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Daily Slop - 23 Aug 23: Praise for Sam Howell; cautious optimism for Terry McLaurin’s toe

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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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Washington Post

Sam Howell has proved he can recover from mistakes. That’s huge.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Washington: Howell may not have a margin for error as thin as Carson Wentz or Taylor Heinicke had last season. Between the two drives with a sack, rookie defensive back Quan Martin made an athletic interception in the end zone and returned it all the way to the Baltimore 45. Last season, the Commanders struggled to force turnovers and the defense gave the offense better starting field position than the opponent’s 45 only six times all season.

“Huge plus,” Rivera said.

The FedEx Field crowd seems aware of Howell’s tendency to hang on to the ball too long. On the first play of the drive following Martin’s pick, Howell patted the ball, and a few spectators yelled for him to get rid of it. This time, Howell hit Brian Robinson Jr. for a gain of eight.

Sam Howell showed once again why he deserves to be Commanders’ starting QB

Jahan Dotson smiled when asked if he was surprised by the way Sam Howell played against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.

“Not at all,” Dotson told reporters. “I’ve been saying it since we drafted him, since last year when people started asking me questions about him. He has all the talent in the world.”

That sentiment is shared by head coach Ron Rivera and the rest of the Washington Commanders’ roster. Though he wasn’t perfect in the 29-28 victory over the Ravens, Howell showed off the talent Dotson alluded to in the first half, completing 19-of-25 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

Howell got 40 plays of action on Monday night — more than doubling what he had against the Cleveland Browns — and for the most part looked comfortable, poised and accurate as he led the Commanders’ offense. That falls in line with how Howell has played since training camp began in August. Sure, the growing pains are there; he took two sacks against the Ravens that he admitted after the game were his fault. But the team is willing to live with them because he learns from his mistakes and doesn’t let them build off each other.

Bullock’s Film Room

Evaluating Sam Howell against the Ravens

Breaking down how QB Sam Howell performed in the Commanders second preseason game

Quarterback Sam Howell had another impressive outing during the Washington Commanders second preseason game. Granted, the Ravens weren’t playing the majority of their starting defense so that context is important, but Howell still completed 19 of 25 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. While the Ravens might not have been playing their starters, they still gave Howell some different looks to think about and he showed a lot of positive processes that suggests the Commanders were right to name him their starting quarterback this season.

While it was a positive performance overall, Howell did start off with a rough play.

Howell quickly took blame for the sack after the game and admitted he was trying to do too much early in the game. However, credit to Howell for quickly forgetting about that mistake and moving on.

It’s great to see Howell having the ability to not let mistakes linger. Many young quarterbacks around the league would have been too frustrated from the mistake that led to the sack on the previous play to make up for it on the next. Some would have tried to force the ball over the middle or down the field and tried to do too much to make up for it. Howell showed great poise in forgetting about the previous play and moving onto the next one, taking it as it comes and reading it out properly.

Overall it was a very promising performance from Howell. Yes it came against the Ravens back up defense, but that shouldn’t take away from the mental process that Howell demonstrated throughout. He had the early mistake with the sack, but quickly moved on and made up for it on the next play. He then self-corrected that mistake by displaying great poise in the pocket for the rest of the game, making small movements to avoid pressure and buy time to deliver throws. He also took charge of protection schemes by diagnosing blitzers pre-snap and making the calls to ensure those rushers were picked up, which bought him time to sit in the pocket and progress through reads down the field.

This offense is all about being able to quickly process all the information Eric Bieniemy generates for the quarterback pre-snap which makes things easy post-snap. So far everything we’ve seen from Howell in preseason suggests he’s perfectly capable of handling all that information and processing it quickly.

Riggo’s Rag

3 major observations from Sam Howell’s preseason performance vs. Ravens

It was another impressive outing for the Commanders quarterback.

Sam Howell was ruthless

If there was one thing that held the Washington Commanders back at football’s most crucial position, it was a lack of killer instinct. Some were solid if not spectacular, but most just didn’t have the credentials needed to get this team where they need to go.

Sam Howell looks different in that regard. His production on Monday night was exactly why head coach Ron Rivera’s had so much faith in the second-year-pro despite having one career start under his belt, but he’ll be the first to admit it’s a team effort.

The conviction with which Howell distributed the football was nothing short of exemplary. He looked confident, got throws into tight windows, and made the most of red-zone opportunities when they arrived.

Howell finished the night with a 76 percent pass completion rate for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also carried the football three times for 17 rushing yards to further enhance his influence.

The longer Howell gets in the pocket, the better he is. That might ring true for almost any quarterback, but it’s a stark reminder of how important the Commanders’ offensive line is to their hopes for genuine progress on offense under Eric Bieniemy in 2023.

Having this sort of precision, ruthless efficiency. and poise coupled with the X-factor traits Howell brings to the table, it’s not hard to see why there’s so much excitement.

Joey Slye shows why he still has Rivera’s trust

It’s been a good offseason for Joey Slye.

Let’s state the obvious: after being in the midst of a kicking competition for all of training camp, Slye emerged victorious when the Commanders decided to release Michael Badgley before their preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Yes, it was considered his job to lose, but anytime a team brings in another player at your position, particularly when you’re the only player on the roster to have your responsibilities, there’s pressure for you to rise to the occasion.

Slye has done exactly that in the Commanders’ two preseason games, hitting all four of his field goals and three extra points. The highlight of the offseason for Slye came on Monday night in the 29-28 victory against the Ravens. It sounds kind talk about intense situations in a preseason game, but there was some level of nerves in FedExField as Slye readied himself to score the game-winning field goal.

The score, and the fact that Washington ended the Ravens’ 24-game winning streak on Monday Night Football, didn’t matter, but Slye hitting the 49-yard attempt in that scenario certainly did, and it served as a small reminder as to why Slye still has Ron Rivera’s trust.

“Joey’s had a really good camp,” Rivera said. “He really did have a tremendous camp and expedited the decision as far as letting Mike go. He did a great job for us, but Joey was having such a good camp and building such a good confidence out there. This is a big deal for us.”

Riggo’s Rag

5 winners and losers from the Commanders preseason win vs. Ravens

Which Commanders players saw their stock rise or fall?

Loser No. 1 - Camaron Cheeseman - Commanders LS

It wasn’t all positive for the Washington Commanders despite securing their second-straight postseason triumph. The performance of lovable long-snapper Camaron Cheeseman was concerning, in particular.

Cheeseman’s status on the 53-man roster is locked in beyond all doubt. However, there were some wayward, inaccurate snaps that reared their head in this one that needs eradicating at the earliest possible opportunity.

This is something Cheeseman will probably clean up. Because given what’s at stake for everyone across the Commanders next season with Josh Harris’ ownership group watching intently, they cannot afford special teams to become a weak link.

Sports Illustrated

Commanders Injury Update: WR Terry McLaurin Day-to-Day After Leaving Early vs. Ravens

Washington Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin won’t be out for long after injuring his toe against the Baltimore Ravens.

While there was much celebration after snapping the Ravens’ 24-game preseason win streak dating back to 2015, there was concern surrounding the health of Terry McLaurin, who left the game with a toe injury.

However, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that McLaurin’s MRI scans came back negative and the Pro Bowl receiver isn’t expected to miss any time.

Commanders Wire

Commanders 53-man roster projection following 2nd preseason game

Wide receiver: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley and Kazmeir Allen

A slight change here. Last week, we included Dax Milne. This time, we remove Milne and add Tinsley. Look, the Commanders keeping six wide receivers are more likely, but there are some tough cuts this time around. Allen makes it for his return ability, and Tinsley is a promising prospect that Washington doesn’t want to lose.

Defensive line: Montez Sweat, Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, John Ridgeway, Efe Obada, Phidarian Mathis, Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams and Andre Jones Jr.

Another competitive battle here. I can see the Commanders keeping 11 here, including both rookies, K.J. Henry and Andre Jones Jr. One thing is certain, Jones is making the roster. The Commanders like Henry, too, but in this case, he hasn’t done enough to beat out Jones and could be ticketed for the practice squad with an in-season callup. The Commanders love the versatility of this group.

Podcasts & videos

JUNKIES: John Keim breaks down Commanders-Ravens and all the fallout from the game

Ref the District - Which Washington Commanders Still Have Something to Prove? - Episode 135

NFC East links


Jason Kelce admits ‘cheap shot’ sparked Eagles-Colts practice fight

The Philadelphia Eagles’ joint practice with the visiting Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday was cut short by a sideline-clearing brawl.

Veteran Eagles center Jason Kelce later owned up to blindsiding Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin at the end of a play. The ensuing melee between the two clubs led to an early end to the practice, the final one of training camp before they play a preseason finale Thursday.

Reports from the scene said that Franklin delivered two big hits on Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell. After the second, Kelce laid a hit on an unsuspecting Franklin.

Kelce called his actions a “cheap shot” and said he felt ashamed he let his frustration get the better of him.

“That certainly doesn’t belong out there on the field and just a little bit ashamed that it got to that level and that I did what I did,” Kelce said, “so certainly not happy about that, and I think very highly of the guys that were out there.”

Kelce added that he did not meet with Franklin to clear the air after practice because tensions between the Eagles and Colts may have still been too high.

“Forty-four, Zaire (Franklin), I think he’s a tremendous player,” Kelce said. “I think a lot of all their guys up front and they brought a lot of intensity to the day, which made the practice intense. And, you know, I think I didn’t handle things properly there at the end.”

Big Blue View

Giants reportedly working out veteran CB William Jackson III

Cornerback depth, experience could be an issue for Giants

The 6-foot, 189-pound Jackson has played in 75 regular season games, with 64 starts. He played only four games last season due to a back injury, but has said that he is healthy.

“I’m great,” Jackson said. “Just a minor setback for a major comeback. Everybody goes through injuries. Just feeling great, I’m 100 percent, feeling back to full speed and ready to show everybody what I can do.”

The Giants could have a depth problem at cornerback. The are prepared to start rookies Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins III as outside cornerbacks, with Adoree’ Jackson in the slot. The only other cornerback who appears to be a lock to make the 53-man roster is second-year man Cor’Dale Flott.

Darnay Holmes is a veteran, but his $2.94 million cap hit makes him a candidate to be cut. The Giants also have Amani Oruwaryie, Darren Evan, Gemon Green, and Zyon Gilbert.

NFL league links


Pro Football Focus

Why Kamren Curl is the Washington Commanders’ most important defensive player

The then-Washington Football Team selected Curl in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Since then, he has done nothing but prove everyone wrong. He’s played at least 700 snaps in each of his first three years, all while finishing as a top-30 safety by PFF grade each year. In 2022, he earned the second-highest grade at the position in the NFL and was the only safety to earn at least an 80.0 PFF grade in run defense, tackling and coverage.

It turned out to be harder to find an advanced statistic that Curl didn’t place in the top 10 in.

The Athletic

Who would you rather be: The New York Giants or Minnesota Vikings?


For as bad as former general manager Dave Gettleman’s four-year tenure was, he didn’t leave the cupboard bare for Schoen. In addition to Jones, Schoen has made eight (or nine) figure commitments to left tackle Andrew Thomas, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, running Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Darius Slayton.

Combine that group with other Gettleman holdovers — defensive tackle Leonard Williams, outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney — and Schoen inherited some foundational pieces at premium positions.

The gaps will need to be filled in by Schoen’s draft picks and free-agent signings, and the jury is still out on those additions. If his top draft picks — outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, right tackle Evan Neal and cornerback Deonte Banks — and big-money veteran acquisitions — tight end Darren Waller and linebacker Bobby Okereke — hit, the Giants will have a core built to contend immediately and into the future.