Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in regular email surveys.
We’ve got three questions for you this week.
We’re back with the now-weekly question about your confidence in the team’s direction. When we last asked the confidence question about 3 weeks ago, 92% of those who responded expressed confidence.
In the wake of the team’s 4-point victory over the Cardinals, we ask which area of the team you are most concerned about right now. The candidates are:
QB Sam Howell
The young quarterback led a pair of 4th quarter scoring drives to help secure the win, but that might not have been necessary if he hadn’t thrown an interception on a tipped pass and given up a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter. His performance almost certainly wouldn’t have been good enough to get a victory against any of the NFL’s better teams, but it was only Sam’s 2nd NFL start, and it seems likely that he’ll get better with experience.
Still, he’s surrounded by a lot of skill position talent and is partnered with what could be an elite defense; we don’t want to waste a year of anyone’s career, but especially not players like Terry McLaurin, John Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, Chase Young, and Kamren Curl, all of whom are veterans that should be able to contribute to a championship team.
TE Logan Thomas
Similar to Sam Howell, the starting tight end had a mixed day — some good and some bad. The problem is that Thomas is a veteran and should be a team leader; there’s not as much room for him to be learning from mistakes. He dropped two passes that hit him in the hands. He also wasn’t able to win as a one-on-one blocker on the edge (a bit of a blocking scheme issue) and gave up a sack when he could hold the block for only about 2 seconds.
Still, Thomas was the team’s 2nd-leading receiver with 4 catches for 43 yards, and coming back from a minor injury that kept him out of the preseason games, his drops might be attributable to ‘knocking off the rust’.
LS Cameron Cheeseman
During preseason, Cheeseman started rolling (yes, literally rolling) some of his snaps on field goal attempts. We heard he was working on a new technique. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t work. He rolled another snap in the game against the Cardinals. The kick ended up going through the uprights, but only because of punter/holder Tress Way, who handled the ball with incredible dexterity.
If there’s a Hall of Fame for holders, Tress Way belongs in it (in addition to the Punter’s HoF). Cheeseman, on the other hand, is doing great damage to his application for the Long Snapper’s Hall of Fame, which has a banner over the entrance that reads: ‘He only had one job’.
The Offensive Line
Raw numbers are troubling. QB Sam Howell was sacked 6 times, and the running backs — Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson — averaged only about 3.1 yards per carry. But it may not have been as grim as those numbers would indicate. Here’s a summary of the 6 sacks from film analyst Mark Bullock:
I think the first two sacks were pretty obviously on quarterback Sam Howell. Sack three was just a case of a good defensive call against an inexperienced quarterback. Sack four was on Andrew Wylie and while sack five was on Nick Gates for a mental error, Howell has to take some responsibility because he had two options to throw to before the sack occurred. Brian Robinson was at fault for the six and final sack, meaning in total, Howell was responsible for maybe two and a half sacks, the offensive line was responsible for one and a half, Robinson was responsible for one and the defense earned one with a good call.
So, maybe the 5-man unit played a bit better than the raw numbers would suggest.
The running backs
As mentioned above, Washington’s top two backs combined for 22 carries, 68 yards, and no rushing touchdowns, although Brian Robinson did catch a touchdown pass. Antonio Gibson, of course, lost a fumble in the red zone. After a year of relatively high volume but low efficiency in 2022, this season was supposed to offer the opportunity for both backs to show off a bit in Eric Bieniemy’s offensive scheme. They didn’t really look any better in Week 1 than they had in 2022.
In our final question, we simply ask which NFC East team is better, the Eagles or Cowboys?
Dallas mauled the Giants on Sunday Night Football, but I’m not sure if that’s because Mike McCarthy has a team of maulers or because the Giants folded like a cheap suit.
Philly held on for a win against the Patriots, but aside from two or three defensive series in the 1st quarter, didn’t appear to have anything close to the “best roster in the NFL” that I’ve heard touted all summer long.
Many people are picking the Eagles to at least be in the NFC Championship game, and it seems like the only people that aren’t are the ones picking the Cowboys. Right now, which team is better?
Comments & Results
Of course, we invite you to answer the survey questions below, but also feel free to expand on your answers in the comments section. I rely on those comments when discussing the results of the survey when they are posted in a separate article the next few days.