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Daily Slop - 15 Sep 23: Kam Curl played well Week 1; excitement builds for Sam Howell vs Russell Wilson

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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Arizona Cardinals v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

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Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)

Kam Curl outstanding in multiple roles for Commanders against Cardinals

Breaking down a fantastic performance in a variety of ways from Kam Curl

In the secondary, the Commanders had some other stand out performers. Second year safety Percy Butler had a strong performance, as did cornerback Kendall Fuller. Benjamin St-Juste showed some versatility lining up both outside and in the slot. But for me, there was one player that stood out above everyone on defense and that was Kam Curl.

Curl is an underrated component of this defense because he doesn’t have many turnovers, which is what too many people base safety play off of. But when you watch him throughout the course of the game, you see how many different roles he plays from down to down and how he plays them all to a high level.

Curl’s first big play of the game came in the red zone while playing safety. The role of the strong safety can change pretty quickly in this defense. One moment Curl could be play deep as part of a two deep coverage, the next he could be working to the flat.

[His] tackling ability in space shouldn’t be underestimated either. We’ve seen plenty of defensive backs miss those types of tackles over the last few years, but Curl is strong in that area, which enables him to restrict yards after the catch and keep gains to a minimum.

The Commanders used a lot more of their dime package against the Cardinals than we saw from them last year. Last year they tended to play more of their big nickel, which they call buffalo nickel, which saw Curl play in the slot or as the third linebacker. In the dime package, the Commanders have six defensive backs on the field, which means one of those defensive backs needs to be able to help the one linebacker on the field.

[We saw] Curl shift down to the dime linebacker role, where he aligns much closer to the line of scrimmage and is in the box as part of the run fit.

Practice notes | Montez Sweat ‘dialed in’ after strong performance in season opener

Sweat causing problems for offenses is not a new development; ask any opposing quarterback since he was drafted in 2019, and they’ll tell you have much of a challenge he can be. The sack numbers, however, have not always shown his effectiveness. His performance in Week 1 indicates that might be changing for Sweat.

“He’s dialed in,” said Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. “He’s going after things and really that finish element is part of it.”

The supposed breakthrough Sweat has had is similar to the one Daron Payne experienced last season. Payne had always been a talented player, but not being able to consistently finish plays held him back from putting up stronger numbers. That changed in 2022, and after tying a franchise record for a defensive tackle with 11.5 sacks, Payne earned a contract extension that will keep him in Washington for the foreseeable future.

It’s only one game, but it would seem that Sweat is on the same path. As Brian Baldinger pointed out on social media, Sweat’s effort was noticeable on several plays, like when he rushed the quarterback before sprinting in the other direction to help wrap up James Connor.

Washington Post (paywall)

Washington wanted Russell Wilson. Sam Howell wanted to play like him.

In early 2022, the Washington Commanders were once again looking for a quarterback, and a top name on the market was Russell Wilson. The relationship between the Seattle Seahawks and their franchise player had deteriorated — Wilson had asked ownership to fire Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, according to The Athletic — and Washington wanted to push to acquire the nine-time Pro Bowler.

Wilson had a no-trade clause, and according to several people, including Jake Heaps, Wilson’s private quarterbacks’ coach, the quarterback wouldn’t waive it to go to Washington.

In 2012, when Seattle drafted Wilson in the third round, Howell was in middle school. After the 2013 season, Wilson and Seattle’s famous “Legion of Boom” defense beat Denver in the Super Bowl, and Wilson’s star grew. Quickly, Howell realized the Seahawks’ 5-foot-11, 215-pound quarterback was doing a lot of the things he wanted to do.

Sports Illustrated

Commanders’ Sam Howell Ready For ‘Fun’ Matchup vs. Russell Wilson

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell modeled his game on Russell Wilson growing up and is excited to be playing against him on Sunday.

For Sam Howell, his second regular-season start was a little clunky, but he is looking to put in a better showing in Denver against Wilson, a player that Howell says he watched a lot growing up.

“We’re playing [Denver Broncos QB] Russell Wilson this week,” Howell said. “I’ve watched Russell Wilson a lot. I think we kind of have a similar game style. He was one of the guys I watched growing up that I liked the way he played the game. It’ll be fun to go against him on Sunday.”

“Yeah, I’m excited,” Howell said. “I love playing on the road. It’s a lot of fun to go play at another team’s home and try to give it your best shot. We feel like we can go in there and we have a good opportunity to go play against a really good football team in a really cool stadium, really cool environment. It’s just a great opportunity for us as an offense. We got to have a really good week of practice and preparation to go in there and give ourselves a chance.”

The Athletic (paywall)

Commanders, Ron Rivera eye rare chance at 2-0 as Sam Howell faces another first

Two games don’t make a season. Not even 12 percent of a 17-game campaign. Yet, history — league-wide, Washington’s and Ron Rivera’s — shows that winning that initial pair considerably raises the chances of teams qualifying for the playoffs.

Since the NFL expanded to 32 franchises in 2002, 61 percent of teams (105 out of 172) that started 2-0 made the playoffs, according to TruMedia. Over the past two seasons, with seven playoff slots available in each conference, 11 of 13 teams that began 2-0 reached the playoffs. That includes the last two Super Bowl champs.

The Commanders have opened 2-0 four times since 2002 but none since 2011. That was the second year under head coach Mike Shanahan, when Washington cratered by losing 11 of its final 14 games to finish 5-11. The franchise did qualify for the playoffs in half of those four quick starts. Fifty percent isn’t 61 percent, but it’s much better than 20 percent. That’s how often Washington has reached the playoffs over the past 30 years.

Sports Illustrated

Can Commanders Coach Eric Bieniemy Extend His 15-Game Winning Streak vs. Broncos?

Washington Commanders coach Eric Bieniemy has a long winning streak against the Denver Broncos intact entering Week 2. Extending it may rest on young quarterback Sam Howell improving on his Week 1 performance.

Commanders assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is very familiar with the Broncos after spending 10 years on the Kansas City Chiefs staff.

In those 10 seasons, the Chiefs went 15-5 and haven’t lost to their division rival since 2015.

During his win streak over the Broncos, Bieniemy’s offenses have scored no fewer than 22 points in each matchup, something Washington has only done twice in its last five tries.

Commanders Wire

Commanders vs. Broncos Thursday injury report: Chase Young is back

The Washington Commanders received some good news on the injury front Thursday as defensive end Chase Young practiced fully for the first time since suffering a stinger in the first preseason game.

Young was cleared for contact late last week, but Washington wanted to see how he responded to contact in practice this week before allowing him to return to the field.

There was talk last week that Young’s most likely return date was Week 3. We’ll likely know more on his status with Friday’s final injury report.

Sports Illustrated

Sean Payton Has Broncos Ready For ‘Important Game’ vs. Commanders

The Denver Broncos were on the losing end of a 17-16 game, which makes Week 2 against the Washington Commanders that much more “important.”

Wilson was only sacked twice for 11 yards, something that could change this week with Washington’s relentless pass rush.

Wilson 2.74 seconds to throw, which was 19th in the NFL among starting quarterbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Joshua Dobbs, whom the Commanders faced in Week 1, was 27th in that department only getting 2.46 seconds until he had to throw.

Denver received a 68.9 pass-blocking grade, which was 15th in the league, while Washington’s 70.2 pass rush grade was 10th, according to PFF.

Washington had three sacks against Arizona, and they came at important times in the game. Defensive linemen Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Daron Payne will all be chomping at the bit to get after Wilson.

Commanders Wire

Commanders playing a dangerous game with snapping issues

For the first two seasons of his NFL career, things went smoothly for Cheeseman. He appeared to replace Sundberg with no issues and quickly bonded with punter Tress Way.

However, over the summer, Cheeseman appeared to have some issues with his snaps. That lasted through the preseason, with Way and head coach Ron Rivera noting that Cheeseman was trying different grips, and there was no cause for concern.

In Washington’s Week 1 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Cheeseman’s issues popped up again. Cheeseman had an errant snap on a Joey Slye field-goal attempt. Fortunately, Way did an outstanding job of getting the snap down, and Slye made the field goal.

After Wednesday’s practice, Rivera was asked about Cheeseman’s recent issues. He acknowledged it’s a concern.

“Well, it is a concern more than anything else,” Rivera said. “And so we’ll just continue to have Camaron snap, and until, unfortunately, something happens, then we’ll decide from there. But right now, we’re handling it; we’re putting the ball through the upright, which is most important. And I believe it’s just something that he’s working out.”

Rivera is waiting for something to happen before he decides? That’s interesting phrasing for a head coach who knows he needs to win. The margin of error in every NFL game is small. Every snap matters. One more errant snap could cause the Commanders a game.

Podcasts & videos

Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders vs. Denver Broncos: Sam Howell and Russell Wilson Lead Teams into Week 2


PHOTOS | Commanders practice, 09/14

The Washington Commanders were back on the field for their second practice of the week as they prepare to take on the Denver Broncos.

NFC East links


Bleeding Green Nation

NFL Rules Corner: When is a fumble out of the end zone a touchback?

Well, friends, it’s hard to say.

Section 7, Article 3, Item 4-a of the 2023 NFL rule book says, “If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent’s end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team;”

This is important for all of us to know, because the Philadelphia Eagles were saved from giving up points right before halftime thanks to it! With 41 seconds left in the half, and the Birds holding a 10-7 lead, Kirk Cousins found Justin Jefferson deep down the left sideline for a 30-yard gain. The ball popped out thanks to a tackle by Terrell Edmunds and it went through the end zone.

OR DID IT?????

The official on the field threw his beanbag down around the half-yard line and declared that the Vikings had first and goal. Since there were under two minutes left in the half the play went to the booth and, well, it was ruled that the ball went over the pylon meaning it’s a touchback and Philadelphia ball!


NFL league links


Washington Post (paywall)

NFL forms special committee to consider possible changes to ownership rules

The NFL formed a committee to “address all aspects of ownership policy” and consider potential changes to the current set of ownership rules that may have limited the pool of bidders in recent franchise sales.

“Following the Denver and Washington transactions, the Finance Committee agreed that it would be appropriate to look at the full range of ownership policies, including permitted debt levels, minimum equity requirements and holding periods, eligible categories of investors, and expanding opportunities for more diverse ownership,” the NFL wrote in the memo, a copy of which The Washington Post obtained Thursday.

The NFL’s ownership rules are widely regarded as being the most restrictive in professional sports. They require the lead investor of an ownership group to have at least a 30 percent equity stake in the purchase. No ownership group can exceed 25 people, including the lead investor. The group cannot borrow more than $1.1 billion to buy the team. No private equity firms, public corporations or sovereign wealth funds can own any shares.

League officials suggested in December that team owners consider the current ownership policies and contemplate whether any changes should be made, according to a person familiar with the situation. In particular, owners are likely to deliberate over allowing private equity firms to buy limited stakes in teams, over adjusting the 30 percent requirement for a lead owner and over raising the debt limit for purchases.