Expectations weren’t high when Los Angeles drafted Puka Nacua in the fifth-round pick out of Brigham Young University. Sure, the wideout had potential, but his speed was questionable. Fifth-round picks rarely make an immediate impact in their rookie seasons, but Nacua has been racking up yards and closing in on franchise records.
Ironically enough, Nacua has spent his rookie season channeling Lightning McQueen- the rookie race far from Disney Pixar’s Cars films, according to an article by The Ringer. His speed being doubted during the draft is completely in the rearview, and five 100-yard games this season, he’s become one of the Rams’ best weapons opposite Cooper Kupp.
Nacua has an impeccable ability to find soft spots in coverage to be a reliable target for Stafford. He’s also shown a knack for creating separation from defenses with 438 yards — ninth most in the league — coming after the catch.
Nacua set out to prove that he belongs in the NFL, and so far, he’s accomplished that with 1,113 receiving yards in his first 13 career games. He currently ranks fifth among all wideouts, falling only behind Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, CeeDee Lamb and Keenan Allen.
Nacua has been a consistent target for Stafford, and as they enter a game against the Commanders, who struggle to cover similarly speedy receivers, it could be another big day for the rookie.
Things could have been different...
Commanders at Eagles - Week 4
Fourth quarter - 0:00
Do you know what I hate about the internet? Everything you put on there lasts in perpetuity. Or at least what passes for perpetuity these days.
Astute readers will be able to see that I defended Ron Rivera’s decision to eschew a two-point try at the end of regulation and play for overtime. I still think the math was correct on this. I still believe the Washington Commanders would have had a less than 50/50 chance of converting that try. But given the way the season has played out, I now have to admit that it was the wrong call.
The Commanders were coming off their first loss of the season, a crushing 37-3 blowout at the hands of the Buffalo Bills. Going on the road against the defending NFC champions seemed like a daunting task. But they got out to an early lead, and when the Philadelphia Eagles started to roll in the second half, Sam Howell led the team on two long fourth-quarter touchdown drives to stay even.
The final drive was a beauty. Sixty-four yards in 10 plays with just one timeout. Howell was sacked and threw several incompletions, but he never got rattled. He converted a fourth down. And he threw to Jahan Dotson for the score as time expired.
Maybe - just maybe - this was the start of something big. This was the best game Washington had played in a long, long time. A two-point conversion would leave them at 3-1 and in first place in the NFC East.
We all know what happened. A razor-thin call on a potential long pass to Terry McLaurin in overtime went against Washington, and the Commanders defense was helpless to stop Jalen Hurts.
They lost. But their effort should have bolstered the team. They went toe-to-toe with the league’s best. That’s not what happened. Except for the Eagles rematch, the Commanders haven’t played another good game all season.
What sneaky threats must the Washington Commanders contain in their pursuit of a shock victory against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15?
Commanders need 11 hats to the ball vs. Kyren Williams
Kyren Williams gashed the Baltimore Ravens for 114 rushing yards on 25 carries in Week 14. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
Amassing triple digits on the ground has become easy for Williams thanks to the Los Angeles Rams’ reliance on duo-blocking schemes. Double teams inside are creating massive running lanes, but the running back is also thriving thanks to his ability to shed tackles.
The 23-year-old broke 11 tackles in Baltimore, according to PFF LA Rams.
It’s going to take getting 11 men to the ball for the Washington Commanders to stop Williams in his tracks. Swarming to the ball is a mindset as much as an athletic endeavor. Whoever hits him first will need the rest of his buddies to arrive in a hurry.
Williams is winning with power, but the Rams have another underrated skill player whose speed presents a problem.
Rams Injury Update: DT Aaron Donald has been downgraded to questionable for tomorrow’s game vs. Commanders with tightness in his groin.— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 16, 2023
During last week’s injury report, Donald was listed as a full participant on Wednesday and Thursday but was added to Friday’s injury report. However, Donald received a rest day, and there didn’t appear to be any concerns for Sunday.
So, seeing the Rams announce he was downgraded to questionable was a bit surprising.
Donald had never missed a game due to injury until last season when he missed six games.
Donald has six sacks this season, and the three-time NFL defensive player of the year has 109 sacks in 10 seasons. The last time Donald played Washington, he had four sacks in a 2020 game.
The Commanders have struggled to protect quarterback Sam Howell, so Donald could have a massive game on Sunday if he plays.
There are changes coming for the Washington Commanders, but some may not be satisfied with all the moves depending on who is retained after the season ends.
if The Athletic’s report is to be taken literally then it appears possible someone like Wright, who alongside Rivera has helped navigate the Commanders through extremely tumultuous waters, could be retained.
If Harris and the ownership group look positively upon the efforts Wright has led as team president over the years, and the additional projects executed this season, then it would make sense to keep him in place to continue building the goodwill they’ve tried to foster with the fans.
Additionally, assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is considered by many to be a top candidate to potentially replace Rivera if he’s not hired away elsewhere. And if Bieniemy stays, he may choose to retain quarterbacks coach Tavita Pritchard who joined the staff just this season as well.
Then there are coaches like special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor and running backs coach Randy Jordan who predate Rivera’s arrival, as well as assistant defensive line coach Ryan Kerrigan who was hired by current leadership but is a Washington legend with far-reaching support from the fans.
Podcasts & videos
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Brian Robinson Jr. OUT vs. Los Angeles Rams | Stopping Matthew Stafford | Keys
TERRY! TERRY! TERRY! | The Player’s Club with Terry McLaurin | Washington Commanders
Episode 721 - #WASvsLAR preview. Season debut of Rhyming Keys for a #Commanders LOSS.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) December 15, 2023
Also, while Eric Bieniemy is doing some good things, is he gonna get fired like everyone else? I discuss that & more off comments from EB on his & Sam Howell's futures.https://t.co/UOAvblpx3X
Hoffman Show: What’s at stake for Commanders at Rams?
Trap or dive: Open show! Call-in and talk Commanders football | Trap or Dive Podcast
NFL league links
Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce have revealed themselves as whiny, self-entitled, overexposed babies
Indeed. People in the nose bleeds could see how far offside Toney was and for Mahomes and Reid to stomp around, and yell and do everything but lay an egg over not getting special treatment is deeply unattractive.
Speaking of stomping around, let’s take a look at how beloved Golden Boy quarterback Mahomes handled adversity. First this:
And then this:
Mahomes continuing to embarrass himself whining about refs. You think Josh Allen gives a shit? pic.twitter.com/gT9VRFaYRK— Khaled (@khaled74) December 11, 2023
trick, while you were still in bounds? I don’t recall you or Reid belly-aching about that one, which was actually embarrassing for the league. Go cry about it to Jake from State Farm.
All of Reid and Mahomes’ grousing ignores the extremely obvious fact that, despite having the best QB of his generation on the field, the Chiefs’ play calling looks an awful lot like the Bears’ play calling from 2018 to 2022. I wonder what the common denominator could be? (Surprise, it’s Chiefs OC Matt Nagy!)
Everything that once had America cheering for a team from the heartland now has us cheering for whoever plays the Chiefs, including the Buffalo Bills, for crying out loud. The Chiefs have turned into a bunch of entitled, whiny, crybabies who are in our faces every day of the week. They say you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain and that’s exactly what’s happened to the Kansas City Chiefs.