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Daily Slop - 10 Sep 23: Washington’s ‘Welcome Home’ season

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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The Athletic

Commanders’ Chase Young expected to miss first 2 games of NFL season with neck injury: Sources

The final hurdle was an MRI exam on Friday followed by a video conference call with a doctor.

Young said early in the week he hoped to face the Arizona Cardinals, but he was not given clearance for game contact during a check-up on Friday.

Doctors laid out a plan to gradually increase contact during practice that puts the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year on track to return in Week 3.

“You wanna see your best guys on the field doing their thing,” coach Ron Rivera said Friday. “Chase has worked very hard, (and) gotten himself into great shape. Even during this whole process, he’s done everything he’s needed to do.”

The Commanders have one of the league’s better defensive lines but enter the season thinner than expected.

Two key rotation pieces, defensive end Efe Obada and defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, were placed on injured reserve amid Washington’s final cuts.

Defensive end James Smith-Williams, Young’s primary replacement last season, was added to Friday’s injury report with an oblique injury.

Commanders Wire

Chase Young is out for Week 1 vs. Cardinals

It’s important to note that Young is dealing with a neck injury, so it’s wise of the team and the doctors to take every precaution possible to ensure Young is 100% healthy before he returns to action.

The Commanders kept 11 defensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster but placed DT Phidarian Mathis and DE Efe Obada on the short-term reserve/injured list shortly afterward. They each will miss at least the first four games. Washington re-signed DE William Bradley-King to the roster this week to provide depth.

Welcome Home season all about ‘going the extra mile’ for fans

Ahead of Washington’s season opener against the Cardinals, sat down with Limited Partner Mark Ein to talk about upgrades to the stadium, fan excitement and his lifelong love for the Burgundy & Gold.

“Our entire motivation in becoming owners was to restore this franchise to its place as arguably the most important and most unifying organization in our community and region. We know how much the team and the franchise has meant to people for generations.

We knew how much hunger there was for people to re-establish their relationship with this franchise, but even as optimistic as we were, we couldn’t imagine the speed and magnitude with which people have embraced us and the team. We feel so much gratitude to the community for welcoming us that we want to show how grateful we are to welcome everyone back, and that’s why “Welcome Home” is the theme.

Throughout the season, we are going to show that gratitude to our fans when we are out in the community but, most importantly, we are going to show it during gameday with a whole series of programs to create an elevated fan experience and to have spirit of generosity with our fanbase.”

“We want people to come to the stadium and have a great time. We want them to cherish gamedays with their families just like we did as kids. We always hope that we win, but even when we don’t, you still can have an extraordinary experience with your family and friends that you will never forget.

“Let’s start with opening day. We are going to have a fantastic pregame celebration concert with my friend DJ Kool and Sirius Company Go-Go band in Legends Plaza with some of the franchise’s Legends there going around greeting fans. There have been some visual aesthetic components implemented around the site to have the excitement build even before fans enter the stadium.

When fans enter the stadium, they will get a cool Rollabanna that can be waved throughout the game. There are some twelve new and enhanced food and beverage partners, and then as a token of our gratitude, half price hot dogs and sodas in a cool souvenir cup on opening day and other food and beverage specials throughout the season. There will be an amazing pregame experience in the bowl, with some surprises, so people should get to their seats as early as they can.

When fans leave, they will get a very special commemorative pennant marking this milestone day in franchise history. And at the end of the game, we have been working hard with local governments to make the exit from the stadium a much better experience. We have a real commitment to making the ingress and egress meaningfully better than it has been in the past. Towards that goal, we have some things we are already going to be able to do on Sunday, and then we have additional initiatives that should hopefully continue to make a real difference over time.

This community deserves the best franchise in football. They used to have it, and we are going to make sure that they have it again.”

Washington Post (paywall)

After 20 years away, Champ Bailey is thrilled to be back in Washington

Bailey was the first draft pick of former owner Daniel Snyder — seventh overall out of Georgia in 1999 — and he quickly became one of the league’s best defensive backs. But before the 2004 season, amid a contract dispute, Washington traded Bailey and a second-round pick to Denver for running back Clinton Portis.

In a phone interview with The Washington Post, Bailey emphasized how important it is to him that everyone knows he never wanted to leave Washington.

“That’s what gets lost sometimes,” he said. “Clinton Portis was a great football player. [Washington] lost me, they gained him, so it wasn’t like it was a complete loss.

“But I want people to understand, from my point of view, I never wanted to leave. Like, that was not my intentions. I valued this franchise,” Bailey added. “And when I got to Denver, it was very evident that Washington was more established [and] had more history than Denver could ever dream of. But Denver took me in and treated me like their own, and I’m grateful for that. It was a blessing in disguise that I got sent there. But it wasn’t like I made it happen that way. I was too young to even know what was going on. I was just a great football player trying to do great things and make the money I deserve. That’s it.”

In 2020, when the Commanders hired team president Jason Wright and director of alumni relations Tim Hightower, one goal was to prioritize rebuilding relationships with alumni.

But some alums who were critical of Snyder, including Bailey, stayed home. The new ownership group, led by managing partner Josh Harris, has doubled down on the re-engagement mission. On Sunday, some alums will return for the first time, including running back John Riggins and quarterback Robert Griffin III. Limited partner Mitchell Rales sent his private jet to Florida to pick up Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Jim Hart and their spouses. (Jurgensen can’t fly commercial because of his health.)

The Athletic (paywall)

It’s showtime for Eric Bieniemy, who finally has the conductor’s baton in Washington

Bieniemy will, for 17 of the next 18 weeks, let his work speak for itself. And there is no questioning this now: It will be his work in Washington.

Amid all the changes to this franchise in the past 12 months — new owner and ownership group, new bells and whistles at the stadium, new QB1 — Bieniemy’s arrival is among the most important. The hand-picked hire of Ron Rivera as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator — someone lauded by everyone who matters in Kansas City, from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes on down, for his acumen and intensity — Bieniemy’s fingerprints are all over the past few months on the field. These are his installs, his (longer) practices, his shaping and nurturing of Sam Howell, his incessant, never-satisfied barking at his guys, highlighted by his request during OTAs in June: “Ones” — starters — “get the (bleep) off the field.”

[T]his team has needed someone like this on the offensive side of the ball for quite some time. The past few years have been a soap opera of offensive malfeasance. The revolving door at quarterback has been front of mind, and rightly so, but the rot throughout the unit has run deep since the Shanahans left town. Individuals — Terry McLaurin, Jordan Reed, Brandon Scherff — have excelled during that time. But the group has been, in the main, dreadful. Penalties, slack-armed quarterbacks, little threatening at tight end: You name it, Washington’s done it. Badly.

Riggo’s Rag

5 sneaky threats for the Commanders to worry about vs. Cardinals

The Commanders can’t ignore these sneaky threats against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1.

Commanders must contain L.J. Collier (DT)

The Cardinals performed a steal when they snatched L.J. Collier from NFC West rivals the Seattle Seahawks in free agency. He’s a natural disruptor in the trenches, a defensive tackle sure to test the Washington Commanders’ lightweight guards Saahdiq Charles and Sam Cosmi.

Both Charles and Cosmi have converted from the tackle positions, so they could get run over by a 291-pounder like Collier. The 27-year-old hasn’t played much over the last two seasons, but he registered 17 pressures and three sacks when he was healthy enough to start all 16 games back in 2020.

Arizona’s defense isn’t overflowing with game-wreckers up front, but if Collier can recapture his best form, he’ll be tough to handle. A few double-teams will be needed to prevent him from crushing the pass pocket and trashing the running game.

Sports Illustrated

Cardinals vs. Commanders: 5 Questions Ahead of Season Opener

The Washington Commanders host the Arizona Cardinals to begin the season.

To learn more about the Cardinals’ current state of affairs, we spoke with All Cardinals publisher Donnie Druin.

2. Who is one player on the Cardinals offense that the Commanders should keep an eye on?

Obvious answers will be guys such as Marquise Brown and James Conner, but let me put you on rookie receiver Michael Wilson. Wilson has been nothing short of impressive since arriving to the desert and his 6-2 frame mixed with route running and sure hands have quickly made him a starter opposite of Brown. Though young, Wilson has an opportunity to make a big impact after impressing all through the offseason.

Washington Post (paywall)

Commanders hope a new era and renewed outreach bring back burned fans

“It was awful,” Tony Kornheiser told Michael Wilbon days later on “Pardon the Interruption.” “For 50 years, they owned Washington, D.C. … Mike, this is beginning to feel like the beginning of a revolution.”

On Sunday, when the Commanders open their season against the Arizona Cardinals, the team’s new owner said he expects FedEx Field to be sold out again, perhaps heralding the start of a new streak.

Immediately after NFL owners ratified the sale, Harris reached out to former stars Art Monk and Darrell Green. On Wednesday night, at a dinner for the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., former running back John Riggins sat with limited partner Mitch Rales. The two will sit together Sunday.

The owners have spent time with the players, holding roundtable meetings with some of the team’s current veteran leaders. Players were candid, Rales said, and many of their requests — a viewing area for family and friends during training camp, a clock in the athletic training room, extra hot tubs, a water station — were heeded.

“Our job is to make their lives easier,” said Harris, who also has ownership stakes in the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and Crystal Palace FC in the English Premier League. “I’ve now witnessed pro athletes in multiple sports, and everyone thinks it’s glamorous. … But what pro players and what the Commanders players have to put into their training regimens [to keep] healthy and focused, it’s a lot of stress on them.”

Podcasts & videos

Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Chase Young OUT for Week 1 | Regular Season Projection | Player Superlatives


PHOTOS | Commanders-Cardinals through the years

Check out the top photos of the previous matchups between the Washington Commanders and Arizona Cardinals. (Photos via The Associated Press)


NFC East links

Blogging the Boys

Cowboys or Giants could easily be NFC East’s only 0-1 team after Sunday

Philadelphia and Washington are both favored in their season openers, putting extra pressure on Dallas and New York.

Nobody wants to be the only winless team in their division, even after Week 1. But given the schedule this week for all four NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants could very well be fighting to avoid a lonely spot in the division’s basement when they meet on Sunday Night Football.

The Washington Commanders have one of the better matchups of the entire Week 1 schedule, hosting the Arizona Cardinals in what is already looking like a lost season for them. All signs are that Arizona is in tank mode for 2023, giving the Commanders a very soft entry into their regular-season schedule.

The Eagles will have a tougher test, traveling to New England to open against the Patriots. But the reigning NFC Champions are still favored in this one; Philadelphia is generally seen as the best in their conference while the Patriots aren’t even expected to make the AFC playoffs.

[I]f the consensus opinions hold, the Commanders and Eagles should both be 1-0 to start the season. That means when the Cowboys and Giants kick off on Sunday night, they’ll be looking to match their rivals and avoid being the only losing team in the NFC East.

NFL league links


Pro Football Talk

Mike Shanahan says 49ers tried to trade No. 2 pick in 2017 for Kirk Cousins

According to Mike Shanahan, Kyle tried to send the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft to Washington for Cousins.

“He knew Kirk knew his system, and he knew the type of guy Kirk was,” Mike Shanahan said regarding Kyle. “But [Washington] wouldn’t even return the phone call.”

It was previously known that Kyle didn’t scout Patrick Mahomes in 2017, because Kyle expected to sign Cousins in 2018 as a free agent. It was not known that Kyle had offered the second pick in the 2017 draft to Washington for Cousins.

If so, what was Washington thinking? The not-yet-Commanders had one more year with Cousins before he exited in free agency. They could have taken the pick and draft, for example, Mahomes.

Pro Football Talk

Will NFL tell officials to call false starts on tackles?

As the first full Sunday of the 2023 season looms, there’s a very real question as to whether Thursday night’s inexplicable failure to persistently flag Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor for false starts was an aberration or the start of a trend.

Or the continuation of a pattern.

On Friday’s PFT Live, Peter King suggested that, this week, the NFLs officiating department will send a note to all crews regarding the Taylor situation, with a reminder that such activities (lining up too deep in the backfield, having the Jimmy legs before the snap, and/or starting into pass-block set early) are both frowned up and should be flagged.

But here’s the deeper question. Does 345 Park Avenue want such behavior to be penalized? Giving the tackles a way to better prepare for an edge-rush onslaught helps keep the passing game going. It also helps keep quarterbacks in one piece.

And the league fully and completely appreciates the connection between keeping quarterbacks healthy and generating massive ratings for games.