Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Looking forward to the future by evaluating the development of safety Percy Butler
Forrest and Reaves both got injured and Butler was next in line to start at free safety. This is when we started to see some common issues arise. The first and most obvious was open field tackling. As the free safety, Butler was often left deep as the last line of defense, so when a runner or receiver broke free of the initial defenders, Butler needed to be the one to make the stop and prevent a bad play from turning into a terrible one. Unfortunately, he failed to do so on too many occasions.
Butler has also had some mistakes in coverage, which just like with the missed tackles, if a safety is having issues in coverage then the results typically end up as touchdowns given up.
The first play of this clip comes back from week five against the Bears. The Commanders play Tampa-2 in the red zone with Butler responsible for a deep half on his side of the field. The Beats have three receivers aligned on his side of the field with a tight end running up the seam and a slot fade combination on the outside. Butler makes a big mistake here. As a Tampa-2 safety, he should be looking to get depth and width, getting all the way out to the numbers in order to give him the ability to stay on top of things both outside and inside.
Instead, Butler locks in on the tight end running up the seam. This causes him to close his hips inside and maintain a position between the hashmarks and the numbers. This is nowhere near enough width for this coverage and he’s focusing entirely on the wrong assignment. The tight end in the seam is the Mike linebacker’s responsibility, Cody Barton is the hole player and the whole point of having him play deeper than the rest of the underneath coverage is that he can protect the middle of the field and let the safeties get wider. Barton has the route covered and Butler notices far too late that he’s made a big mistake. By the time he realizes, the ball is already in the air and he can’t make up ground in time to prevent D.J. Moore from catching the touchdown.
On the second play of the clip, Butler is playing as the single deep safety. This time, instead of getting width, Butler should be looking to stay in the middle of the field and gain depth to stay on top of everything. The Cowboys align receiver Brandin Cooks in the slot to the right and he runs a nice double move, releasing inside and faking a corner route before breaking back inside to the post. Butler loses his positioning again here. He should be looking to stay in the middle of the field and play the route inside out, but instead he overreacts to Cooks breaking outside. That reaction takes Butler out of the middle of the field, which then enables Cooks to cut across his face back inside. The quarterback spots Cooks running open and throws a nice pass to lead Cooks away from Butler, who is unable to recover and surrenders another touchdown.
It’s easy to typecast him as a rangy free safety type because of his raw athleticism, but as we’ve seen he struggles somewhat in those situations to keep his technique and understand where his landmarks are. I think he could potentially still play free safety as part of a quarters coverage unit because he played plenty of that in college and showed a good understanding for picking up/passing off routes within that system, but this year the Commanders have gone away from that a bit and he’s struggled in a deeper role.
Perhaps the future role for Butler, if he is to be a building block for the franchise going forward, is more at strong safety, where he can play more in the box and focus on using his athleticism to attack things underneath. He’s shown some nice potential in that type of role and flashed ability to match up in man to man coverage with tight ends. But if that is to be his long term role, the question will be how valuable that role is if the team elects to re-sign impending free agent Kam Curl. Curl is a better strong safety at this moment in time and would be the starter at the position for a long time if he gets a new deal, which could block Butler somewhat.
Washington Post (paywall)
So how much has Bieniemy considered his own future amid the pending upheaval?
“That’s actually a great question,” he said with a smile Thursday. “I’m surprised that it’s the first time it’s come up.”
“Well, 4-9 is tough,” Bieniemy said. “It’s very tough, not going to lie. It can emotionally eat at you, it can physically drain you. But like everything, I’m built for this because the thing that I always look at is what can we do better? How can I grow as a coach? How can I grow as a communicator? How can I grow as a coordinator?”
Bieniemy says his focus is rooted in the present and that he filters out any chatter about the future. But such talk came early for the Commanders this season.
“I got to make sure that I’m accountable to our coaching staff. I got to make sure that I’m accountable to our players. I got to make sure that I’m accountable to this entire organization,” Bieniemy added. “I can’t worry about the outside noise and everything that’s taking place.”
The Athletic (paywall)
Antonio Gibson becomes the backfield focal point — and fantasy football threat — without Robinson. Rookie Chris Rodriguez offers a between-the-tackles option with Gibson the dual threat (37 receptions).
Robinson suffered the injury during the one-sided, 45-15 loss against the Dolphins in Week 13. He ranks 25th in yards from scrimmage and leads Washington with eight touchdowns. Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week he hoped to see progress from the second-year RB but the hamstring kept Robinson out all three days of practice.
Gibson, who eclipsed 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2020 and 2021, has increased his production in recent weeks as he settles into offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy’s system. He has 22 receptions over the Commanders’ last five games, after catching just 15 passes in the first eight.
Rookie sensation Puka Nacua headlines three players the Washington Commanders must keep quiet at SoFi Stadium in Week 15.
Commanders need to hit Puka Nacua early and often
Going from an unheralded fifth-round draft pick to a rookie sensation is a credit to Puka Nacua’s talent, tenacity, and intelligence. The former BYU standout has won with size, speed, and power at every level of the field.
It’s going to be important for the Washington Commanders to hit Nacua early and often. Ron Rivera must scheme ways to put plenty of bodies around No. 17 and deny him the open-field spaces Rams’ head coach Sean McVay often creates with clever play designs.
One such design saw Nacua strike out of a bunch formation to produce this catch and run over the middle against the Baltimore Ravens last week, per Seven Rounds in Heaven.
This is just free money for the Rams getting Puka Nacua free over the middle for the third down conversion.
Clever design out of the bunch to get Nacua a free release, and shows a bit of what he can do after the catch. pic.twitter.com/5PEgu4nYrc
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) December 10, 2023
The Commanders can limit these plays by flooding the inside zones with a safety rotating from deep and linebackers dropping underneath. As much as possible, Nacua also needs to be jammed at the line of scrimmage to disrupt his release.
Those tactics will be tough to employ against another receiver just like Nacua.
The Burgundy & Gold Report
6’6” 334 lbs | RT | OREG ST
Draft Proj 1st-Early 2nd Rd
In 2022 Fuaga started 12 games at right tackle (744 snaps). On the season he allowed 8 QB hurries, 2 QB hits, and no sacks.
Through 12 games this seaason (700 snaps) he gave up 11 QB hurries, 2 QB hits, and no sacks while playing at right tackle. Although he only played in 3 games during the 2020 season, Fuaga hasn’t allowed a sack in 4 year collegiate career.
Fuaga is a prospect that will contiue to see his draft stock rise if he contiues to work on his game. The fact of the matter is this draft class is talented and particulary deep at offensive tackle. The Oregon State tackle is viewed in the top 3 at his position, depending on what site you go by.
The Beavers right tackle has just a shade over 3 years of starting colegiate experience and is still developing as a pass blocker. Scouts will want to see progress prior to the draft with his mechanics, particlarly his kickslide.
Pro Pro Football Focus was impressed with Fuaga in 2023, assigning him a 90.1 grade as a run blocker, 77.0 as a pass blocker and an overall grade of 88.4.
Fuaga is an absolute mauler in the run game and most dangerious when blocking on the second level. His issues as a pass blocker could give teams pause when selecting in the top 25 though.
Regardless, the Oregon state tackle has the ability to start from day one and could end up drafted higher than most draft projections.