The Commanders already know that Robinson can carry the load for them on the ground. Despite missing the first four games of the season, he led the team in rushing yards on 205 carries, and through performances like his 86 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10, he proved that he can be a problem for defenses.
But Robinson insists that his skill set is more robust, and he intends to show that in Year 2.
“The biggest thing for me [is] I just don’t want to be one dimensional and I don’t want to be just a power back,” Robinson said. “I want to be able to run routes, run down the field, catch the ball with soft hands and continue to grow my game.”
“People should expect a lot of great things to come compared to the things I did limping around all last year,” he said. “I feel night and day from last year. I feel more like myself every day.”
Robinson was shot twice in his leg while going out to dinner in Washington, D.C., in the early evening with a friend on Aug. 28. Police said it was an attempted carjacking/robbery. Robinson was shot in his right knee and hip, but he was able to wrestle the gun away from one of his assailants.
[R]unning backs coach Randy Jordan said Robinson told him in the offseason: “You didn’t see the real me.”
“I said, ‘Well, damn it, let’s see the real you this year,’” Jordan said. “When you look at what he’s done from what he went through as a player — not only the physical part but the mental toughness it takes to come back... I’m excited to see what he can do with a full season.”
Robinson is still expected to be Washington’s primary back this season, with Antonio Gibson serving as the third-down back. Robinson also anticipates a bigger role in the pass game under new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Indeed, in practice, Robinson has made several nice catches, including a one-hander along the sideline Wednesday, while running a variety of routes.
“I don’t want to be one-dimensional,” Robinson said.
Kamren Curl has high expectations for the Washington Commanders’ defense in 2023. He wants them to be a top five unit for the third time in four seasons, create more turnovers and give the offense more opportunities to score.
Those are respectable goals, and the defense has accomplished all three of them at various points. Doing so at the beginning of seasons has been more difficult, and Curl is determined to help change that in his fourth season.
“We gotta emphasize starting fast,” Curl told reporters. “Just put it in the back of your head, being the first snap of the game, first snap of the season. Just put more of an emphasis on it.”
“It feels like we’re more experienced,” Curl said. “It’s our fourth year in the system, so everybody feels more comfortable...knowing what our job is, knowing every role everybody has.”
Judging by how Curl played on Day 3 of camp, he’s backing that claim up. He had a pass breakup working against Jahan Dotson, and he grabbed Sam Howell’s first interception of camp in 7-on-7 drills.
“I just had to go make a play,” Curl said.
Maybe the most fundamental truth about Curl is this: He loves football. Growing up, he spent Saturday after Saturday with his father watching college games. Curl started playing when he was 6, and he became obsessed with tactics, using Madden to test different schemes against one another. For reasons he still can’t explain, football just made sense, sparking a flame inside him that has never gone out.
Curl is grateful he found something at a young age that will allow him to care for his family. He said he would play football even if it wasn’t on television, even if it didn’t balloon his bank account, because the game is an anchor to a good life.
“I’m simple, honestly,” he said, shrugging. “[There] ain’t that much to me.”
The next morning, the heavens opened in Muskogee. Curl’s friends and family, who had been setting up for his second annual youth football camp, ran inside the field house. They marveled at the palatial basketball field house. One remarked it was nicer than some college arenas.
Then De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, a close friend and a reserve linebacker for the Commanders, came out of nowhere with a basketball.
Suddenly, a dozen men in their 20s were on the court, jacking up jumpers. They clowned each other for misses, looking briefly like the boys they had been not that long ago.
These days, the Washington Commanders are living in a honeymoon suite. Everything is wonderful. Everybody is happy.
The sugar high of falling in love — with a new billionaire — keeps making fans do crazy things. Such as showing up to the Commanders’ practice field despite the extreme heat blanketing the region, then shouting for joy as wide receiver Terry McLaurin hauled in a catch that any dad could pull off in his backyard with a beer in his hand. Love is blind and blinding and brainwashing. It compels hundreds of adults and children to forget how their favorite team minimally upgraded a roster that finished 8-8-1 and missed the postseason again last year. Instead, they find happiness in July in something as simple as seats for spectators at Commanders Park.
No telling how long the honeymoon will last, but on Thursday, what was once the blah training ground for the most dysfunctional team in the NFL transformed into the happiest place in the D.C. area.
“Oh, the vibe? Unreal. I mean, this is everything we want,” long snapper Camaron Cheeseman said while working his way down a line of autograph seekers after practice. “I know the fans are loving this. I just think everything’s going to come together. The energy is there. It’s just nothing like I’ve seen. … I’m excited, just as much as they’re excited. It’s going to be awesome.”
On Thursday, fans packed Ashburn on the first open training camp practice. It was a far cry from one year ago. But has Washington already benefitted financially from the sale?
At Harris’ introductory press conference, Wright said that the Week 1 opener at FedEx Field was almost sold out. According to Matthew Paras of The Washington Times, since Snyder and Harris reached an agreement in the spring, the Commanders have 4,143 new season ticket holders. That’s a pretty considerable jump considering where Washington has been in recent years.
In addition to season tickets, total ticketing and suite revenue has already exceeded 2022. Even more impressive, since Harris took over officially last week, Paras noted that “the Commanders are selling tickets at a rate of eight-to-10 times higher than their normal daily average.”
Bullock’s Film Room
Taking a closer look at a play called by Sam Howell in the first day of training camp
[Y]esterday, during the first day of training camp for the Commanders, we were able to hear Sam Howell call a play. In this video tweeted by NBCSports/106.7 The Fan beat reporter JP Finlay, we can hear Howell calling a play out loud during a warm up drill to practice snapping the ball.
This is pretty cool. Sam Howell working w Nick Gates while Tavita Pritchard talks through play calls and EB watches on. pic.twitter.com/L3xARltgI5— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) July 26, 2023
Now I can’t quite make out the exact full call from Howell in that clip, but I’ve pieced together most of it. What I definitely could hear made the call sound like:
Gun Trey Right Flex (?) Right 2 Jet Y Shallow Cross
The only part I couldn’t fully make out was the receiver tagged to go in motion before the snap. But from hearing the rest of the call, we can make a pretty strong educated guess on what that might be and how it might look when drawn up. So lets start with the formation.
Gun Trey Right Flex is the formation. Gun tells the offense that the quarterback is aligning in the shotgun rather than under center. Trey Right is the core formation. Formations beginning with the letter T are typically three-by-one formations, or trips formations, which see three receivers align on one side of the formation with a single receiver aligning on the opposite side.
RFK is the ancestral home of all things Redskins. The name can change, but this franchise is emotionally rooted on the shore of the Anacostia River and that’s where it needs to return. No, must return.
The past can be the future for this team. Not in stadium design, of course. That was late owner Jack Kent Cooke’s big mistake. He replicated the past Giants Stadium instead of looking for the future. And, the future is once more a 60,000-seat stadium with enough Instagram designs and dome to attract the next generation of fans desperate to relive the tales of victory passed down by their parents and grandparents.
With Dan Snyder exiled to London, politicians are free to do business with the team. District Council member Vincent Gray waved to the Commanders via Twitter within hours of Josh Harris completing his purchase. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson is coming around, say sources. Those two can carry enough water to make it rain money for this project.
And players across the NFL are in agreement; Allen is one of the most dominant defensive forces in the game.
Allen, who is coming off his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance in 2022, was voted No. 52 on the NFL’s list of top 100 players for the 2023 season, moving him up 31 spots from last year’s ranking of No. 88.
“Jon is just an absolute dog,” said Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis.
It took some time — four years’ worth of time, as a matter of fact — for Allen to get noticed by the national spotlight. But ever since Allen signed his multiyear contract extension with the Commanders prior to the 2021 season, Allen’s production has continued to rise.
While Slye wasn’t awful by any means, he cost the Washington Commanders critical points that could have turned losses into wins. He finished 25-of-30 when it came to field goal attempts with an impressive long of 58 yards. The more disturbing statistic was his four missed extra points (24-28) during the 2022 campaign.
Last week, Washington made a somewhat surprising move by signing veteran kicker Michael Badgley following his shock release from the Detroit Lions. Unlike Slye, he didn’t miss a single extra point while connecting on 20-of-24 of his field goal efforts last season.
Some say kickers don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But anyone who watches football on a regular basis knows the value of having a clutch guy delivering under pressure.
Badgley isn’t just a camp body. There’s a legitimate kicker competition heading into 2023 and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.
“Those are the areas we worked on: feet, hands and hips,” Johnson said. “It’s what it’s all about. When [Young] finished working out, I grabbed him and said: ‘Boy, you look really good. You wouldn’t have thought that you had knee surgery.’ ”
Young also returned to Colorado Springs, where he spent much of last summer recovering, for part of this summer. There, he built up strength in his leg and elsewhere; he said this month at his youth sports camp in D.C. that he weighs 272 pounds, up from his listed weight of 264.
The improved health Johnson noticed this summer was obvious in Ashburn, too.
“He’s light-years ahead of where he was last training camp,” Commanders Coach Ron Rivera said. “I think that’s a big deal for us. … You see the get-off, first and foremost. Last year he was a little hesitant, a little tentative. … You see him moving around with a lot more confidence. You see him finishing as well.”
Washington Commanders cornerback Emmanuel Forbes is among those likely to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Both enter training camp with high expectations ... But Forbes is drawing comparisons to Dallas Cowboys star Trevon Diggs, who led the league in 2021 with 11 interceptions.
Forbes’ instinctual coverage is one reason why NFL.com ranked him as the No. 5 candidate for 2023 defensive rookie of the year.
“Forbes is very thin, which could hurt him in run support, but his rare blend of top-end speed, instincts and ball skills give him the opportunity to make his mark early on,” NFL.com writes. “When healthy, the Commanders’ front can be menacing as a rush unit, which should only amplify Forbes’ playmaking talents.”
DC Sports King
It seemed then, neither of the owners mentioned the old name by accident. Friday, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera spoke about Harris’ mentioning the name. By the judge of the coach’s words, it sure seems like team officials are testing the waters to get feedback from the retired name.
“Mr. Harris and that ownership group talked extensively about bringing back the glory,” Rivera said, per Scott Abraham of ABC’s 7NewsDC. “And again, what Coach Gibbs did, the traditions, that alumni group of guys that are around, it’s hard to escape it, it really is. That’s the truth of the matter.”
Josh Harris has been very open about being a massive Redskins fan growing up in D.C.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) July 28, 2023
Over the past week, the Redskins name has been used more and more.
Ron Rivera was asked about that today.
He said, "It's hard to escape it. It really is. That's just the truth of the matter." pic.twitter.com/nuquUtiC4O
Rivera is right, it’s hard to escape the old name. It was the team’s moniker from 1933 until it was retired in 2020. The franchise legends all played under the name. With the name changed, the team has struggled to connect with the franchise’s past.
First, the franchise went to a temporary name of the “Washington Football Team” before revealing the Commanders in February of 2022. The choice of Commanders was widely met with criticism.
One of the biggest reasons was Commanders had no connection to the team’s past. No matter how the team officials tried, every attempt seems awkward and unfilling to fans.
Even if the team doesn’t go back to its old name, the Commanders’ brass surely want to reconnect fans to the franchise’s past. Just saying the name in an official capacity would require acceptance. Therefore, make no mistake about it, they’re testing the waters.
Former Redskins FB Mike Sellers got emotional talking to @RickDocWalker and @Nell_BTP about the Commanders ownership change: 'Nobody wanted to come back, but from one change, it feels like a weight has been lifted.' https://t.co/ewMm50HKvt— 106.7 The Fan (@1067theFan) July 28, 2023
Episode 621 - Ron Rivera says Chase Young is "light years ahead of where he was last training camp." Yes, everything is great in July, but what if 2023 Chase = 2020 Chase?— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) July 28, 2023
I also talk stadium, Sam Howell, Sam Cosmi, Dyami Brown, #Nats & more. #Commandershttps://t.co/VFLYkgHhaq
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
The draft is the perfect vehicle for bringing in talented and cheap labor to replace old and expensive employees.
[A]s Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network once phrased it:
- First you pay the guy who throws [QB]
- Then the guy that chases the guy who throws [DE]
- Then the guy who catches the ball thrown best [WR]
- Then the guy who covers the guy catching the ball best [CB]
- Then the guy who blocks for the guy throwing [LT]
If we build such a hypothetical roster, starting with the Money 5 and assign each player the 2023 franchise tag value, this is what you’d pay for your top 5 guys:
That subtotal of $108.1 million is almost half of this year’s $224.8 million salary cap. And if you factor in that the franchise tag is a lagging indicator (it’s calculated using the five largest salaries in the prior year), you’re probably going to spend about 50% of your cap on your top five players - if you’re paying competitive rates.
Let’s extend that to your top 10 players. If you’re a team like the Cowboys, with a focus on offense, you’re going to want some more offensive players in your top 10, so add a second offensive lineman and a second wide receiver, and - much to the chagrin of many - a running back. Two spots left, those will go to the defense. You’ve already got DE and CB covered, so add a DT and an LB. This is what your team now looks like, assuming you’re paying them all top dollar:
So you now have a team where the top 10 guys cost you $195.9 million out of a $224.8 million salary cap, or 87% of your cap. That leaves just enough money for about 30 additional players on the veteran minimum or on late-round draft pick contracts to fill out your roster, no practice squad, no injury replacements. That’s just not going to work.
But if you had four of those top 10 guys playing on their rookie contracts, at say $4 million each instead of the ~$20 franchise tag average, you’d be shaving about $60 million off your cap commitment for your top 10 guys.
That’s the value your top picks are expected to bring to your roster. Because while the draft is nominally all about talent acquisition, there’s no denying that it’s also an integral part of salary cap management. The draft is the perfect vehicle for bringing in talented and cheap labor to replace old and expensive employees.
Here’s how the 2023 Cowboys currently match up against that Top 10 player template:
NFL league links
“I think most coaches now are pretty savvy to know that it’s not analytics versus old school so much anymore,” one NFL analytics coordinator said. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, what do you have that can make us better?’ The fear of analytics has changed night and day from when I first started … when people had fears that they were going to get replaced by a computer.”
Not only are younger coaches using analytics, but coaches who have been in the league for decades are also more willing to learn about how analytics could help decision-making. Of course, there will be some who forever will be resistant to change.
The learning goes both ways. There are data scientists with strong beliefs based on research who were challenged after talking to coaches about the nuance and intricacies of football. It’s difficult to make sweeping statements based on numbers without a deeper understanding of how schemes and the players contextualize them.
“My interactions with coaches are everything because I didn’t really know right from wrong before I entered football,” an NFL analytics staffer told me. “I just was a casual viewer, and I thought I knew a lot then once I got into a coaching staff. I realized I knew nothing, and I had to almost go in with a blank slate — take their opinions, learn from them. But then at the same point, you use those principles and my overall knowledge to come up with my own research.”
Broncos coach Sean Payton calls his comments to USA Today a "mistake," expresses "regret" for his sharp criticism of former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett and others. https://t.co/KFIuEkEiTM— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 28, 2023
If you were building an NFL roster from scratch, which defensive positions would be most important?— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 28, 2023
In Part IV of our "How to run an NFL franchise" series, @nickbaumgardner and @DianteLeeFB explain what they’d need at each position.https://t.co/tAgakP9iPv