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Was Washington’s offensive line really as bad as people think against the Cardinals?

Turns out it was not

Washington Commanders Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Fans complaining about the offensive line in Washington seems like an annual rite of passage, so despite beating the Cardinals in Week 1, it’s little surprise to hear the standard hue and cry about how awful Washington’s front five are, and how they nearly sunk the team.

With Washington giving up 6 sacks - second only to the Giants, who ceded 7 - perhaps those grumbling fans have a point. That said, in watching the game, I was initially left with the impression that - with one or two notable exceptions - the line actually played pretty well.

In order to determine if that’s true or not, however, we need to look at both the tape, and the stats. And, it turns out, both those tools thoroughly exonerate right guard Sam Cosmi. By every measure, Cosmi had a great game. The change of scenery has been great for Sam, and he seems to be fitting right into his new role.

But what about the rest of the line? There were six sacks, and while none of them were on Cosmi, that just concentrates the errors on the other four, right? Not so fast. All six sacks can be seen in the video below. Take a watch, and judge for yourself, and then come back and read my assessment.

Sack 1

In the case of the first sack, Sam Howell steps back in the pocket, holds there for several seconds, is eventually flushed out, and ends up running out of bounds before the line of scrimmage. This sack is on Sam. At a minimum, he should have thrown the ball away.

Sack 2 (0:12)

Sam steps back, looks right, doesn’t like what he sees, and decides to take it up the middle, going down before the line of scrimmage. Also on Sam. In retrospect, it’s not exactly clear why he didn’t just throw to that first read.

Sack 3 (0:19)

This sack is simply tight end Logan Thomas (#82) getting beat on the edge by the pass rusher. Not on the OL, who otherwise gives Howell a nice pocket on the play.

Sack 4 (0:35)

This sack is completely on the right tackle, Andrew Wylie, who gets whirling dervished by the pass rusher, who sacks Howell, strips the ball, and ends up forcing a defensive score. First sack on the OL.

Sack 5 (1:03)

Initially, this sack appears to be on Saahdiq Charles, who looks to simply abandon his man in the middle of the play. Upon closer inspection, it appears Charles was actually passing his man off to center Nick Gates, who is standing alone in the middle of the field. We’ll give each half credit for this sack, and for poor communication. Second sack on the OL.

Sack 6 (1:20)

Again, at first glance, this sack appears to be on Charles, who looks to be steamrolled by the pass rusher directly into Howell’s legs. The second angle actually reveals something else though. As Brian Robinson is exiting the pocket, he clips Charles’ right leg, causing him to collapse and be pushed back into Howell. It was Charles’ rusher, but he was betrayed by his own running back. I’ll assign this one to Robinson.

That collective assessment matches up exactly with one Jamual did, looking at similar film.

And it disagrees slightly with the analysis by PFF, which is sure to spur some conversation.

So, in summary, while Howell was sacked six times on Sunday, most of that responsibility was not actually on the offensive line, but on skill players and Howell himself, with two fairly notable exceptions. There’s absolutely room for the offensive line to improve in game 2 - particularly as it pertains to communication - but it’s far from time to panic at this point.


How many of Sunday’s sacks do you blame on the offensive line?

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  • 0%
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    (31 votes)
  • 41%
    (662 votes)
  • 35%
    (563 votes)
  • 10%
    (168 votes)
  • 1%
    (30 votes)
  • 8%
    Every single one.
    (137 votes)
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