Washington will boast shiny new ownership in 2023, but its pick for the QB1 spot brings uncertainty to what would otherwise be a playoff contending roster.
Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 7 to 12
The Commanders have a brutal stretch at midseason. After a road game with the Falcons in Week 6, Washington will stay on the road for a date with the Giants before a quick stop at home to face the NFC champion Eagles.
Come Week 9, it’s another two-game road trip, with Bill Belichick and the Patriots on the schedule followed by a trip to the Pacific Northwest for a tilt against the Seahawks. Finally, it’s a return to the nation’s capital for another engagement with the Giants before finishing this six-week gantlet with a road trip to Dallas.
Breakout player to watch: Jahan Dotson
A first-round pick from Penn State last spring, Dotson immediately showed why the Commanders had so much faith in him as a partner across from McLaurin.
In Dotson’s first four games, he had four touchdowns, including two in a Week 1 win over the Jaguars at FedExField. After missing the next five contests, Dotson finished strong, totaling 35 catches on 61 targets for 523 yards and seven touchdowns.
While Dotson didn’t put up the numbers of Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson, he was a productive rookie who should continue to ascend if quarterback play isn’t a hindrance.
Position of weakness: Quarterback
How could it be anything other than quarterback?
Maybe Howell will prove to be great, but right now he’s a major question on a team with enough talent to compete for a playoff spot if he’s decent. While three years of collegiate experience is a plus, it doesn’t mean much in the NFL, especially when sharing a division with three 2022 postseason teams.
If Washington is going to succeed, Howell has to be—at minimum—a game manager who can disperse the ball to McLaurin and Dotson or hand it off to Robinson and Gibson. Can he be that player? Time will tell.
Bullock’s Film Room
Breaking down what Commanders fans can expect from Sam Cosmi as he switches from right tackle to right guard.
Cosmi was Washington’s second-round pick back in 2021 and the team started him at right tackle due to his size and athletic ability. However, his technique caused him some issues outside and his arm length on the edge was always a concern.
Cosmi has battled with injuries during his two years in the NFL and after getting hurt early in the year, the Commanders went with Cornelius Lucas at right tackle with Cosmi occasionally rotating in at both right tackle and right guard down the stretch. It was an odd situation that didn’t help Cosmi’s development, but hopefully now with Eric Bieniemy coming in and looking to hire a new offensive line coach, Cosmi can settle in at guard going forward.
But what can we expect from Cosmi at guard? Athleticism will definitely be a plus. Cosmi has always been an exceptional athlete and when you compare his relative athletic score with Andrew Wylie’s, they’re remarkably similar, giving Washington a potentially very athletic right side of the line.
Athleticism is great, but how does that translate to playing guard for Cosmi? Having good athletes at guard is extremely beneficial in the run game, particularly on zone scheme runs. Guards often have to climb up to the second level and block linebackers, but less athletic players can have issues doing so. Cosmi has the mobility to climb and reach blocks effortlessly.
With the athleticism of Cosmi and Wylie, the Commanders should be able to have some success generating movement and making second level blocks on zone scheme runs. Another benefit of that athletic ability should be seen in the screen game. Last season, Washington failed to create many explosive plays in the screen game despite having some incredibly explosive playmakers like Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson. This was because the offensive line struggled to get out in front of the screen and set up blocks. Cosmi’s athleticism at guard should help them in that regard.
Obada is deserving and should secure a spot on the 53-man roster. But there is no room for complacency with Chase Young returning and the Commanders drafting two more young pass-rushers that could potentially assist right out of the gate.
Washington traded up for K.J. Henry and also spent their final pick on Andre Jones Jr. Both might need time to develop, but if they come on quicker than anticipated it might result in playing time immediately.
With James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, and William Bradley-King also vying for spots on the Commanders’ stacked defensive line, Obada cannot take anything for granted. He looks to be in the driver’s seat regarding a prominent position on the backup rotation, but there’s also a good chance some of the aforementioned young studs can make significant strides with another offseason under their belts.
The special teams unit has been in search of a return man for ages now. When you see Allen’s film, you’re gonna wonder two things. 1) why no one drafted him, and 2) Can Dax Milne beat him out in camp? Obviously, only time can tell on Milne, but let’s face it, Milne is simply just another guy (J.A.G.) on the field as a returner, while Allen has all the tools to light things up in the blink of an eye.
Key points from the video:
- Background: Kashmir Allen was one of Chip Kelly’s first recruits at UCLA. In high school, he had 6,276 rushing yards, 1,603 receiving yards, and 121 total touchdowns. He was also the California high school champion in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.44 seconds in 2018.
- College Performance: Despite his impressive high school stats, Allen had a somewhat disappointing college career, with only 1,312 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 36 games for the Bruins.
- Versatility: The commentator highlights Allen’s versatility, showing clips of him running the ball, catching passes in the flat and over the middle, and returning kicks. He is described as having a scat-back mentality and big-play ability.
- Speed: Allen’s speed is a major asset. He has good breakaway speed and can be a home-run hitter in the open field. However, his 40-yard dash time at his Pro Day was slower than expected, which may have contributed to him going undrafted.
- Potential in the NFL: The host (Philip Hughes) believes that Allen could be a valuable weapon for the Commanders, particularly in Eric Bieniemy’s system. He could provide a spark on special teams as a kick returner, a position the Commanders have been looking to fill. He could also be used as a scat back or slot receiver on offense.
- Challenges: Given the depth of the Commanders’ running back and wide receiver rooms, Allen will likely have to make the team as a special teams player or sneak onto the back end of the 53-man roster. There’s also a possibility he could end up on the practice squad.
The Washington Commanders took a step toward contention this offseason by bringing Patrick Mahomes’ Super Bowl-winning coach to the franchise.
[W]hile some don’t consider Bieniemy to be one of the league’s elite, the NFL’s top quarterback isn’t ready to see him go.
“It’s definitely going to be different, “ Patrick Mahomes told the Associated Press. “He was a voice that has been in this locker room my entire career. And, so, to lose that voice, I mean, I’m excited for Washington because I know how inspiring that he can be and how smart he was for us.”
Coaching in Kansas City for a decade, Bieniemy knew it was time for a change in organization.
“When you’ve been in a place for 10 years, you have a tendency to take certain things for granted,” he told ESPN.
But with a change of scenery and a weapon like Mahomes no longer in Bieniemy’s back pocket, calling plays in Washington will be a huge test. Luckily, “E.B.” has one of the best minds in the game.
“It’s definitely going to be tough losing him,” Mahomes said. “I have so much respect for EB, he’s such a great coach but a great person.”
The orchestrator of two Super Bowl-winning offenses and mentor to the best signal caller in the game, Bieniemy has the experience to build an elite offense with the Commanders.
Trap or Dive Podcast breaks down the Washington Commanders QB group
Kevin opened with some NFL talk and then he got to the Netflix "Quarterback" series updating his discussion about Eric Bieniemy from yesterday. Steve Czaban jumped on to talk about the end of Dan Snyder and more.— The Kevin Sheehan Show (@SheehanPodcast) July 14, 2023
Find it on all podcast platforms or:https://t.co/09cFqVoZtZ
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
The Cowboys roster and offseason has received a lot of praise, but there are still a host of things that could go wrong. We dive in to see what might go wrong.
The wide receiver situation
The Cowboys have struggled with giving Prescott enough quality receivers on the field, but the planned starting trio of CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Gallup looks to have solved that.
Well, this is a bit of a twofer. The trade for Cooks was very well received, but he is a player that is on the backside of his career. He had an off year in 2022. The case is made that he was playing with very ineffective quarterbacks, but we should be very cautious about expecting him to rebound to the 1,000+ yard receiver he has been for most of his career. If he falters with Dallas, it will obviously degrade the position.
Michael Gallup also had a poor season last year. He was slow recovering from his injury late in 2021, and never got to 100%. The assumption is made that he is going to bounce back, but that still has to be demonstrated on the field.
These things may not go badly in this department for the Cowboys, but that is still an assumption. If either Gallup or Cooks has a hiccup, it is a problem. If both have issues, we will likely see the offense struggling with just one good WR on the field.
The team is betting on how much Stephon Gilmore has in the tank, too
Stephen Gilmore has had an outstanding career, but Dallas got him cheap because he is also getting up there in football years, and for a position like cornerback where speed is crucial, this has to be watched closely. The assumption is that he will be a great bookend with Trevon Diggs, but just like with Cooks, we will have to see how that turns out. With DaRon Bland and Jourdan Lewis also in the room, the depth here is better than at wide receiver, but there is still a chance this could be disappointing.
How will Tony Pollard hold up?
Releasing Ezekiel Elliott was something that had become regrettably necessary. Now Pollard is the lead back, and the only proven quantity in that position group. While he certainly showed he could be effective when he was spelling Elliott, he was still more of a change of pace back so far in his career. Now he is expected to have more of those tough runs when the defense is keying on him.
Big Blue View
Smash is a two-man route concept where the outside receiver (the number one) runs a shallow route - typically a hitch, but not always - and the inside receiver (typically the number two) runs a corner route (also known as a seven route in the vernacular of an Air Coryell system).
These are mirrored smash concepts from a 2x2 set out of 11 personnel with the tight end in line. The smash concept can work against several defenses, but is dangerous versus Cover 2, for the outside flat defender is put into conflict and is High-Low’d.
Some zone Cover 2 defensive cornerbacks are weary of the smash concept, for the number two receiver (corner route) has ample leverage to the outside versus the deep-half safety.
However, nickel defenses can cover the concept better than the base personnel that would likely not respond to an 11-personnel package in modern football.
NFL league links
Over the Cap
Barkley’s total compensation (this includes bonus proration) in 2021 was $10.02 million. Under almost any other tender the league calls for a minimum of a 20% raise from the prior year salary but I don’t think anyone ever did the math to realize that the higher end options, which are pegged to the transition and franchise tags, did not call for a 20% raise. Barkley’s compensation dropped in 2022 to $7.2 million rather than rising to $12 million and subsequently having a franchise tag in 2023 worth $14.4 million. His predicament is also a major example of why rookie contracts need to be shorter in length as too many players lose their main earning years under the threat of the franchise tag.
Holding out into the regular season (holding out of the preseason makes sense) for Barkley serves almost zero purpose. For each game he misses he forfeits $560,611 in salary. Sitting out for the full year does not guarantee him free agency either. The Giants still would have the right to tag Barkley again. While the compensation would no longer be two first round picks it would still be too high for another team to sign him. To guarantee free agency he would need to sit for two years.
It would also do almost nothing to help this year. The period for franchise players to sign long term deals is this upcoming Monday, July 17th. The reason for this date is to basically end any drama going into training camp and strip the players of any leverage that they might obtain by holding out. While holding out could get him a slight raise for this year or a no tag provision my opinion is that a regular season holdout would have little impact on that.
Ultimately it is just hard to make a case that turning down a Giants deal makes sense for him even if it is well under what the players were earning a few years ago. I can understand turning it down on emotions but the rules are heavily weighed against the players in situations like this. It is the best of all his options that include playing on the tag or sitting out the tag only to face the same situation next year or the total disaster scenario of sitting out two years.
Malik Willis’ murky Titans future: 5 best landing spots if 2022 NFL Draft pick doesn’t make Tennessee’s roster
Where would it make sense for Willis to land if he doesn’t make the Titans roster?
Will Malik Willis be on Tennessee’s roster this upcoming season? In a question and answer session on the Titans website, team reporter Jim Wyatt, when asked about Willis’ future there, wrote that Willis’ roster spot isn’t guaranteed, even with the new rule allowing for a third quarterback to dress on game days. Of course, Wyatt provided more nuance as he expanded his answer and even predicted that Willis will make the team after not believing he would do so as recently as May.
But in short, with Ryan Tannehill entrenched as the starter and Will Levis taken with the No. 33 overall pick in the 2023 draft, Willis is up against it entering Year 2.
Let’s say the Titans do cut him at the end of training camp. Or trade him before that. I, for one, think he desperately needs a change of scenery. What are Willis’ ideal landing spots? Here’s a look.
Presumed starter: Sam Howell
While he rose to prominence during the Patrick Mahomes era, Washington’s new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was integral in Alex Smith’s resurgence before Mahomes took over in Kansas City, and those Chiefs offenses astutely tapped into Smith’s athleticism as a runner and scrambler.
And with Mahomes, particularly in 2022, Bieniemy demonstrated keen scheming skills, as even without Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s offense hummed as efficiently as always. Without anyone locked into a long-term starting role at quarterback, I’d love to see Bieniemy work with a passer as naturally gifted as Willis. The veteran coordinator could easily deploy RPOs and an assortment of easy, one-read looks for Willis as the former Liberty passer develops as a professional.
The wide receiver posted the following message on Instagram on Sunday: “Did it my way 15 years strong!! Neva anotha like it
WR DeSean Jackson appears to have announced his retirement via his Instagram pic.twitter.com/OCH16DYawU— SleeperNFL (@SleeperNFL) July 16, 2023
Despite his impressive resume, Jackson was not the same player by the end of his career.
The last time he reached 800 receiving yards in a season was the 2016 campaign, while the most recent time he reached 500 yards was 2018. He appeared in seven games for the Ravens last season and finished with nine catches for 153 yards and zero touchdowns.
DeSean Jackson confirms he’s NOT retiring. pic.twitter.com/2tXQPpj4LV— JAKIB Sports (@JAKIBSports) July 16, 2023
Orlovsky: DeAndre Hopkins to Titans a ‘massive missed opportunity’ for Pats
The argument for DeAndre Hopkins as a key player for the Tennessee Titans in 2023 is made by the footage of Hopkins playing in 2022, the production when he was on the field and the fact even his late-season injury might have been partially caused by What’s-The-Point-Itis.
The argument against stems largely from Titans-fan fatigue. Zero prior acquisitions, all of them made by front offices that preceded this one, have anything to do with what Hopkins will be as a 31-year-old receiver this fall. But Julio Jones two years ago, Jadeveon Clowney a year before that, Andre Johnson in 2016, Randy Moss in 2010, Carl Pickens in 2000 — these hyped and failed attempts come to mind for longtime observers and mostly involve the same position.
For those wondering why Hopkins would sign with the Titans, yes, you start with the money. The two-year, $26 million deal with incentives up to $32 million reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was only going to be exceeded by a team-to-be-named-later facing a dire circumstance at the position.
To Hopkins’ credit and the Titans’ benefit, he recognized how unlikely that is. And how appealing those numbers should be for a 31-year-old who missed six games last season for a PED suspension and two for a knee injury, even if the pointlessness of the Arizona Cardinals’ last two games added to the ache. Circumstances like that, in that age range, often suggest a sharp downturn ahead.
Hopkins had 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns in nine games at age 30 in 2022. Then what? The latest in the Titans’ organizational history of getting in on great receivers too late? Or effective recouping, to some extent, after they had a great one and Robinson made the disastrous, job-forfeiting decision to trade A.J. Brown in his prime?
“I will break 2,000 yards next year, bro,” Hill told co-host Julius Collins. “I’m just checking it off my bucket list. All I’m going to say is 2,000 yards was on my bucket list to get before I leave this league. You all think the Cheetah gonna leave without doing something he promised himself he was going to do as a kid? 2,000 yards and another Super Bowl. We’re getting that. Believe that.”
Hall of Fame member Calvin Johnson holds the receiving yards record with 1,964, set in 2012. He averaged 122.8 receiving yards per contest while playing in all 16 games that season for the Detroit Lions.
Hill, 29, was on pace to eclipse that receiving yards total through his first nine games in 2022 before settling for career highs — and franchise-best totals — in catches (119) and receiving yards (1,710). The four-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection caught balls from three different quarterbacks: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson.