Undrafted wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley is part of a deep pool of candidates vying for one or two spots on Washington’s 53-man roster, and so far he has given Rivera and the coaching staff plenty to ponder.
In the win over the Browns, Tinsley was involved in nine passing plays; he lined up wide for four of them and in the slot for the others. The 23-year-old’s lone target resulted in a leaping, 26-yard catch on second and 24.
“I was in the slot on the right side of the field, and we were getting man [coverage], and he was sort of outside leverage,” he recalled. “I just got up to [the defender], worked him a little bit, stuck inside and just tried to make a play on the ball.”
The play was a showcase of Tinsley’s route-running and catch skills, but he took a circuitous journey to this point. He focused on basketball at Lee’s Summit High in Missouri and didn’t return to football until his senior season. He graduated with 19 catches and zero scholarship offers.
“Jahan is so special,” Howell said. “He’s so polished, man. He’s such a good wide receiver. I was a huge fan of his when he was in college, and I’m so excited to play with him.”
Whether Howell will have time to seek out those receivers downfield remains a significant question. Cleveland’s defensive front had the Washington offensive line wobbling. Only two of the Commanders’ 10 longest offensive plays came with Howell at quarterback. The first two runs went for no gain. Running backs Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson combined for 34 yards from scrimmage on eight touches before Howell left. Rookie reserve Chris Rodriguez Jr. led Washington with 39 yards on five carries.
After the Commanders reached the 43-yard line on the first possession, a Wylie holding penalty and a sack — enabled by cornerback Mike Ford’s blitz through a hole on the left side of Washington’s line — cratered any scoring hopes.
Howell’s composure could take a hit if he takes punishment. Then again, he continues showing that struggles won’t keep him down.
Bullock’s Film Room
Taking a closer look at how the Commanders starting guards performed in their preseason opener.
One of the biggest questions facing the Washington Commanders entering preseason was how the offensive line would hold up. For about 20 snaps against the Browns, we got a glimpse of how the starting offensive line might shape up. It’s fair to say free agent right tackle Andrew Wylie didn’t have his best game, but he has years of experience in this league and Eric Bieniemy’s system, so I think we can back him to get it right by the time the regular season starts.
The potentially bigger issues came from inside. Washington has an entirely new interior offensive line. Nick Gates was signed to start at center, and I thought he handled the calls very well, but the questions are more at the guard positions. The left guard spot is an open competition between Saahdiq Charles and Chris Paul, but Charles is battling an injury so Paul got the start against the Browns. At right guard, Sam Cosmi is set to be the starter, but this is his first full offseason as purely a guard, so it’s interesting to see how he’s developed in that regard. Cosmi and Paul were two of the players you guys asked me most about after the Browns game, so let’s take a closer look at how they got on.
After watching the All-22 footage, I thought Cosmi was the Commanders best offensive lineman. He looked far more comfortable and protected at guard than tackle, where he struggled to protect the edge without oversetting, which opened up big lanes inside. At guard, he always had Wylie outside of him limiting how much a defender could challenge his outside shoulder. This enabled him to be far more balanced and confident in his sets which in turn let him show off his athleticism.
I wrote earlier this offseason I’d be more inclined to give Paul the start at left guard over Charles. The team obviously viewed it differently with Charles starting training camp getting the first team reps, but he picked up another injury that has allowed Paul to make his case for the job. I thought Paul was a bit up and down in this game. He showed flashes of why the Commanders think he has good potential but also had plays where his flaws were clear to see.
One of the impressive traits we’ve seen from Paul in his limited action in Washington so far is that when he gets his hands on a defender, they tend to struggle to break free of him.
The Commanders got back down to practice after their preseason win against the Cleveland Browns.
Commanders DB Percy Butler continues to emerge
It’s no secret that Percy Butler has been one of the camp standouts so far, The talented defensive back is looking for more involvement after flashing briefly as a rookie, which could arrive despite the two starting safety positions locked up by Kamren Curl and Darrick Forrest.
The Washington Commanders will find it very difficult to leave Butler out based on his performance levels in practice and during Friday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. This session was another impressive one from the Louisiana product, who seems to be growing in confidence and is starting to feel like he belongs.
Butler came up with another interception on Sunday from a Jacoby Brissett throw. He also caught the attention of those in attendance thanks to an outstanding pass defense during scrimmages.
This is another positive step forward for Butler, who drew praise from head coach Ron Rivera for his development recently. How he performs against the Baltimore Ravens will be a good measuring stick in terms of his development, but the signs are incredibly positive right now, and long may it continue.
There was a lot to unpack from Friday night’s win for the Commanders.
The deepest position for Washington is arguably the wide receiver room, especially after offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy brought over some help with former Kansas City Chiefs players. How many receivers will the Commanders keep though?
The Commanders are likely going to have six receivers on the roster. Especially with the flexibility of Antonio Gibson, Bieniemy has a tough decision to make.
Aside from the top four wide receivers in Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, and Dyami Brown, the last two spots could go to whoever offers the most in special teams in addition to Washington’s offense.
In Week 1 of the preseason, we saw flashes from the undrafted rookie Kazmeir Allen on kick and punt returns, while Dax Milne continued to struggle in the return game. The one thing we haven’t seen out of the undrafted free agent so far though, is what kind of role he offers when the offense is on the field.
Byron Pringle is one of Bieniemy’s familiar faces that he brought over with him to Washington recently. The wideout looks to comfortably have a roster spot locked in with the experience, playing ability, and special team flexibility. He helped his case with a big-time catch from Jacoby Brissett as well.
While they didn’t allow any points the Washington Commander bent as much as they could before standing up in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns’ starting offense.
“On two of the long runs on the outside to the right side of our defense, the biggest problem more than anything else (is) we played behind the ball,” coach Ron Rivera said when asked about that drive specifically by Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “We didn’t get a good edge said and when we decided to run through we ran behind and not in front. Bad decisions on the guys that were supposed to fit those creases.”
If there are negatives to take away from the Commanders’ first preseason contest - and first preseason win since 2021 - it’s that the defense didn’t look as dominant as we may have expected.
The Browns’ first drive of the game gained a net total of 67 yards, lasted 12 plays, and melted nearly seven minutes off the game clock.
Still, by the end of it, Watson and his offense left the field pointless. Something they’ll say doesn’t truly matter, but something we all know bugs any competitor just a little bit.
On Saturday, ESPN analyst — and former NFL quarterback — Dan Orlovsky weighed on Dotson’s touchdown, calling the route “filth.”
Orlovsky compares Dotson’s route running here to Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen — a five-time Pro Bowler.
“This route by Dotson is pretty special,” Orlovsky said. “It’s man coverage in the slot. Look at the burst of speed he gets. Man coverage, push vertical, and this moment where he bursts to sell that defender that he’s going to cross the field………… It’s hard to get wide open like that in the NFL. Sick route.”
Orlovsky isn’t saying Dotson is Allen, but he’s comparing the route running, as Allen is often considered the NFL’s best route runner. High praise from Orlovsky.
Dotson has it all: Speed, route running, hands and an impressive catch radius for his size.
The Washington Commanders are trying to add versatility and improve their offensive line.
You can never have too much versatility along your offensive line.
The Washington Commanders have taken a step in that direction with centers Tyler Larsen and rookie Ricky Stromberg. At practice on Sunday, head coach Ron Rivera said the two centers have begun practicing at guard.
“We’ve got three really good centers,” Rivera said. “I like him. I think [C/G] Ricky’s done a nice job so far. I don’t know if you noticed today, but we started taking Ricky and Tyler and started working them at guard for some position flex as well. Because you know, if you have a guy up as the primary backup, he’s going to have to be flexible and be able to play more than one spot. So, we started doing that with both those guys, get them both back in the groove of playing guard in an emergency situation.”
Mathis suffered some sort of leg injury and left the game. Young also departed the game and was seen on the sideline with head trainer Al Bellamy. After the game, head coach Ron Rivera said Young had “a little bit of a stinger” but didn’t give an update on Mathis.
After Sunday’s practice, Rivera offered an update on both players.
“With Chase, he self-reported a stinger during the game, and so through an abundance of caution, we have slowed him down just to be smart more so than anything else,” Rivera said.
“He’s got to get one more final exam so we can get him back out there. Everything has been fine. Again, we’re just being careful because this was a self-reported stinger. I don’t want to say protocol, but we have to follow the rules.”
It sounds like Young will be just fine.
Mathis appears fine, too:
“He had tweaked his calf, and he did come back in, re-entered the game, and take his reps,” Rivera said. “Today, he’s a little sore. He was sore yesterday sore today, and so the training staff wanted to slow him down a little bit. He did a few things, and then we shut him down.”
️With @granthpaulsen:— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) August 14, 2023
* Takeaways from preseason opener
* Sam Howell shines. The OL...
* Secondary poppin'
* Room for both DL kids?
* Chase Young update
* Ravens week
* Play-calling vs. game planning; Fruits vs. Veggies; my car saga vs. my sanityhttps://t.co/JEtAk3nqQA
In video form: wrapping up todays work plus some more on the game. Chase young update. Dyami Brown; Christian Holmes on ST; how they can clean up some OL issues. Run game blocking. More. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/beJKskLxOG— John Keim (@john_keim) August 13, 2023
The Washington Commanders kicked off Week 4 of training camp in front of thousands of fans at the team facility. Check out the top photos from Sunday morning.
We're now in Week 4 of camp for the Commanders, and the focus now shifts to the joint practices with the Ravenshttps://t.co/bVAfTZlZrD— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) August 13, 2023
NFC East links
Bleeding Green Nation
Here’s what we learned from the Eagles’ first preseason matchup vs. Baltimore.
Running back D’Andre Swift’s nifty juke on a first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 40 on their first drive. The run resulted in a 22-yard gain and showed what Swift is capable of doing when healthy. He’s always the ability to read tacklers, change direction, run through tacklers and accelerate up field.
Eagles’ first-round draft pick Jalen Carter only too two snaps. He looked really impressive on the Eagles’ initial defensive series. He blew by former Georgia teammate Ben Cleveland to place pressure on Ravens’ back-up quarterback Josh Johnson, forcing an errant throw on a third-and-10 at the Ravens’ 29. Carter showed great technique and athleticism in sweeping by the right guard and running right up the middle.
Rookie offensive lineman Tyler Steen had a rough go in his first series in an NFL uniform. He gave up a sack, though was placed in a tough spot there, having to choose who to pick up on a blitz. Steen was playing left tackle, though was projected to back up Cam Jurgens at right guard. He was supposed to even compete for the job at right guard. Now, in fairness to Steen, he did a nice job pulling and creating space in the Eagles’ second drive.
Communication issues. The Eagles had to call a timeout on their first drive, with time running down on the play clock, and the delay penalty on the second drive. That comes from not getting the play in on time and getting everyone in sync on what has to be done. That happens in preseason with everyone, but Mariota is a veteran who should know better.
Blogging the Boys
Takeaways the day after the preseason opener.
Eric Scott Jr. coming down to earth was inevitable
From the moment that Dallas traded up for Scott Jr. there has been nothing but hype around him. He got work with the first team during minicamp periods and has impressed just about everyone through training camp so far (not to mention that he had the first interception of camp, even if it came off of a tipped pass).
Hopefully his performance on Saturday (which was not good if none of this is obvious) was just him acclimating to the professional level and it all serves as a learning opportunity. There is data, however loose, to justify this theory.
There seems to be some division on how Mazi Smith played
In the aforementioned stock report, some kudos were given to the Cowboys first-round pick. Mazi Smith. Smith’s performance was not what the kids are calling “a deuce” but it got better as the game wore on.
To this point in camp it feels like we have been wandering through a minefield of Smiththoughts and/or takes. He has not popped or had an amazing highlight and with a first-round label on him that has led to some impatience.
Big Blue View
A kickoff return idea, and some other thoughts
A kickoff return idea
Friday night we saw one of the things that is going to happen with the new kickoff rule. That is a lot of short kickoffs, either hoping to get the ball to bounce or daring the return team to run the ball back.
Unless kickers get proficient at being able to land the ball where no one can catch it, which would cause chaos — and increase injuries — the play is going to be boring.
I have an idea. Why not make the kickoff 9 on 9? Spread the field, put an emphasis on speed. That would lead teams to use smaller players rather than tight ends and linebackers — likely lowering violent collisions and probably limiting injuries.
Plus, it would put excitement back in the play.
NFL league links
Commanders: Washington should be pleased with quarterback Sam Howell’s preseason start. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was solid. Yes, the offense started slow, with two bad series in large part because of the offensive line. They allowed too much pressure, right tackle Andrew Wylie in particular, and created no running lanes. The result: 10 yards in two series. But Howell and the offense finished strong with a touchdown in its third and final series. Howell (9-for-12, 77 yards) used his legs and arm to generate yards. He extended plays and they also called sprint roll-outs to move the pocket. They’ll need to do a lot of that this season. The line has a lot to prove — they weren’t facing end Myles Garrett, who didn’t play. But Howell did not force any throws and capped the last drive with a 26-yard pass to Jahan Dotson. That could be a productive combination this season. — John Keim
Next game: vs. Ravens (8 p.m. ET on ESPN, Monday, Aug. 21)
Browns: In his preseason debut, quarterback Deshaun Watson was crisp during his one series. Out of a one-hour weather delay, Watson completed all three of his passes for 12 yards, and more impressively, rushed for 20 yards on three carries. Cleveland wound up getting stuffed at the goal line on fourth down to end the drive. But it was an encouraging appearance from Cleveland’s franchise quarterback, especially coming off the shaky six games he started for the Browns last season. Watson likely won’t play in Cleveland’s preseason game in Philadelphia next week following the joint practices with the Eagles. But coach Kevin Stefanski has indicated that Watson will get another tune-up in the preseason finale in Kansas City leading into the start of the regular season. — Jake Trotter
The euphoria of [Blake] Grupe’s first professional field goal probably lasted about an hour, until he was mistaken for a fan by security as he tried to leave the Superdome via the player’s exit.
He recounted the experience on his social media account after the game, noting that it was the second time in the same day that someone did not think the 5-foot-7, 156-pound specialist was a football player. Grupe had already been questioned by stadium security prior to the game when they asked why he didn’t have a credential to be on the sidelines.
Step 1: get questioned walking onto the field pregame for not having credentials— Blake Grupe (@blakegrupe) August 13, 2023
Step 2: hit a game winner
Step 3: get stopped by security thinking I was a fan when trying to walk out the player exit
Stay humble. Thankful. Great team win! @Saints #WHODAT
Grupe, who has been battling Wil Lutz for the starting kicker spot all summer, might not be a recognizable face yet, but his poise under pressure impressed Saints coach Dennis Allen.