The excitement building up in the opening game of the 2023 season for the Washington Commanders was unlike anything the fans had seen in more than a decade. New ownership and a change with the offensive coordinator position fueled an abundance of optimism for the 2023 season. Washington was heavily favored in the home opener, but the Cardinals had other ideas. Let’s take a look and assess what happened on Sunday at FedEx Field.
The offense is expected to be a dynamic showcase of new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy this season. This game was not a good example of what is expected from the Commanders. Improvements are sorely needed after an uninspiring performance from this unit.
Sam Howell struggled throughout the game, but did just enough to help lead the team to a win.
Stats: 19-31, 202 yards, 1 TD pass, 1 rushing TD, 1 INT, 1 FL (Cardinals TD).
On the six sacks, Rivera said a "mix" of Sam Howell holding the ball and the offensive line's miscues led to some issues.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) September 11, 2023
Brian Robinson was the featured back on Sunday. His stats were not glowing, but he did gain key yardage when needed. Antonio Gibson did not fare as well, putting the ball on the ground for a turnover.
Stats: Robinson – 11 carries 59 yards, 1 receiving TD.
Gibson – 3 carries 9 yards, 1 FL in the redzone.
I'm glad Brian Robinson stayed alive for Howell on the scramble drill lol.. used Jahan in motion from a 3x1 into a 2x2 formation. Dotson got open late but it looked like BRob was running a texas route off of Jahan's crosser but he slipped, forcing Howell to leave the pocket. pic.twitter.com/Gb9H08bKcp— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) September 11, 2023
Logan Thomas returned to the lineup with mixed results (3 passes dropped) and Cole Turner continues to show why more playing time should be considered.
Stats: Thomas – 4 catches, 8 targets, 43 yards.
Turner – 1 catch, 2 targets, 17 yards.
Also, Logan Thomas' best play of the day was negated by a really soft OPI flag against John Bates that shouldn't have been thrown. That catch and run would have changed the complexion of LT's game.— Bill-in-Bangkok (@billhorgan2005) September 11, 2023
The Commanders had trouble with the Cardinals' cover-four defense, but still found some production when needed.
Stats: Curtis Samuel – 5 catches, 5 targets, 54 yards.
Jahan Dotson – 5 catches, 7 targets, 40 yards.
Terry McLaurin – 2 catches, 4 targets, 31 yards.
SAM HOWELL FINDS TERRY MCLAURIN FOR A BIG GAIN ON THIRD DOWN pic.twitter.com/g8giXxBA9N— Lukas Galecki-Shofroth (@TGNCoverage) September 10, 2023
Fans of the Burgundy and Gold are placing much of the blame for the offensive struggles on the offensive line. That is not a stretch and this unit will need to improve quickly.
The theme of the day is simple – an ugly loss is better than a pretty victory. The defense carried the day and it is the undisputed reason for defeating the Cardinals.
The stars of the day came out in the second half with fire in their eyes and this group delivered.
Stats: Montez Sweat, 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks.
Jonathan Allen – 3 tackles, 1 sack.
Casey Toohill – 3 tackles.
Jamin Davis continues to prove why this coaching staff believes in him. Cody Barton wasn’t overwhelming, but he had a decent day with no glaring mistakes.
Stats: Davis – 6 total tackles.
Barton – 4 total tackles.
Isn’t it time to give Kamren Curl a new contract that recognizes his talents? Darrick Forrest continues to shine.
Stats: Curl – 10 total tackles, 1 pass defensed.
Forrest – 5 total tackles.
Put some respect on KAM CURL AS WELL pic.twitter.com/9rsscXjQUF— PAIN (@Xommanders) September 11, 2023
Kendall Fuller continues to improve each year and he had a solid game on Sunday. Benjamin St-Juste looked solid in the slot and Emmanual Forbes had a nice rookie debut.
Stats: Fuller – 6 total tackles.
St-Juste – 4 total tackles.
Forbes – 3 total tackles.
Tress Way continues to prove why he is one of the best punters in the league. Welcome back, Jamison Crowder. Joey Slye connected on both of his field goal attempts.
Stats: Way – 6 punts, 44.3 yard average, long of 59 yards, 3 inside the 20.
Crowder – 3 punt returns for 10 yards.
The offense had a rough first game, but the season is just getting started and it would be premature to doubt what Eric Bieniemy will do going forward. The defense is still one of the best in the game and the special teams unit had a good day as well. Let us hope that the game two assessment next week against Denver is better for the offense. See you as we go along.