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Daily Slop - 25 Aug 23 - Albert Breer on Sam Howell: No one thinks he looks like a 5th round pick

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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Baltimore Ravens v Washington Commanders Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

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Sports Illustrated

Commanders Camp Takeaways: Defense Looks Complete With Strong Line and Rookie Potential

New leadership in Washington is here, and the biggest question marks on the roster are being addressed as stars, new and old, prove themselves this summer.

The 24th team I’ve visited this summer is the one with new ownership and, seemingly, a whole new outlook. Here’s what I got from the Commanders …

The decision to take Emmanuel Forbes with the 16th pick—and over Oregon star Christian Gonzalez—spurred a lot of conversation in Washington, but to this point, Forbes has been everything the Commanders imagined he would be. A big reason the coaches and scouts fell in love with him, to the point where he was a clear target (maybe the clear target) of theirs going into the first night of the draft, was his ball production. Ron Rivera & Co. knew they needed more in the way of turnovers, and creating them was Forbes’s specialty at Mississippi State. So far, the Commanders have gotten that. But what might surprise some people about Forbes is how quickly he, at 6’1” and 166 pounds, has come into being aggressive and physical in the run game. And that showed up in Monday night’s game, when the rookie stoned veteran tailback Melvin Gordon on a third-and-1, a play a few folks at the facility Wednesday raised to me. If Forbes holds up physically at his size, it sure looks like Washington got a good one at a very important position.

No one in Washington thinks the second-year pro [Sam Howell] looks like a fifth-round pick—and the Commanders are proving their confidence lies with Howell in how new coordinator Eric Bieniemy is building an offense specifically for him. The new look will, of course, have Kansas City hallmarks to it, while also highlighting Howell’s ability to make throws on the move.

Washington Post

Commanders are hopeful Terry McLaurin (toe) will be ready for Week 1

According to Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, recovery from a toe sprain can vary based on the grade of the sprain and the individual. A complete tear of the cartilage typically requires surgery, said Jung, who did not treat or consult with McLaurin about his injury. But a milder sprain can be treated more conservatively.

“Sometimes these can be played through, but sometimes they may take as long as four to six weeks to heal,” Jung said.

The specifics of McLaurin’s injury are unclear, but one notable type of toe sprain is turf toe, which is common in the NFL. The big toe hyperextends, meaning the ligament is bent up toward the knee or back toward the heel. The ligament on the underside of the toe can be stretched or torn.

In 2020, Gibson suffered turf toe during a win at Pittsburgh. He was limited to four snaps in that game and was inactive for the next two. He returned for the final two regular season matchups and the playoff game against Tampa Bay but admitted the following June that he was still dealing with lingering effects of the injury.

With McLaurin, Washington has the benefit of time — there is a 20-day window between the date of his injury and the season opener.

Sports Illustrated

Commanders ‘Feel Really Good’ About 53-Man Roster Preparation, Says Coach Rivera

In our final training camp practice of the year, Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera says the impact of preseason injuries shouldn’t weigh too heavily on the initial 53-man roster.

“I believe not,” coach Ron Rivera said when asked if the injuries would impact the initial 53-man roster to be set by Tuesday afternoon. “Where we are right now I think all these guys are guys that we feel really good about in terms of our preparation...We’ll be meeting on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to discuss all that.”

Washington Post

‘Like memorizing a periodic table’: Learning the West Coast offense is no joke

“I couldn’t recite [the plays] to you. That’s how wild it is,” receiver Jahan Dotson said. “It’s amazing that the quarterbacks can listen to it and say it to us in the huddle because it’s that complex. It’s truly that complex.”

For a young and inexperienced quarterback like Sam Howell, who played only one game as a rookie and came from a college program that never huddled, the learning curve can be steep. As Jon Gruden said to Cam Newton in 2011: “You’re going to move to France, and you’re going to have to speak French pretty quick.”

West Coast system, developed by Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh...has a detailed structure for everything, down to the spacing and order of players in a huddle. It’s a timing-based offense that pairs a quarterback’s steps to his receivers’ routes and relies on shorter, quicker passes to stretch opposing defenses horizontally. The calls are designed to detail the roles of each player on the field.

“In college, we were used to signaling everything. One [signal] means everything,” Dotson said. “But in the NFL, we pretty much tell everyone what to do and where to line up, so it kind of takes a little while.”

Since 1994, the NFL has allowed quarterbacks to use radio receivers in their helmets to ease communication with play-callers on the sidelines. With a shorter play clock, time is of the essence. But even with a more efficient communication system, former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said, the calls still sometimes take too long. That means coaches have to speak in shorthand to quarterbacks, who then translate to the rest of the offense.

So if a coach called in “2 jet flanker drive,” the quarterback would call the play in the huddle as “double right zebra peel 2 jet flanker drive.”

And nowadays, the calls often include not one play, but two — an alternate if the defense shows a different look than expected.

Commanders Wire

Why did Jamin Davis and Cody Barton play so much in the second preseason game?

But why were Barton and Davis still on the field in the second quarter with other backups?

According to head coach Ron Rivera, it was to get the two familiar with playing with one another. That’s what Rivera said after Monday’s game, which makes plenty of sense, considering the linebacker position requires constant communication.

“I think the biggest thing for Cody…….is getting used to the style of play,” Rivera said. “We’re a little different from his time in Seattle, and yet we do some very similar things in terms of coverages. But some of our downhill techniques are some of the things that he’s got to get used to. The first game, you saw him, he was really good with it. The second game, I think he was kind of a little hesitant to really get downhill. One of the mistakes you got to be careful when you try to be right and fit it correctly, and that guy cuts back; now you put yourself in a bad spot.

Barton earned praise from Washington legend Doc Walker, a longtime analyst for the team, when he watched practices earlier this summer. Overall, Rivera is pleased with Barton’s progress.

“He’s done a nice job, I think, assimilating and trying to get a grasp of that. What was really good to watch was his play speed, his quickness to adjust and to make up for that little hesitation. I loved his communication, not just with Jamin but the whole unit. I think he’s really starting to get a good feel for the guys. It’s one of those things that, again, the more he plays, the more reps he gets, the better he’s going to be for us.”

Rivera is really pleased with Davis, the former first-round pick entering the third year of his career.

“Very pleased with Jamin,” Rivera said. “He’s playing faster. He’s more confident. You see his run, hit and tackle. He’s still really good at that. I thought the some of the coverage stuff; he did a nice job of putting himself in position. Really pleased with the progress.”

Bullock’s Film Room

Commanders Notebook: Offensive Line vs Ravens

Breaking down the performance of the interior offensive line against the Ravens

One of the things that stood out to me when watching back the Commanders’ offense against the Ravens was the performance of the interior offensive line. It should be stated right at the top here that the Ravens didn’t play their starting defense, so the Commanders were facing back ups along the defensive line and that certainly does help make everyone look better. However, the team can only play against what’s put in front of them and I’m sure everyone would be overreacting had the offensive line struggled. So it’s only fair we point out a good performance and most importantly, a good process.

What stood out most to me was how well Nick Gates played at center. I wrote last week about how Gates and quarterback Sam Howell appeared to have a good understanding of protections and communicate that well together. That was also on show this week with Howell and Gates working together to get things picked up from a schematic stand point. But it’s one thing to have things picked up schematically, it’s another to go and actually execute the blocks. I thought Gates was excellent at picking up and passing off stunts throughout this game.

The offensive line isn’t suddenly the best unit on the team because they played well against the Ravens back ups. But they’ve shown some promising signs, particularly with Gates at center and Cosmi at right guard that suggest there is indeed some potential with this unit to at least be solid enough for Howell to get the ball out efficiently. Hopefully that can continue into the regular season when opposing defenses start game planning for ways to attack the protection schemes and individual lineman.

Commanders sign DT Anthony Montalvo

The Washington Commanders have added more depth to their defensive line by signing Anthony Montalvo ahead of their final preseason game.

Montalvo, an undrafted free agent out of UCF, has spent time with the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks since joining the NFL. He played five seasons for the Knights, recording 127 tackles, including a career-high 42 in 2022, to go with four pass breakups, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

During his career with the Knights, Montalvo made 36 starts in 57 games. In 2022 Montalvo was a nominee for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is given out to the best player in college football to start their career as a walk-on.

Riggo’s Rag

3 tough cuts the Commanders could make after 2023 preseason finale

It could be hard for the Commanders to part ways with these players.

John Ridgeway - Commanders DL

In all honesty, the chances of Ron Rivera giving up on John Ridgeway after one professional season appear remote. The former fifth-round selection has all the physical intangibles normally associated with solid depth pieces on the defensive line, although it’s hard to gauge whether he could become anything more than that based on his rookie campaign.

Ridgeway became something of a cult hero among Washington Commanders fans thanks to his tireless approach and larger-than-life personality. But there is no room for sentiment where those in power are concerned given how much pressure is on their shoulders with Josh Harris’ ownership group assessing everything associated with the franchise.

Washington’s defensive front has an embarrassment of riches across the board. This indicates a tough cut or two is coming thanks to the numbers game if nothing else, which could end up being someone like Ridgeway unless the interior presence shows out in their preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Again, this would be a shocking cut at Ridgeway’s current phase of development. But the recent signing of defensive tackle Antonio Montalvo indicates the primary decision-makers aren’t quite happy with their options lower down the depth chart.

DC Sports King

Could Josh Dobbs bump Colt McCoy as the Cardinals starting QB for Week 1?

Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon failed to name Colt McCoy the Cardinals’ Week 1 starting quarterback against his former team, the Washington Commanders.

McCoy, who turns 37 on Sept. 5, hasn’t been impressing. Meanwhile, with rookie Clayton Tune as the only other option, the Cardinals picked up the phone and worked to find a capable arm to throw into the mix.

Arizona landed quarterback Joshua Dobbs and a 2024 seventh-round draft pick, sending a 2024 fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns.

Dobbs has appeared in just eight games, starting two since he entered the league in 2017. At 28 years old, Dobbs may have a higher ceiling than McCoy in the absence of Murray. Not to mention, Dobbs is familiar with Petzing’s offense.

The addition of Dobbs at least creates uncertainty about who will start Week 1 at quarterback. For now, teams are focusing on adjusting their respective rosters to get down to 53 players by final cuts.

For Arizona, there is intrigue if Dobbs, McCoy, or even Tune lead the offense when it lines up against defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and the Commanders on Sept. 10.


NFL Preseason Week 2: Rookie grades, snaps for all 32 NFL teams

Podcasts & videos


PHOTOS | Commanders practice, 8/24


NFC East links

Big Blue View

TRADE! Giants acquire Isaiah Simmons from Arizona Cardinals

Giants add defensive depth in deal for former No. 8 overall pick

Where does he fit with the Giants?

Honestly, a little bit of everywhere. As we have said multiple times throughout the summer, the Giants’ depth at inside linebacker and on the edge has been questionable. Simmons fills both of those roles. He also gives them depth in the slot in the event that sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins III struggles and the Giants want to move Adoree’ Jackson back to the outside.

Mostly, Simmons seems like a fantastic toy for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who often refers to his defense as “position-less.” Simmons seems like an excellent addition at a bargain-basement price for a defense that wants to be as flexible as possible.

2023 NFL preseason, Week 3: What We Learned from Thursday doubleheader

Eagles on bubble have mixed results. Thursday night’s showing was exactly why you take a chance on a two-time Olympic hurdler. Devon Allen took his first kickoff return of the preseason 73 yards, speeding all the way to the Indianapolis 27-yard line. Allen’s elite speed offers up the potential for a make-or-break play here or there in the season, and an argument for a roster spot solely for that reason. … If running back Trey Sermon doesn’t find a spot in a loaded Eagles RB room, it’s certainly not for a lack of effort. Sermon, who returned kicks in the first two games, bounced back from a fumble in Week 2 for a nice showing and ran hard again Thursday. With double-digit carries, we’ll find out in a few days if he was fighting for a spot or just taking on a full load of preseason carries to rest the other backs’ legs. … What to make of Marcus Mariota? After a shaky Week 2 outing by the former first-round pick, head coach Nick Sirianni said Mariota was the team’s QB2, not rookie Tanner McKee. On Thursday, Mariota surprisingly played just one series before handing the reins to McKee. Conventional wisdom suggests Mariota might be on the bubble, and the preseason finale only adds more mystery to the situation.

Blogging the Boys

Why taking Micah Parsons’ odds for DPOY could be a bad bet

Micah Parsons is highly favored to win Defensive Player of the Year, but would you bet on that?

Consider that Parsons only played 38 defensive snaps against the Minnesota Vikings last year when the Cowboys blew them out (although he made a big impact early on in that game). That contest took place the Sunday before Thanksgiving and he only topped 50 three times over the rest of the year including a regular season-high 68 on Christmas Eve against the Philadelphia Eagles.

One of those games above 50 came in the team’s blowout of the Indianapolis Colts (+4) that was a bit close before it wasn’t. Parsons needed two sacks that night to take over as the league’s leader (at that point in the season) but only finished with one more across the rest of the regular season period, much of which was a result of his minimized workload.

We know that the Cowboys have a history of making sure that Parsons is as fresh as possible for the games that matter which come after the regular season, and therefore after he can amplify his case for any sort of DPOY award. As great as it would be to see him be rightfully crowned as the game’s best defender the odds, quite literally, do not suggest that this is a good bet.

NFL league links


The Athletic

Meuller: How I rate and rank some of the NFL’s youngest staring quarterbacks

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

Let me first say, I could not have made the commitment that head coach Ron Rivera and his staff have made to Howell for this season, based on what we saw last season. One meaningless game of mediocre results at the end of a disappointing 2022 season did not move the meter for me. Even after a close look at the film, the evaluation was hollow for me in that one game, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of Howell’s play coming out of North Carolina.

But after Monday night’s game and seeing the way Howell carved up the preseason darling Baltimore Ravens (who had won 24 consecutive non-counting games), Rivera might be on the right track.

After swinging and missing at QB multiple times as a franchise the past three years, Howell played as good of a game as I have seen from a Commanders quarterback (even though it was only preseason) for a good while. Forty-three plays in a half of football was very enlightening. Sure, it was only a half, but it was impressive.

That being said, if I was purchasing stock on these six guys based on what I know right now, here is the order in which I would allocate my money:

1. Pickett

2. Love

3. Fields

4. Jones

5. Howell

6. Ridder

Washington Post

NFL kickoffs hang on as efforts to reimagine the play continue

NFL officials say they expect the new rule — the football will be spotted at the 25-yard line on a fair catch of a kickoff anywhere inside the 25, equivalent to a touchback — to produce a modest reduction in the number of concussions suffered by players on kickoffs. But they describe the rule as a temporary measure. League leaders say they plan to spend the coming months exploring longer-term solutions, including the possibility that the NFL replicates the XFL’s version of the kickoff.

“I don’t think anyone is satisfied with where we are on the kickoff play, generally,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy. “We [all] want a play where there’s more kicks returned because obviously it’s an exciting play. And yet we want to limit some of the risks associated with it, which we can measure and we see year over year. And so is it possible to do both of those things? I think the answer is yes, but we need some creative solutions as to how.”

The NFL says its injury data shows that, in most years, the concussion rate on kickoffs is about twice as high as it is on plays from scrimmage. The number has increased in recent seasons, league leaders say, after a temporary decline following a previous set of rule changes that included eliminating “wedge” blocking — where multiple blockers link together — by the receiving team and banning players on the kicking team from getting a running start before the ball is kicked.

The new fair catch rule, which mimics a rule previously implemented in college football, does not make the kickoff inherently safer. It merely aims to reduce the number of injuries by reducing the number of kickoffs returned.

According to Miller, about 38 percent of kickoffs were returned last season. The NFL’s modeling suggests that number should fall to around 31 percent this season with the fair catch rule in effect, he said. The league projects that will produce a 15 percent decrease in concussions suffered by players on kickoffs.

Miller called the fair catch provision “a one-year rule,” and said: “Ultimately what the competition committee decided and the owners approved was that the data was so stark that we had to do something on the kickoff while we continue to look for longer-term solutions to that problem.”