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Daily Slop - 5 Dec 23: Washington’s big questions are now all about 2024

A collection of articles, podcasts & tweets from around the web to keep you in touch with the Commanders, the NFC East and the NFL in general

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Miami Dolphins v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Commanders links


Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)

Dolphins showed template for slowing down Howell, Commanders offense

Evaluating Sam Howell’s performance against the Dolphins

Howell, like the rest of the team, struggled throughout the game completing just 12 of 23 passes for 127 yards and an interception.

It was by far his worst statistical output of the season, with season lows in attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards and yards per attempt. He did manage to rush for two touchdowns and convert a two-point attempt, but they were little consolation in an overall poor outing from the offense. The Dolphins had a strong plan of how to attack Howell and shut down the Commanders offense and Washington struggled to respond.

This clip contains four examples of the Dolphins using the same type of blitz throughout the game and having success with each rep. It’s a look you all should be familiar with by now as every team is running it against Washington and having success doing so. The Dolphins line up four defensive lineman on the line of scrimmage and have a linebacker join the rush from one side of the line. Sometimes the Dolphins used it as a five-man blitz, like in the first play of this clip, sometimes they had the defensive end on the opposite side of the linebacker drop off into coverage, like on the final three plays of this clip.

The issue with these blitzes for the Commanders is they aren’t accounting for the linebacker adding on. In most protection schemes, the offensive line is responsible for the four down defensive lineman and one other player, typically the Mike (middle) linebacker or another player based on the game plan and protection scheme being used. On all four of these plays, the offensive line isn’t expecting the linebacker to join the rush, which means when he does, the team is overloaded on that side.

Now, it’s important to note that the post-snap process on each of these plays is actually correct. When you get caught with an overload on one side of the line, you want the offensive lineman to squeeze inside and leave the rusher on the edge with the furthest path to the quarterback free. That means the quarterback is then responsible for beating that free rusher by either throwing the ball quickly over him or scrambling to avoid him. This is exactly what happens on all four plays, with Howell correctly getting the ball out to the flat on the first and third plays of the clip, scrambling on the second play and then having his pass batted down on the fourth play.

So the post-snap process is actually ok from both the offensive line and Howell on these plays. It actually shows good progress from Howell as earlier in the season these looks were resulting in him taking sacks when he had quick throws available. However, the next step in his development is learning to identify these looks pre-snap and adjusting the protection to slide into them. If the line slides into these rushes, Howell shouldn’t have to rush the checkdown to the flat and have time to actually read the defense and work into whatever concept has been called.

Washington Post (paywall)

Miami has a plan with Tua Tagovailoa. The Commanders should take note.

Consider this scenario: An NFL team with a promising young quarterback and a defensive-minded head coach is underperforming, so the owner fires the coach and replaces him with a young, up-and-coming offensive mind in the hope that he will unlock the quarterback’s potential.

Two years ago, that was the Miami Dolphins. This offseason, it could be the Washington Commanders.

Washington is far from being a good team. Just look at the back-to-back beatdowns it took from Dallas and Miami. But Sunday’s 45-15 loss to the Dolphins offered managing partner Josh Harris a blueprint for improvement.

In 2022, Miami fired Brian Flores, hired Mike McDaniel and built the NFL’s most explosive offense in part by developing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

But let’s be clear: The blueprint is not as simple as finding the next McDaniel. Miami didn’t acquire a star wide receiver seemingly without a plan as Las Vegas did, and it didn’t bet on a suspect quarterback to maximize a group of highly regarded skill players as Atlanta did. Miami had a plan tailored to its young quarterback.

Even Commanders defenders were conservative in their praise of Tagovailoa on Sunday.

“He did what he was supposed to do,” linebacker Cody Barton said.

“He plays quarterback like a point guard,” safety Kam Curl said. “He’s got a lot of weapons out there that he can use, and he’s getting the ball to them.”

Washington Post (paywall)

Hail or Fail: Commanders’ latest loss features third straight pick-six

Fail: Pick-sixes

On first and 10 from the Washington 38 late in the first quarter, Sam Howell attempted a quick throw to Jahan Dotson at the line of scrimmage. One problem: Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who was completely unblocked, stepped directly in Howell’s throwing lane, snatched the ball out of the air and returned it for a touchdown. It was a familiar sight for Howell, who has thrown four pick-sixes this year, including one in each of the past three games.

Washington’s single-season franchise record for interceptions returned by the opposition for scores is five by Joe Gibbs’s 1990 team, which finished 10-6. Stan Humphries and Jeff Rutledge combined to throw a pick-six in three consecutive games that year, including one in the “Body Bag Game” at Philadelphia on “Monday Night Football.” According to Stathead, the NFL record for pick-sixes thrown in a season is eight by the 2004 Dolphins, who were quarterbacked by A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler and Sage Rosenfels.

Hail: KJ Henry

The rookie defensive end out of Clemson, who had 1.5 sacks in Washington’s loss to the Giants two weeks ago, burst through the line to tackle Dolphins rookie running back De’Von Achane for a loss of seven yards in the first quarter. It was a rare highlight for Washington’s struggling defense before the floodgates opened and led to Miami’s only punt of the first half.


Commanders’ Ron Rivera to upset players: Not only ones frustrated

The Commanders (4-9) have lost nine of their past 11 games, including the past two by a combined 65 points to Dallas and Miami. They entered the season optimistic that, under new owner Josh Harris and in Rivera’s fourth season, they would show progress after going 8-8-1 last season.

Instead, the opposite has occurred. Washington already has fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and secondary coach Brent Vieselmeyer, and Harris will decide on Rivera’s fate after the season, according to multiple sources.

Washington, which has a bye Sunday, still has to play at the Los Angeles Rams (6-6), winners of three in a row; host San Francisco (9-3) and Dallas (9-3); and play at the New York Jets on Christmas Eve.

Rivera has talked often this season about growth and development, hoping to build toward a strong finish. But they’ve been trending in the wrong direction. Their defense ranks last in points and 30th in yards. The offense ranks 21st in points and 16th in yards.

The Athletic (paywall)

The Commanders’ rebuild is bigger than expected. But where do they even start?

The Commanders have been outscored 90-25 in the last two games, against Dallas and Miami. San Francisco and another date with the Cowboys loom. The gap between Washington and the good teams in this league seems … cavernous.

“I’m disappointed it looks that way,” Ron Rivera said.

We’re at Week 13. It doesn’t look that way; it is that way.

One unit has been solid most of the way. Special teams — we never talk about them — have been pretty good. Jamison Crowder has brought something to the return game. The coverage units, with rare exceptions, have not allowed opponents to flip the field. Tress Way is Tress Way. Joey Slye may miss an extra point here and there, but he still has yet to have a single kickoff returned all season. That is amazing. And that unit will be bolstered next season with the return of All-Pro safety Jeremy Reaves.

But the other two? Gaahhhh.

Who are you building around?

Riggo’s Rag

Has Jonathan Allen set his Commanders exit strategy in motion?

The defensive tackle has been thinking about leaving the Commanders...

When speaking to Grant Paulsen on 106.7 The Fan after Washington’s demoralizing defeat against the Miami Dolphins, Allen declared he’d thought about moving away. This is thanks in no small part to his desire to finally become part of a winning organization.

“1000%. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I play this game to win and I would love to win here for sure but I want to win first and foremost. So that’s always going to be at the front and center of my mind and everything I’m going to be doing in my career is going to make sure I’ll have an opportunity to win.”

- Jonathan Allen via X/Twitter

Could the Commanders trade Jonathan Allen?

Ron Rivera - who’ll likely be looking for alternative employment at the end of 2023 - freely admitted during his post-game media availability that the Commanders are light years behind the likes of Miami and the Dallas Cowboys, who also put up 40-plus points during a Thanksgiving afternoon massacre. It’s not going unnoticed by Allen either, whose comments are akin to someone planning their exit strategy this offseason.

Allen’s taken a step back performance-wise this season. He isn’t alone in that regard, but whether the Commanders would consider trading the two-time Pro Bowler when they’ve already dealt Chase Young and Montez Sweat is debatable.

Big changes are coming to the Commanders once their 2023 engagements conclude. The coaching staff and front office will get a complete revamp as part of Josh Harris’ plans to take the franchise forward, with many current players also likely to be made surplus to requirements at some stage.

Commanders Wire

The Commanders move up to No. 4 in the 2024 NFL draft order

After Sunday’s 45-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Washington moved up to the No. 4 spot ahead of the Chicago Bears. The Commanders have played one more game than Chicago.

Currently, the Bears [from the Panthers] hold the No. 1 overall pick, with the Patriots at No. 2, the Cardinals at No. 3, Washington at No. 4 and Chicago’s own selection at No. 5.

The Commanders have four games remaining, and it’s difficult to see where Washington will find a win. The Commanders’ best chance for a win is on Christmas Eve against the Jets, but New York’s defense is outstanding, and Washington’s recent offensive struggles don’t bode well against a top defensive team.

Of course, it’s important to point out that losing late in the season guarantees nothing. Remember the 2019 season when everyone wanted Washington to lose so it could land Chase Young? How’d that work out?

If the Commanders could land a top-four pick, they will have options. Washington could opt to select a quarterback or build around Sam Howell by taking one of the elite left tackle prospects.

Burgundy & Gold Report

FSU Linebacker Tatum Bethune Packs a Punch | Commanders NFL Draft

This year’s linebacker class is full of potential, but lacks marque names, particularly at MIKE linebacker.

Florida State middle linebacker Tatum Bethune isn’t a household name outside of the ACC yet, but should impress scouts during FSU’s Pro Day and NFL Combine.

Tatum Bethune

6’1” 230 lbs | LB | FSU

Draft Proj Late 3rd Rd

Career Stats UCF/FSU- 331 TAK (178 solo), 27.5 TFL, 7.5 SACKS, 3 INTs, 9 PD, 2 FF & 1 FR

FSU ‘23 Stats- 146 TAK (75 solo), 14.5 TFL, 3 SACKS, 5 PD & 1 FR

The Seminoles middle linebacker needs to test well during offseason workouts. His ability as an intelligent MIKE linebacker shouldn’t be in question, but his size will be scrutinized during the draft process.

Former Redskins middle linebacker London Fletcher was also believed to be too small to have success as a MIKE linebacker in the NFL. The undrafted Carroll University linebacker proved his doubters wrong.

Bethune posses all the intangibles to be an effective linebacker and it’ll be interesting to see his maturation during the draft evaluation process.

Podcasts & videos

Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Ron Rivera Defense Destroyed by Tyreek Hill and Miami Dolphins in Week 13

Mike McDaniel Exposed Eric Bieniemy More Than Ron Rivera on Sunday

NFL league links


Pro Football Talk

It’s time for the owners to take charge of officiating

The NFL has an officiating problem. It’s time for the NFL to solve it.

And by the NFL, I don’t mean the league office. I mean the owners.

It’s their game. Their sport. They’ve made and are maintaining billion-dollar investments in the sport. They are the sport. The entire concept of a league office with a Commissioner to do their bidding provides a Big Shield that the owners individually can hide behind.

It’s time to stop hiding. The officiating will improve only if the owners take charge of the process.

It’s not a problem with officials, per se. The middle-aged men and women who do the job are doing the best they can while maneuvering through and around the gladiators without the benefit of pads or helmets. Things happen at lightning speed, and the officials make the best naked-eye, real-time judgments they can.

Barstool Sports

Get Him Out Of The League: The Jets Want To Switch Back To Zach Wilson At QB, But He Is “Reluctant” To Return To A Starting Job

Do you know how many QBs would kill for a chance in the NFL? The answer is infinity, and there are also infinity better than Zach Wilson at that. I’m not a plagiarist, merely algorithm based, so let me embed a tweet from Kevin Clark that is at least a funny way to look at this situation:

If the Jets had any heart he’d be off the roster by the end of the hour. They’re “hoping he changes his mind”?! I know he’s cooked anyway with Rodgers healing quicker than humanly possible but I don’t know how you show up for the game Sunday after this. Or ever again really, since any team looking at your audition tape from your time with the Jets is going to run far far away.