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Daily Slop - 1 Dec 23: Ron Rivera takes over the defense with Miami coming to town; McLaurin’s production reflects Howell’s good decision-making

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Washington Post (paywall)

Josh Harris preaches patience, discusses plans for Commanders

“Clearly, all of us are disappointed by the performance on the field,” he said at the Sports Business Journal’s Dealmakers conference Thursday in D.C. “All of us. So we’re focusing on that, and we want to finish the season strong. You got to win, and everyone wants to win. … And sometimes it takes a while.”

“I have a public track record with Philly and New Jersey, and generally, when you change a system, sometimes you have to do it,” Harris said. “[But] you probably take a step back before you take a step forward. That’s not always the case, but I think generally that’s what the statistics would show. So I think it’s important to be patient. . . . You can have high expectations, but people have to say, ‘We want to be part of this.’ So that’s why you have to be measured with what you do.

“In sports, there’s pressure,” Harris continued. “There’s pressure from the public, but people aren’t always thinking about that long game of what are you trying to accomplish? And what we’re trying to accomplish is we want to have elite teams that consistently compete for championships.”

[T]he team has announced sellouts for all five home games thus far. Last year, FedEx Field ranked as the lowest-attended stadium in the league. And as the fans have returned, so have the sponsors; the team announced six corporate sponsorships and partnerships before the season even began.

“We did as much as we could in six weeks,” Harris said. “But there’s a lot more work to do in the offseason. … We’re on a long journey.”

“We’re going to improve the existing stadium as much as we can while we look for a new home because it’s not the bones, necessarily,” Harris said. “The bones obviously can be repaired; they can be fixed. It’s more the way modern stadiums are set up; they’re very different than stadiums that are older. And so whether it’s the premium areas being really close to the game itself, how the suites are situated, how much premium there is, the WiFi, I mean, a lot of that stuff just can’t be done in an older stadium. So we’re going to be looking at ultimately how do we move to a new stadium.”

“Certainly having a stadium that is accessible to the DMV at large, as best as we can manage all that, is important,” Harris said.

So, too, is building a place that will give the Commanders a true home-field advantage.

“It’s an edge,” Harris said. “So how you create the edge for your team is also another important concept.”

The Athletic (paywall)

Ron Rivera’s return to play calling creates new what-if for Commanders

From the head coach’s perspective, the hope is to pump the brakes on Washington’s slide that ended any realistic shot at reaching the postseason with five regular-season games remaining. The immediate impact thrust Rivera back into familiar terrain. He called plays in the past, most recently in 2019 as the Carolina Panthers’ head coach. The last game, ironically against Washington, occurred two days before Panthers owner David Tepper fired Rivera.

Rivera’s focused presence with the defense on Wednesday ahead of Sunday’s home game against the high-octane Miami Dolphins highlighted the newness.

“It’s exciting seeing coach be hands-on and more involved with the defense,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. “I’m excited. I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond on Sunday.”

An autopsy on the who-what-where-why of it all will come. For some, including former NFL general manager Randy Mueller, among the mysteries of Washington’s season, if not the past four years, is why Rivera didn’t insert himself into fixing the defensive issues sooner.

“Ron Rivera has taken the CEO approach for most of his time with the Commanders. I understand the changing of culture and the effort that must be given in this area for this franchise. But what got Rivera this gig (and his prior one in Carolina) was his defensive acumen and his ability to devise defenses that utilize the personnel that his roster presents,” Mueller began.

“That is why I was taken back by Rivera’s comments after last week’s firing of longtime colleague Jack Del Rio when he said he would be more involved in running the defense. What the heck has he been doing for the last three years?

“This is what Rivera needed to do Week 1 this season. Instead, he has operated as if he had a 10-year contract for the last few years, like he was entitled to have this job. What better way to instill confidence with a new boss (Harris) than to throw 100 percent of your efforts into a kick-ass defense and have something to hang your hat on?”

Practice notes | No matter who calls the defense, players know their job doesn’t change

“All our attention, all our focus has to be on Miami,” said cornerback Kendall Fuller. “It can’t be on coaching changes. All your attention has to be on the things that we need to do to win on Sunday.”

That’s the attitude that all the players have as they prepare to play the Dolphins at FedExField on Dec. 3. Sure, there will be some changes with head coach Ron Rivera calling the defense. The scheme will be simplified, but the players don’t see it as a drastic change to what they’re asked to do.

No matter who’s calling the defense, their job remains the same: play the best they can and try to win as many games as possible.

The players have been open to that, and for them, Fuller said that all it means is working with a smaller play sheet and making simpler calls.

Khaleke Hudson wants to help reduce gun violence as part of NFL’s ‘My Cause, My Cleats’ initiative

Khaleke Hudson’s life changed forever in 2013.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 22 of that year, Hudson and his family received a call informing them that Khaleke’s father, Carlos Hudson Sr., had been found dead in a silver Toyota Corolla alongside a cousin, Jana Randolph, with multiple gunshot wounds in the head.

The loss, of course, was devastating to Hudson and his family. He described his father as “the glue” in an article by The Athletic’s Austin Meek in 2019. Carlos Hudson had been the person who helped him and his brother, Carlos Jr., get interested in football, cheering them on from the sidelines and occasionally coaching them up.

As someone who has firsthand experience in how life-altering gun violence can be, he wants to do whatever he can to help the problem.

“It’s something that has been in my life a lot growing up,” Hudson said. “I have a lot of friends, family who lost their life from gun violence, innocent family and friends.”

As part of the NFL’s annual “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative, Hudson has chosen to support the Everytown Community Safety Fund, which raises money for grants, advocacy campaigns and more to help reduce gun violence, during the Washington Commanders’ Week 13 game against the Miami Dolphins. Fans looking to purchase the cleats can go to the auction page of the Commanders’ website.

Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)

Are Terry McLaurin and the Commanders WRs struggling this season?

Breaking down questions surrounding Terry McLaurin and the Commanders WR group this season.

Eagles top receiver A.J. Brown has 73 catches on 105 targets for 1050 yards and seven touchdowns. Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb has 78 catches on 104 targets for 1066 yards and six touchdowns. Lamb is currently third in the league for receiving yards and Brown is fourth. While McLaurin has similar numbers in terms of catches and targets, his total yards rank 25th in the league.

This has led to some fans questioning the Commanders offense and McLaurin himself. There have been some stats out there suggesting he and the Commanders receivers are struggling to separate while others say the offense isn’t forcing the ball to him often enough. There’s degrees of truth to both of those points but as always there’s more complexity to the situation. So let’s get into the details and break it all down.

[L]et’s compare the Commanders receivers stats with the Eagles receivers.

The Eagles have the bulk of their receiving yards spread across their top four targets; A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert and D’Andre Swift. Those four account for 2399 of the Eagles team total 2697 receiving yards. Brown and Smith, the top two receivers, have 1788 yards combined, which is about 66% of the total receiving yards. Clearly, the Eagles want to feed their top two receivers heavily and trust them to do the bulk of the work.

By comparison, the Commanders top four receivers; Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson and Logan Thomas, have a combined total of 1996 receiving yards, 403 yards less than the Eagles top four targets. However, when you look at the next four receivers on each team, you can see where that difference is made up and then some.

The Commanders only have three receivers with 100 yards receiving in a single game this year, Brian Robinson, Jahan Dotson and most recently Curtis Samuel against the Cowboys. However, across the season they have 10 different receivers that have passed 100 yards receiving and six that have passed 250 receiving yards for the season. This speaks to the style of offense that Eric Bieniemy is looking to run this season and why no single receiver is standing out in the offense but Howell is benefitting overall.

What this means is that rather than Howell focusing on forcing the ball to McLaurin, he can read the coverage and let the coverage dictate which target he throws to.

Podcasts & videos

Making His Mom Proud: Chris Rodriguez is the Next Man Up | Washington Commanders

Russell: Ex-Redskin Anthony Armstrong on what his old WR coach, Mike McDaniel, is doing to make Miami successful


PHOTOS | Commanders practice, 11/30

The Washington Commanders were back on the practice field Thursday to prepare for their Week 13 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

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