On Wednesday, the Washington Commanders’ No. 1 tight end was practicing with his teammates, marking another positive step for the veteran as he prepares for his eighth NFL season.
“I feel good,” Thomas said in the locker room after practice. “I feel back to normal. Feels good to get my feet back under me.”
The development is good news for Thomas and the team, because prior to his injury, he was one of the bigger standouts from the first week of camp. He and Sam Howell seemed to be developing a strong connection, and he was rewarding that faith with contested catches in the middle of the field.
The Washington Commanders and the rest of the NFL are making moves as they work their way through a season of ups and downs and news and views ...
AUG 30 COX TO COMMANDERS The Dallas Cowboys made a difficult cult on linebacker Jabril Cox, and hoped to bring him back to their practice squad.
But in what could be termed a “steal,” a “snub” and a “signing,” Cox - the former LSU star - chose to sign with Washington.
Cox was a fourth-round pick out of LSU in the 2021 NFL Draft who Dallas viewed as a “get” at the time. But Cox tore his ACL during his rookie season, and mainly played special teams for Dallas last season. He spurned Dallas’ attempt to retain him and now he comes to Washington, where he will begin on the practice squad here.
Front Office Sports
The Republican governor announced a special session for Sept. 6 after a deal was reached between the politically split General Assembly to approve changes to the 2023 budget. It won’t be known until about 48 hours before the special session what amendments will be contained in the revised budget, including the proposal for the stadium study.
“I do believe that Virginia would be a great place for the Commanders to not just have training camp, not just have their headquarters, but in fact to play all their games,” Youngkin said.
But even if it doesn’t make the final budget bill, the state is expected to be in the mix as politicians in Maryland and D.C. step up their efforts to be the home for the Commanders’ next stadium.
“I don’t think there is a concern that we will be left behind,” Reid said.
That’s because the real work would begin when the General Assembly’s next session starts in January. Virginia operates on a two-year budget cycle, and any public money discussions would begin then.
[I]n the early days of training camp, many Commanders players appeared uncomfortable. And exhausted. Some, according to Rivera, even told their head coach they were concerned about Bieniemy’s harsh style. But by the close of camp, Bieniemy’s methods had led to noticeable change.
A slimmer Antonio Gibson said he was in the best shape he’d been in for years. Receiver Curtis Samuel extolled Bieniemy’s energy, and tight end Logan Thomas talked about Bieniemy’s relationship-building.
“[My dad] saw the potential in me and he made sure that I worked to get to where I want to be in life and what I want to do,” Dotson said. “I see the same things in E.B.”
Perhaps the clearest sign yet that Commanders players have seen the big picture was their performance against the Ravens in the second game of the preseason. Bieniemy said the running backs “put on a clinic” with their blitz pickups and pass protection.
“You talk about being accountable,” he said with a wide smile. “... You’re starting to see it more and then you’re seeing the conversations taking place where you don’t necessarily have to hear me say, “Hey, finish or go find work.” Now those guys are repeating everything that we’ve discussed over the past few months.”
It’s been a baptism of fire for the Commanders offense under Eric Bieniemy.
When Rivera asked Bieniemy to structure Washington’s practices upon joining the Commanders, the head coach saw the similarities in terms of demands to the sessions Reid implemented in Philadelphia based on his comments via Sports Illustrated. The experienced figure hopes this has a similar impact in terms of on-field product when competitive action arrives.
“It’s interesting, because I told you guys one of the things that I wanted Eric [Bieniemy] to do was I wanted him to script and schedule everything for Training Camp and he has. And looking at it, with the exception of it not being real two-a-days, it’s almost very, very similar. I mean, Coach [Andy] Reid has never really changed anything. He may have refined some things, but the bones of it is very similar. If we had had two-a-days it might have been.”
- Ron Rivera via Sports Illustrated
We’ve already begun seeing improvements both in terms of practice intensity and execution during a game-day setting. The Commanders went 3-0 in the preseason - which doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things - but it does indicate increased expectations from Bieniemy and others are being met with a positive response ahead of a crossroads campaign for many within the franchise.
Bieniemy doesn’t apologize for being old-school and nor should he. At the end of the day, this man cares deeply and wants the very best for his players - a mentality that is bringing the Commanders’ offense together at an important time.
Obviously, this counts for nothing if quarterback Sam Howell cannot produce the goods. But one only has to look at the way he’s flourished in recent weeks after some significant counsel from Bieniemy to see how this tough approach is working for most.
Bullock’s Film Room
Breaking down the different roles each of the DL play and why they valuable to the team.
[Note from Bill-in-Bangkok: The Commanders put DT Phil Mathis on IR after this article was published, so the team is now carrying 10 defensive linemen]
The Washington Commanders have made their roster cuts and trimmed the roster down to an initial 53. I say initial because there will be more moves coming. We know the team would like to bring back veteran center Tyler Larsen and fullback Alex Armah, which would mean at least two players that have made the 53 will be moved, likely to injured reserve. There’s also a number of players that Washington will be considering claiming on waivers from other teams. So by this time tomorrow, the team could look a fair bit different.
However, as things stand, the Commanders have opted to keep 11 defensive lineman including four defensive tackles and seven defensive ends. That might seam excessive, particularly at defensive end, but when you look at each individual and the different roles they can provide, it does make some sense.
We knew the starting four of Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat were all locks and will likely play the majority of the snaps if healthy. 2022 second-round pick Phidarian Mathis was always going to make it too as a rotational defensive tackle. But what about the rest? How can the Commanders justify keeping so many defensive lineman? Let’s take a closer look.
It’s another tough break for Mathis, Washington’s second-round pick in 2022. Mathis injured his knee in Week 1 last season after playing only a few snaps and was lost for the season. In the preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns, Mathis injured his calf on the same play that defensive end Chase Young suffered a stinger.
The Commanders have arguably the NFL’s best defensive tackle duo in Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, backed up by promising second-year DT John Ridgeway. Veterans Efe Obada and James Smith-Williams can also play inside, and the Commanders re-signed Benning Potoa’e to the practice squad.
The Washington Commanders are hoping their offensive line takes a step forward this season, and general manager Martin Mayhew believes his new-look group has what it takes.
“I feel good about our offensive line,” Mayhew said Tuesday.
Simply put, there’s not a lot of carry-over from last year; from left to right, Washington is set to start Charles Leno, Saahdiq Charles, Nick Gates, Sam Cosmi and Andrew Wylie.
Gates and Wylie signed with the Commanders during free agency and provide a level of stability that was much needed up front, making Mayhew “happy” with his spring additions.
“I think Andrew’s going to be solid for us at right tackle, (and) Nick Gates has been really solid for us throughout camp,” Mayhew said. “Two experienced veteran players with a lot of skins on the wall.”
Podcasts & videos
️ Wrapping up a busy few days in Commanders land:— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) August 31, 2023
* Roster in place
* Phidarian Mathis to IR
* Jason Wright's name change comments
* One newbie on practice squad
* Logan Thomas update
* My NFL agent survey (Commanders-centric Part 2 drops Thursday)https://t.co/TczkjrCYJq
"They usually make you rich, but now Forbes List takes money out your pocket"— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 30, 2023
New episode ⤵️
Ref the District: The New 53 for the Washington Commanders - Episode 136
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders’ initial 2023 roster. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
NFC East links
New York Giants defensive end Jihad Ward did not like the way his interaction with New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers was portrayed on “Hard Knocks,” saying his actions stemmed from disgust with an illegal block by Jets wide receiver Randall Cobb that left Giants safety Bobby McCain concussed, and the Jets’ overall reaction to the situation.
“Hard Knocks” showed the Jets players laughing in the huddle after Rodgers called out Cobb for the blindside block.
This is hilarious— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) August 29, 2023
Randall Cobb laid a blindside block on a #Giants defender, obviously something that is gonna get him fined.
Rodgers says “Cobb lost all his f*cking training camp money. What are you doing bro? This isn’t 2014!”
Cobb said sorry pic.twitter.com/Sf0ui9AKCb
“Everybody going to get pissed off at that. The whole team was pissed off, you know what I’m saying?” Ward said. “It’s preseason and all that stuff and you’re going to do some reaction like that?
“It’s cool, though. That’s how they roll. I think we play them soon, it is what it is.”
“They know what they did. I know what [Cobb] did, coaches know what he did, my teammates know what he did,” Ward said. “I’m the only one sticking up for [McCain].”
McCain was in the concussion protocol this week.
Pro Football Talk
The Giants have opted to name 10 total captains for the 2023 season. Ten. That seems excessive. Presumably, coach Brian Daboll has a reason for it.
In addition to Jones, the others captains will be running back Saquon Barkley, tackle Andrew Thomas, tight end Darren Waller, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, defensive tackle Leonard Williams, linebacker Bobby Okereke, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, safety Xavier McKinney, and kicker Graham Gano.
The honor is largely ceremonial in the NFL, conferring no real duties or responsibilities during game day. Primarily, the status sends a message to the locker room. But with 53 players on the active roster, what is the message when nearly 20 percent of the team has the captain designation?
Looking at the quarterback’s last eight years, it’s no surprise when the big jumps came.
Consider the following list:
2016: Lane Kiffin
2017: Brian Daboll
2018: Mike Locksley
2019: Lincoln Riley
2020: Doug Pederson, Press Taylor
2021: Nick Sirianni, Shane Steichen, Brian Johnson
2022: Sirianni, Steichen, Johnson
2023: Sirianni, Johnson
No, that’s not a ranking of football offensive innovators, although it could be. No, it’s not a list of top candidates to run either major college football programs or NFL teams, although it could be that, too. From the above list, only Taylor and Johnson have not been a head coach—and both should be soon.
The list, instead, features the primary play-caller in each of Jalen Hurts’s four college years and the start of his NFL career. It’s not a coincidence that his largest statistical jumps came in 2019, under Riley at Oklahoma, running a high-flying offense, and last season, when Hurts played for the same play-caller for the first time since high school, where he called the man who held the laminated play-call sheet Dad.
Of all the deeply mined reasons for Hurts’s sudden (but not to him) and higher than expected (but not to him) NFL rise, this concept is perhaps the most significant.
In an interview in Philadelphia earlier this spring, Hurts described continuity in coaching as “maybe the most important” element of his 2022 success. He pointed to the same trio of coaches that arrived in ’21 and stayed for last season—Sirianni (head coach), Steichen (offensive coordinator) and Johnson (quarterbacks coach). And, while Steichen left to become the Colts’ coach this offseason, the other two remain.
Blogging the Boys
Mike McCarthy took a no-nonsense approach to roster cuts for the Cowboys.
In previous years, the Cowboys have had a tendency to hold onto players despite poor preseasons because they saw long-term potential in them. That was essentially the case with both Joseph and Cox, and the same could be said of players like Taco Charlton, Cam Fleming, Rico Gathers and, to a lesser extent, Jeff Heath.
No more. McCarthy knew there were going to be difficult decisions, but he and his staff dug down deep and reserved their roster spots just for the ones who went out and proved themselves this summer. Now is not the time to hold onto struggling players and hope they figure it out next year. McCarthy is trying to win in 2023. Beyond that, not much else matters. And the Cowboys’ roster cuts reflect exactly that.
NFL league links
Dobbs will end up having about two weeks to learn the Cardinals’ offense, his teammates’ names and their tendencies before Arizona plays the Washington Commanders in Week 1. Even though coach Jonathan Gannon declined to name a starting quarterback for the season opener, Dobbs said he has put the expectations of being a starter on himself.
“I know the QB situation’s gonna play out however the coaches see fit,” Dobbs said of the team’s decision between him and fifth-round rookie Clayton Tune. “But, for me, I come in ready to compete every single day. I push myself, but also approach the room in that way, and so I’m excited to be a part of it and be a part of the team.”
Should Dobbs have the opportunity to start against Washington, having played just eight games in six seasons, he said he feels like he’ll be ready because of the time it has taken him to reach the point of being a Week 1 starter.
“If that is the case, you know, I put in a ton of work,” he said. “I have a ton of sweat equity, and I’m extremely prepared for the opportunity, but that doesn’t mean I’m ever complacent, using every hour, every minute of the day ... to continue to prepare for that opportunity, whatever opportunities come after it.”
18. Washington Commanders
Biggest strength in 2023: Coverage
Washington’s secondary kept the team in most of its games despite the offense’s struggles to score. Kamren Curl finished last year with the second-best overall grade among all qualified safeties, leading a unit that allowed 30 points only twice all season. The coverage unit held up their end of the bargain and the addition of first-round rookie Emmanuel Forbes adds another ballhawk to an already solid unit.
Biggest weakness in 2023: Quarterback play
The combination of Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke simply didn’t cut it in 2022. Sam Howell played a decent Week 18 game against the Cowboys, but the uncertainty at quarterback in Washington feels perpetual at this point. The Commanders finished with the third-worst passing grade in the NFL last year and come into 2023 on similarly shaky ground. Howell will begin the season starting over Jacoby Brissett and has played reasonably well during the preseason.
X-Factor for 2023: Edge Chase Young
Coming into the NFL with huge expectations, Young mostly fulfilled them during his 2020 rookie season with a terrific 87.1 overall grade. Young tore his ACL in Week 10 of 2021, returning to play the final three games of this past season. Washington curiously declined his fifth-year option, so Young is entering a contract year. He has elite talent and the Commanders’ success will be carried by their defense. A double-digit sack performance could make them an elite unit and could line up Young for a big payday.
Rookie to watch: CB Emmanuel Forbes
The Commanders have the talent to be a top-flight defense in 2023. If there is a gripe with their highly-graded secondary, it’s that they only reeled in 10 interceptions last year (Jonathan Allen also had one). Forbes, the FBS record holder with six career pick-sixes, figures to add a playmaking element to an already solid group. The Commanders would like to give their offense short fields to work with and Forbes could immediately contribute to that cause.
Over/Under 6.5 win total: Under
There’s a lot to like about Washington’s roster. They have everything you need to be a playoff team… except the quarterback. They won’t carry the advantage in that department most weeks with Sam Howell or Jacoby Brissett. They play 10 games against 2022 playoff teams plus tough road games against the Jets, Patriots and Broncos. It’ll be tough to scratch out low-scoring wins week to week.
Projected starting lineup for 2023
Former AZ Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks testified that a team exec gave him a burner phone to communicate with former GM Steve Keim under orders from Keim & team owner Michael Bidwill during Keim's suspension, according to a deposition obtained by ESPN. https://t.co/fzoGNIP8H1— Tisha Thompson (@TishaESPN) August 30, 2023