Chase Young’s trash talk from the sideline reverberated throughout the workout, and one-on-ones between linemen only fueled their competitive fire.
Toward the end of the workout, guard Sam Cosmi slammed Mathis to the ground during team drills, eliciting words between the offense and defense.
“We work hard, do our stuff, but at the same time, we’re not going to take [anything] from anyone,” Cosmi said afterward.
On the next play, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste popped tight end Cole Turner after a short pass, sending Turner to the ground. St-Juste stood over him and declined to help him up. Veteran receiver Terry McLaurin, a team captain, sprinted over and ripped into St-Juste, telling him he shouldn’t do that to a teammate. Bieniemy belted from the sideline: “Stop doing dumb s--- and do your f------ job!”
McLaurin jogged back to the line of scrimmage while saying, “Can’t do that … to your own teammate, bro.”
That the Washington Commanders’ first team labored, at times alarmingly, during Friday’s padded and chippy practice. Offensive linemen grappling after the whistle with their defensive teammates were more representative of WWE wrestlers than blockers, as required for their chosen vocation.
Hurried quarterbacks Sam Howell and Jacoby Brissett misfired or were felled by receivers dropping catchable balls. Backups also took their lumps. The two-minute drills were rhythmless and unproductive; coaches had staffers move the ball into field goal range after a drive that was designed for such a late-game scenario cratered well shy of midfield.
Heck, the NFL referees visiting practice tossed a flag for an illegal man downfield when the defense was working elsewhere.
There’s an ugly picture to paint — and that’s without mentioning the first batch of seemingly minor injuries, including to first-round cornerback Emmanuel Forbes and tight end Logan Thomas.
While the offense has been up and down throughout training camp, Friday was a particularly tough outing for Eric Bieniemy’s side of the ball. And the defensive players were happy to let the offense know they were having their way.
It’s easy to be concerned with the offense at this point. But as we’ve said numerous times over the past two weeks, the defense is ahead of the offense. And they should be. This unit has been together for four seasons, while Bieniemy is installing a new offensive scheme with multiple new offensive linemen and a quarterback with 19 career passing attempts.
Washington Commanders tight end Cole Turner is loving Eric Bieniemy’s new offensive system and is having fun learning his role in it.
For Turner, the creative side of Bieniemy and how he envisions the tight ends being used is something that he has loved so far.
“We’re getting a lot more options this year as far as targets, and we’re a lot more in involved in the pass game,” Turner said. “So, you know, it’s fun, and it’s exciting. Every single day there’s something new going in and a little creative, you know, something that we’re not used to before. It’s fun. It’s fun to be a part of this offense.”
As the savvy veteran in the room, the 28-year-old Fuller was recently questioned about Forbes’ progress just over one week into training camp.
“I think he’s just starting to play faster,” Fuller said. “When you first get in there, trying to learn the defense and things like that, sometimes you allow your mental process to slow you down. He’s been coming out here mentally starting to pick it up faster, so you see him reacting faster to certain plays and certain routes and things like that. So, he’s definitely improving each and every day.”
The Commanders couldn’t have a better mentor for Forbes than Fuller. One of Washington’s team leaders, Fuller, is a smart player known for his study habits and is always prepared.
The Washington Commanders have been through some changes offensively since Eric Bieniemy took over, but receiver Curtis Samuel is loving every minute of it.
[W]ith training camp in full swing, receiver Curtis Samuel is loving everything about “EB’s” new scheme.
“I’m definitely excited,’ Samuel said. “It is everything I expected it to be. Coach has high expectations for us, but we definitely have high expectations for ourselves.”
Samuel is coming off one of his better NFL seasons since entering the league, as he caught 64 passes for 656 yards and four touchdowns. With Bieniemy’s offense thought to be more creative than Turner’s, many more chances are expected to come his way.
Washington’s offense remains a big work in progress; it can be hard to accurately assess its progress while facing a defense that should rank among the NFL’s best. The Commanders’ offensive line, with new starters at four positions, has struggled to protect quarterback Sam Howell from arguably the league’s best front. On Friday, it was more of the same as the line applied consistent pressure on Howell. It leads to frustration — indeed, after one play, right guard Sam Cosmi body slammed defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis to the ground. Cosmi later said they’re not “taking crap” from anyone. The line has done fine in the run game, but in order for Howell to succeed they must start to mesh in protection. Last year’s group allowed pressure on 32.9% of the snaps — only six teams were worse. The new group can’t repeat that ineptitude.
Here are some selected quotes from Sharp directed at Ron Rivera.
“To me, the whole tenure of Ron Rivera has gone massively sideways.”
“Ron Rivera is a defensive-minded head coach. The concern, in general, is a defensive coach wants his defense to look good because that is why he was brought to town. He will sacrifice some things offensively to help the defense look a little bit better potentially. What they tend to sacrifice is quarterbacks passing the ball and trying to score quickly.”
“In lieu of this, they try to control the football, run the football, have time of possession because they feel it drives the defense to give them their rest to play better. It is such an old-school process.”
“Look, last year Washington executed it to a T. They had the most time of possession of any football team since 2019. They controlled the ball over 33:00 minutes a game. But the offense averaged .57 points per minute. (Ranked 31 in NFL).”
“You guys ranked 32 in pass rate in the first half of games. You were running the ball a ton and these runs were abysmal. Early-down runs in the first half you guys were last in the NFL.”
“He (Rivera) hasn’t delivered a single winning season in three years. He still hasn’t figured out the quarterback position.”
On Wednesday, in an appearance on “Up and Adams” with Kay Adams of FanDuel TV, team president Jason Wright was asked about a potential name change.
Wright, like the three owners, went into detail about the franchise’s immediate priorities. After Wright listed those priorities, Adams followed up: “So, it’s not been talked about?” referring to the name change.
Wright’s answer was brief and to the point:
“It’s not been a topic of conversation this week.”
Wright played a central role in rebranding Washington as the Commanders.
Much like Harris, Johnson and Ein, Wright named the areas of immediate focus for the new ownership. And they all center on the upcoming season, the fan experience and the community.
It’s clear that Harris wants everyone on the same page about the franchise’s immediate priorities while not ruling out anything down the road.
“It does feel like redemption, vindication,” Coburn said the next day. “We prevailed. He’s gone, his reputation is gone and the report confirmed that it was as bad as everyone always said.”
We might never know why Snyder — who said he would never sell his hometown team — finally changed his mind. Maybe it was the financial pressure he faced after buying out his minority partners. Or the lack of a stadium solution, as local jurisdictions froze him out. Or the endless public embarrassment.
Or maybe, Snyder finally gave in because his former employees — even when their efforts looked hopeless — never gave up.
On our FanNation/SI countdown, the Washington Commanders uniforms were ranked one of the worst in the NFL.
“Is there a reason they couldn’t have just stayed the Washington Football Team on a permanent basis? Commanders isn’t a name that anyone seems to like, and the “W” on the helmet looks like it was designed using a stencil,” the countdown said. “The alternate black uniforms that the Commanders have aren’t bad, but they don’t incorporate enough burgundy and gold to really look like Washington. If new owner Josh Harris decides to change the franchise’s name again — and thus, redo the uniforms — we wouldn’t be against it.”
[B]urgundy and gold are great colors, and Washington should be able to utilize them in a better way than they have under this rebrand. One way to do that could be to pick a team name that you could actually have a logo other than just a “W” for. Whether that’s an animal or something else, the name Commanders just didn’t leave a ton of options for Washington.
Episode 625 - Reviews of Sam Howell & the offense at training camp have been all over the place. What's the truth? Ron Rivera addressed this in a lengthy press conference on Wednesday. I discuss that & much more on the #Commanders & talk #Nats & #Orioles.https://t.co/AnSC7jvuNO— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) August 3, 2023
️Talked Commanders training camp live from practice w/ @Matthew_Paras and the exiting @PeteHaileyNBCS. How best to assess Sam Howell. Players rising. Changes in our level of optimism. BRob, Saahdiq/LG thoughts, thread count, Pete's greatest hits, etc.https://t.co/LV0ytJOIwz— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) August 3, 2023
Wrapping up the first two weeks of camp with @RealBramW. All aspects: Sam Howell, an impressive looking D and more. Lots more. Plus: I talk about todays chippy practice and other topics. Howell’s progress. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/gtqy8hCRzD— John Keim (@john_keim) August 4, 2023
Daily Commanders Update for 4 Aug— RefTheDistrict (@RefTheDistrict) August 4, 2023
With special guest Logan Paulsen
- Most memorable training camp fight
- How EB can scheme to help the O-line
- Why Sam Howell is well ahead of '22 Wentz
And much more. Check it out! https://t.co/X8PlIwZGJy#HTTC pic.twitter.com/e7AFJVpEdT
‼️EPISODE ALERT‼️— Bleeding Burgundy Podcast (@Jessys24) August 4, 2023
We are back with Week 2 of training camp upon us!@Gcarmi21 joins me, @scottieh84 @BangRadioHour with the return of @Kgskins26 we talk:
-Can the Defense be #1??
and much more https://t.co/PvxyeXUX0k
The Washington Commanders wrapped up Week 2 of training camp with another practice in full pads. Check out the best photos from Friday morning.
Week 2 ✔️— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) August 4, 2023
Some takeaways and observations from Day 9 of Commanders training camp. https://t.co/i9CrhYT3Yq— Commanders Wire (@Washington_Wire) August 5, 2023
The D.C. government is commissioning a study on how to draw more revenue in through sports and Mayor Muriel Bowser made no bones about it last week: She thinks the Washington Commanders should be playing games at the RFK Stadium site.https://t.co/JQZ08SRylo— Jeannette Reyes (@Fox5DCJeannette) August 4, 2023
NFC East links
Pro Football Talk
Eagles offensive lineman Josh Sills, who was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list on February 1 after he was charged with rape and kidnapping, was found not guilty today.
After the verdict, Sills said, “I’ve done nothing wrong, and am glad that was proven today.”
Sills’ attorney, Michael Connick, said Sills is expected to travel to Philadelphia and rejoin the Eagles within the next couple of days.
The charges stemmed from an accusation that Sills forcibly restrained and sexually assaulted a woman in December of 2019, when he was a college football player. Although the woman reported the incident to police the next day, it would be more than three years before he was criminally charged.
Bleeding Green Nation
Scary moment during Friday’s session.
The Eagles have been reasonably lucky up to this point with injuries, through most of 2022 and then through the 2023 offseason. A few players have been banged up in camp, like Nakobe Dean and James Bradberry, but nothing serious happened until Friday’s practice when SAM linebacker Patrick Johnson went to the ground during an 11-on-11 drill.
Patrick Johnson is rolling on the ground in pain. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) August 4, 2023
[T]he latest news that the injury “isn’t considered serious” could offer a sigh of relief.
NFL league links
Washington Commanders make the playoffs: YES (+310) (risk 0.25 units)
Sam Howell is a bit of an unknown at quarterback, but even if that experiment goes poorly, Jacoby Brissett has proven to be a more-than-serviceable option as the backup. The NFC is pretty weak, all things considered, and with the Commanders playing a fourth-place schedule, I think they can surprise some people in the “Win” column this season. I’m going to halve my risk on this bet with Howell being such a wild card, but with new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy calling plays, Washington’s offense could be a fun one to watch this season.
Dallas Cowboys make the playoffs: YES (-225)
I was a little skeptical about throwing this bet on here because of the juice combined with the fact that I’m on the Commanders as well. But like the Bills, this is a cheap price for a team that will be one of the best in their conference. Yes, the Eagles are better according to my projections, but Philadelphia is being priced in the -400 range. I don’t think there is that much of a separation between these two teams. Dak Prescott is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFC and the Dallas defense should be quite good, led by defensive player of the year candidate, Micah Parsons. The Cowboys have their issues, but considering their overall strength when compared to the average NFC team, I see them comfortably making the playoffs this season.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has impressed everyone in the building with his diligent rehabilitation process.
But with Thursday marking just seven months since the surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, it remains unlikely — though not impossible — Murray will be ready for the Cardinals’ regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Commanders.
Over the Cap
As I continue my study into contract fate in the NFL (as described here), before the 2023 season begins I thought I’d take a look as to some veteran players whose play in 2023 should be seen with an eye as to whether that season could be their last under their current contracts. This resulting in generating a list of players that met the following criteria:
- On a vested veteran contract (four or more accrued seasons)
- Due at least $4 million in cash for 2024
- With a negative contract fate of 60% or greater odds that their contracts will be terminated or cut in pay after the having completed the number of seasons on their contract.
That list of 104 players can be found at the end of this article. Before that, here are some highlights that stood out to me:
- Cody Whitehair tops the list at 87.5%. Of left guards with 5 year contracts, only one (Rodger Saffold) fully completed a contract, and only one other (Joel Bitonio) got another extension.
- 3rd, 4th, and 5th on the list are all running backs, with the intense conversation over their pay and career length perhaps being focused on Nick Chubb, James Conner, and Alvin Kamara come spring of 2024–all with negative contract fate odds well above 80%. Kamara additionally has the complication of a looming suspension over his head, while Chubb would seem most likely to beat the odds.
- Wide receiver really sticks out as a position where negative contract fates could be abundant, taking up 16 of the top 42 odds. I had observed that despite being much higher valued, wide receivers end up having slightly worse fates than running back, and this list appears to confirm that, even if the quantity may be a little inflated by teams employing more wide receivers in general