular season games at Lumen Field, have as many wins in Seattle as Washington since 2002. Every team except Washington has lost there.
In the three weeks since the Commanders’ game against the Atlanta Falcons, during which Dotson only had one target and no receptions, Dotson has been targeted 26 times and made 17 catches for 220 yards, which is only six yards behind Terry McLaurin’s production in that span. He now has three touchdowns on the year, which ties him for the most among Washington’s pass-catchers.
Dotson’s resurgence is not a surprise to his teammates, because they know how much he’s worked to be more productive.
However, while Dotson has made clutch grabs like the game-tying touchdown in the Week 4 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he also had a stretch where he simply wasn’t making the catches that the team has come to expect from him.
Of those drops, there were two that caused the most frustration. The first was on what would have been a touchdown against the Falcons. The next came against the Giants, when he couldn’t haul in a fourth-down throw that would have at worst kept the offense on the field and at best tied the score.
What personnel decisions should the Washington Commanders regret based on what’s transpired up to the 2023 midseason point?
Based on what we’ve witnessed up to the midseason point, which personnel moves made during the offseason should the Commanders already regret?
Commanders LB switch
Despite performing relatively well in 2022, the Washington Commanders opted to take their chances without linebacker Cole Holcomb. They replaced him with Cody Barton, who came to D.C. off a career season with the Seattle Seahawks and was seen as the perfect partner for Jamin Davis.
Barton turned in a series of disappointing efforts before he went to injured/reserve. Holcomb signed for the Pittsburgh Steelers and played well before a significant injury curtailed his season in the blink of an eye, which will involve some significant rehabilitation before returning to action.
Not bringing Holcomb back was a hot topic of discussion. It’s who they brought in to fill the void that represented the biggest problem.
Commanders could cut Charles Leno Jr.
- Cap savings - $12 million (post-June 1 designation)
- Dead money - $3.75 million
There is so much sentiment in football from a fan standpoint. It’s easy to forget that is a business above all else and players are viewed by ownership as commodities rather than anything too deep.
Josh Harris’ approach with his other sports franchises centers on analytics and making cutthroat choices in pursuit of progression. That’s the same ethos he’ll bring to the Washington Commanders and there will be no sentiment attached to any personnel moves as a result.
This will be especially evident if Harris goes with a different general manager or head coach. Upon further examination of the biggest savings that might make sense, veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr. jumps out immediately.
Leno has once again proven his worth as the Commanders’ most consistent offensive lineman this season. He’s a supreme leader within the locker room and one of the most high-character individuals you’ll ever meet.
But again, this is a business.
If the Commanders prioritize upgrading the protection in front of Sam Howell and draft a premium edge protector with their first-round selection, Leno becomes a very expensive backup unless he’s shifted to another spot. Cutting him with a post-June 1 designation saves the Commanders $12 million, which is a lofty sum whichever way one looks at it.
Podcasts & videos
Sam Howell Week 9 Analysis
Washington Commanders Sam Howell Not Concerned About Jahan Dotson | NFL Draft | Ron Rivera Presser
New @TraporDive ️ #HTTC @granthpaulsen joined @LetMualTellit @SaintWah @DCSportsDre on this episode— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) November 8, 2023
- What Sam must show to solidify franchise QB status
- Ron’s effort in closing the talent gap on the roster.
After taking down the New England Patriots in Week 9, the Washington Commanders have begun preparing for their cross country matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.
NFC East links
Big Blue View
Tommy DeVito talks about going from the scout team to starting against the Cowboys
Tommy DeVito isn’t supposed to be the New York Giants starting quarterback, at least not in 2023. He really isn’t even really supposed to be on the field right now.
The expectation was that DeVito would spend the 2023 season on the practice squad, develop, and potentially push to be the Giants’ primary backup quarterback in 2024. Then Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor were placed on the injured reserve and the undrafted free agent rookie was suddenly the next man up.
“I think it’s a shock to everybody,” DeVito said on Wednesday. “Not to have one quarterback but two quarterbacks go down, I mean it’s tough. The quarterback position runs the team, and to have one and two go down like that, you would’ve never guessed that to happen. But again, it’s a physical game, injuries happen, it’s part of it, it’s the worst part about the game, but it’s the next man up mentality and like I said before, I’m going to rely on everyone else around me.”
DeVito has been forced into a rough situation, being elevated from the scout team to starter between road trips and on the eve of a matchup against a tough division rival.
Blogging the Boys
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting in the NFC East.
Just when you thought the Commanders were going into tank mode, trading away defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat before the deadline, they go get a road win over the Patriots. While Washington’s waffling keeps them out of the division discussion, they are still just a game out from a wild card spot.
Here are the NFC East standings going into Week 10:
- Philadelphia Eagles 8-1 (3-0 in division)
- Dallas Cowboys 5-3 (1-1 in division)
- Washington Commanders 4-5 (0-3 in division)
- New York Giants 2-7 (1-1 in division)
While the loss in Philadelphia was a tough one for Dallas, they still get to host the Eagles in Week 14 and take the head-to-head tiebreaker off the board. What’s more, between now and then, the team’s schedules couldn’t be more lopsided.
- DAL: NY Giants, @Carolina, Washington, Seattle
- PHI: BYE, @Kansas City, Buffalo, San Francisco
Where will the rivals stand going into their Week 14 rematch? If the Cowboys play like they have the last two weeks since their own bye, they could run the table and be 9-3. The Giants and Panthers may be the two worst teams in the NFL right now and the Commanders don’t know who they are. Seattle will be a tough game but at least it’s at home, where Dallas suddenly has become rather formidable with 11-straight victories.
The Eagles clearly have a much tougher road ahead. They certainly won’t lose all those games, if even one of them, but they haven’t exactly been dominant in several of their victories this year. Assuming the Bills and 49ers play up to their proven potential, these should all be solid tests of Philadelphia’s mettle.
NFL league links
The Atlanta Falcons will be starting Taylor Heinicke against the Arizona Cardinals this week, but coach Arthur Smith made it clear he’s not interested in the decision about who starts at quarterback becoming a weekly topic of conversation.
“We’re not going to play musical chairs,” Smith said Wednesday. “Hopefully we can go get this win. Take a second to really evaluate as we make that sprint towards the end of the season. “That’s the best I can give you right now.”
Barring something unforeseen, Smith said he and the staff will evaluate what they’ve seen from Heinicke versus what Desmond Ridder provided over the first eight weeks and then make a decision from there. Atlanta has a bye in Week 11.
The Falcons turned to Heinicke at halftime against Tennessee, with Ridder being evaluated for a potential concussion (he was eventually cleared).
Atlanta then chose to start Heinicke last week against Minnesota --- making it clear at the time that it was for “this week” and then they would reassess. At the time, Smith and offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said there were a “lot of variables” going into the decision to start Heinicke.
Ridder, when he spoke, pointed to ball security — he had seven turnovers in 2½ games, including four in the red zone — and said he would use the time to work on fixing that. He didn’t indicate last week when — or if — he might reclaim the starting job.
Heinicke has completed 55.9% of his passes over the past six quarters for 443 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. In the six quarters he has played, Atlanta has scored 48 points — including a season-high 28 vs. the Vikings this past Sunday.
The ManningCast's numbers are down. The alternate broadcast has been flirting with dropping below 1 million for the first time ever, and the percentage of the total MNF audience has been as low as 5.74% this season. https://t.co/IQ5IPS4UQC— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 8, 2023