It’s been a long time since the Commanders have seen the version of Young that was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020. Recovering from a torn ACL and patellar tendon kept him out for almost all of the 2022 season, while a stinger kept him limited in the preseason and forced him to miss Week 1. Now, Young is fully healthy, and this time, he’s really back.
“It’s been a long time coming for me,” Young said.
Not that it was shocking to see Young play well in his 2023 debut — three tackles (one for a loss) with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits — but it was a pleasant surprise for him to be on the field and receive such a large volume of defensive snaps. Neither Young nor the team had made any official statement regarding how long the stinger would keep him out of games, but the reports indicated that he wouldn’t be available until Week 3.
Instead, it was announced last Friday that Young was a full participant in practice that day and would be cleared to play in Week 2, albeit on a snap count. Whatever Young’s number was, he blew past that on Sunday, playing 47 of the 66 defensive snaps.
“He was so excited to get back out on the field,” Rivera said. “We had to really kind of try to temper him the best we could. A couple times he popped out there when it wasn’t his time to rotate in.”
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Breaking down the performance of star defensive end Chase Young
During training camp, reports were positive about Young’s knee and his ability to return to the player that won defensive rookie of the year back in 2020, then he suffered a neck injury four snaps into the first preseason game which saw him miss the rest of preseason and the first game of the regular season. However he was finally cleared to play against Denver and he made a significant impact.
Young looked eager to impress as he generated 1.5 sacks and more importantly, consistent pressure off the edge. He was a significant threat throughout the game which forced the Broncos to adjust their protection plan to provide help to their left tackle against Young. His first sack showed why the tackle needed help.
Here we see the Broncos down in the red zone. Young aligns outside the left tackle with the running back to his side. As the ball is snapped, Young immediately looks to attack with speed off the edge. He doesn’t worry about a potential chip from the running back, who ends up releasing freely outside of him, instead he just pins his ears back and gets up the field. We also don’t see that stutter step rush he had become too reliant on. Thanks to him committing to just a pure speed rush, he’s able to get the tackle in trouble quickly.
By Young’s third step, the tackle is already opened up and has his hips square to the sideline instead of staying square to the line of scrimmage. This gives Young a path around the edge. He looks to use his speed around the edge combined with a rip move to try and break through. That rip move gets the tackle’s arm up around Young’s neck, which isn’t in itself a penalty, but if it’s prolonged can turn into one if the tackle gets caught with his hand on the facemask or holding onto the jersey.
Young doesn’t fully break the block of the tackle, but he does generate plenty of pressure off the edge. This forces quarterback Russel Wilson to step up in the pocket. However, as Wilson steps up in the pocket to avoid Young, Jonathan Allen is there to provide interior pressure. After stepping up, Wilson recognizes he has nowhere to go inside and takes off running to his right. This is where Young comes back into the play. Young shows great effort in pursuit as he continues around the edge and breaks free of the tackle to chase down Wilson from behind to complete the sack.
Washington Post (paywall)
For about five seconds, Russell Wilson faced hell. His clear view of Washington’s end zone was quickly obstructed by four defensive linemen who dipped under, pushed back and slipped around his offensive line to barrel toward him.
As his pocket quickly collapsed, Wilson tried to break free and scramble right, dodging pressure from defensive end Montez Sweat and tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.
But he couldn’t outrun them all. Chase Young charged after Wilson and leaped at his ankles for a sack.
“The team counts on us to make those plays, and we expect to make those plays,” Sweat said after the Week 2 win. “It feels good to do it.”
Washington’s front four, a group that has been together in the same system under coordinator Jack Del Rio for three seasons and counting, has established itself as one of the more formidable in the league. Its talent alone has long given opponents pause, and over the past year, the group has come together and become even more menacing.
The last time Washington squared off against the AFC powerhouse, Allen and the Bills handily took down the Burgundy & Gold with a 43-21 victory. Allen had a standout day, throwing for 358 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 8.3 yards per pass, which helped his team rush out to a 21-0 lead.
The stats show that Allen didn’t do much on the ground — four carries for nine yards with a long of four yards — but the box score doesn’t show everything that Allen did to avoid pressure. Despite having defenders in the backfield, Allen found ways to sidestep and juke around players in the pocket to deliver daggers to the Commanders’ secondary.
Rush discipline, or lack thereof, was at the root of the problem for the Commanders, and that was harped on by coach Ron Rivera after the game. Since then, the defensive front has dramatically improved in rushing as a unit, and the team believes it will give them a better chance at containing Allen.
“A lot better,” Rivera said on Monday. “In fact, there’s a couple of points of emphasis that Jack [Del Rio] has made throughout that period from two years ago to now, and you see it now. You see that when these guys are disciplined in their feet and working off each other, how more disruptive they can be.”
Washington Post (paywall)
Yeah, yeah, it’s only been two weeks. And okay, sure, the Washington Commanders have not yet played a team the betting markets or the ball-watching public would consider good. But still, the Commanders’ offense is … explosive?!
Explosive plays are defined by the website TruMedia as rushes of 12-plus yards and passes of 16-plus, and they’re the most valuable plays in football. A study by the website the 33rd Team found that, since 2010, only about 10 percent of drives without an explosive play ended in a score. With one explosive play, the rate jumped to about 30 percent, and with two, it’s over 50.
“When you can get those big chunk plays, it just kind of gives the offense more momentum, more energy,” quarterback Sam Howell said. “You kind of get the defense on their heels. … Every good offense, they always have a lot of explosive plays.”
“There’s a multitude of ways you can create explosive plays,” said wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught a 30-yard touchdown against the Broncos. “The way we did it on Sunday was a snapshot of how good we can be.”
The most prominent line in my notes on Howell’s Week 2 game: This guy has GUTS. Washington fought back from a 21-3 deficit that hit them like a sucker punch, but instead of falling to the turf and clutching his abdomen, Howell got up, spit out a tooth and dared Denver to take another shot.
It started with Howell’s nine-play, 49-yard drive that followed a Jamin Davis forced fumble and ended in Howell finding Logan Thomas in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-goal. It continued in the second half with a beautiful strike from Howell to Terry McLaurin, who caught the ball with two defenders draped all over him. Brian Robinson Jr. ran for the last two touchdowns, but Howell was sharp throughout, and proved he wasn’t afraid to run when necessary.
He’s poised, tough, accurate and determined. I regret ever doubting him.
The Athletic (paywall)
“I definitely think you could say it’s a certain measuring stick, if you will,” Terry McLaurin said Wednesday of the Bills. “They have a really great quarterback. They have a great coaching staff. They’re really well coached, offensively and defensively. And they’re playoff-tested. They’ve been in either the conference finals or the division (playoffs).
“They’re competing for a (championship) every year. And if we’re a group that wants to do that, which we are, we have to be able to compete and win and beat these kind of teams. A win would be huge for our momentum. It would be great to start 3-0. And I think it would really continue to elevate what we’ve been trying to build this offseason.”
The team announced a sellout for the Bills game, the second in a row after Washington sold out the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The team is up 20 percent year over year with its current season ticket base, per a spokesperson Thursday, which is notable progress.
But it does not answer the question of who, exactly, is going to be at FedExField on Sunday.
It’s still likely that, unlike the Cardinals game, FedEx will have more of a blue and red tone in the lower bowl than burgundy and gold this Sunday. It’s the reality of the real-time battle that will take place this season when it comes to ticket sales for higher-profile opponents.
The Bills Mafia, as the team’s most rabid fans have been known for more than a decade, travels. And they’re coming to D.C. this weekend.
On Thursday’s edition of “Good Morning Football” on the NFL Network, the four hosts discussed what that would mean.
First, Peter Schrager was fascinated by Washington’s top coaching trio of head coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
“If they beat the Bills, we got this real interesting dynamic amongst those three men who are coaching this team,” Schrager said.
For former NFL defensive back Jason McCourty, it was all about quarterback Sam Howell.
“I would just be fired up to see what the headlines are that surrounds Sam Howell,” McCourty said. “Because you type his name into Google, into X, whatever you want, and everybody is just praising this kid.
McCourty likes what he’s seen from Howell but says let’s see what happens this week.
“There is so much praise for him; at the same time, the Buffalo Bills may go out there and look like they did last week, too. So, let’s slow down. I love the Commanders’ talk. It’s a lot of fun, but let’s see what happens this week.”
BUT what if the Commanders beat the Buffalo Bills?— Good Morning Football (@gmfb) September 21, 2023
The table discusses pic.twitter.com/U5STJUPWSJ
Kyle Brandt loves the possibility of Washington going 3-0.
“If the Commanders beat the Buffalo Bills, they are the biggest and freshest story in the NFL,” Brandt said. “The Commanders, though, that would be wildly unpredictable. They’d beat a super-quality opponent who just waxed the Raiders. And we know this about [OC] Eric Bieniemy. He is not afraid of the Buffalo Bills. He’s not afraid to hang 30 on them. He’s not afraid to go up and down the field at will like that. He’s done it before.”
DC Sports King
[Logan] Thomas [is] dealing with a calf injury in the preseason and Armani Rogers [went] down for the year with an Achilles injury during OTAs.
As a result, one of the glaring holes on the roster remains at tight end. But the solution could be former first-round pick Kyle Pitts. Pitts entered the NFL with a lot of promise and hype. The Atlanta Falcons made Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history when they selected him fourth overall in 2021 out of Florida.
Draft experts predicted Pitts would transform the tight end position. Unfortunately, Pitts has been a shell of himself lately in Atlanta, wasted by some accounts. He showed his potential as a rookie. He had 68 catches for 1,026 yards and one touchdown, making the Pro Bowl with Matt Ryan as his quarterback.
However, Pitts was limited to ten games last season with a hamstring injury earlier in the year and a torn MCL that ended his season later. His numbers were pedestrian, and injuries weren’t the main reason. He had 28 catches for 356 yards and two touchdowns.
The drop in his production was more a byproduct of head coach Arthur Smith’s offense with Marcus Mariota at quarterback. Despite being healthy this season, Pitts is subjected to more of the same through two games with Desmond Ridder at quarterback.
The Falcons have shifted to a run-heavy offense. Running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier are the focal point. They’ve amassed 73 touches through the first two games. Pitts, on the other hand, has four catches for 59 yards.
Robinson leads the team with ten catches. Meanwhile, backup tight end Jonnu Smith has as many touches as Pitts.
Podcasts & videos
Daron Payne had an All-Pro caliber game vs. Denver | Film Session
Episode 662 - Washington's first 3-0 start since 2005 would have D.C. on . In-depth preview of #BUFvsWAS, including key comments from Eric Bieniemy & Jack Del Rio & Rhyming Keys for a #Commanders win.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) September 22, 2023
I also talk #Terps, #Hokies, #UVA, #Orioles & #Nats.https://t.co/HofADPyr3v
Locked on Commanders: How Washington Commanders Sam Howell and Daron Payne Can Upset Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills
HANG TIME IS BACK! Season 3 Kicks Off with QB Sam Howell Joining Tress Way in the Hot Seat
The Washington Commanders were back on the field for their second practice as they continue to prepare for their Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
NFC East links
Washington Post (paywall)
Diggs, a two-time Pro Bowl selection in his fourth year, is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Including a pick off the New York Jets’ Zach Wilson in a 30-10 Dallas win last week, Diggs is tied for the most interceptions, 18, since he entered the NFL in 2020. Over the past three seasons, no defensive back has held quarterbacks to a lower passer rating as the nearest defender in coverage (via ESPN).
This season, Diggs helped the Cowboys begin 2-0 while their defense held opponents to NFL lows in average passing yards (107.0) and total yards (193.0). Dallas is also pacing the league in interceptions (five), turnover differential (plus-seven), sacks (10, tied with Washington) and opposing yardage lost on sacks (66).
A Maryland native and the younger brother of Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Trevon Diggs played receiver as well at Alabama before deciding to focus full-time on cornerback. He improved quickly enough to become a second-round pick in 2020, then led the NFL with 11 interceptions the following year, when he was named first-team all-pro.
In July, the Cowboys gave Diggs a five-year, $97 million contract extension, with more than $42 million reportedly guaranteed. After Thursday’s injury, the team said that while “a timetable for Diggs’ return to play has not been established … he is currently projected to miss the remainder of the current season.”
Giants offense remains tepid. Losing Saquon Barkley in a short week on the road against a top-tier defense is less than ideal. But even so, the Giants on Thursday weren’t able to carry over from their historic comeback and offensive flourish in the second half. They gained only 150 yards on 46 offensive plays, stalling hard after a promising opening drive. Their touchdown came on a short field, and the Giants did nothing after cutting the game to a five-point deficit in the third quarter. The offensive line without Andrew Thomas had another tough game, and right tackle Evan Neal appeared to be rolled up on after Daniel Jones’ interception late in the game. And after two games where his legs were his most consistent weapon, Jones wasn’t a factor as a runner (two carries, 5 yards).
Pro Football Talk
The Giants didn’t score any points in the first half in either of their first two games, so the six points they put on the board Thursday night were an improvement.
It wasn’t enough of one for the team to avoid landing in the wrong spot on a list of teams with the worst first half point differential through three games of a season. Josh Dubow of the Associated Press reports that their -57 point differential through three weeks is the worst of any team since at least the 1991 season.
Quarterback Daniel Jones said that the slow starts are something the Giants have to eliminate before they return to action against the Seahawks in Week Four.
“Yes, it’s not what we’re trying to do, so we have to find a way to figure that out,” Jones said, via 49ersWebzone.com. “Execute better early in the game, finish in the end zone, take advantage of opportunities, but it comes down to making plays and executing better in those situations.”
Just before halftime of Thursday night’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, Niners left tackle Trent Williams appeared to throw a right-handed punch to the facemask of Giants defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
The scuffle between Williams and Robinson drew penalty flags for unnecessary roughness on both players, forcing Niners quarterback Brock Purdy to kneel again to end the half. But given the punch, the Giants appeared to wonder why Williams wasn’t ejected.
NFL senior vice president of officiating Walt Anderson spoke to a pool reporter after San Francisco’s 30-12 win, noting that his crew reviewed the play using available video to see if any further action needed to be taken.
“We ended up looking at the video we had available to us, and we just didn’t see anything that rose to the level of flagrant,” Anderson said. “Which is the standard that we have to apply to disqualify the player.”
Williams and Robinson have played against each other multiple times over the past three years when Robinson was playing for the Los Angeles Rams. Williams added that he didn’t expect to be fined for hitting Robinson.
“I don’t think so,” Williams said. “It was a love tap. It wasn’t that hard.”
NFL league links
As a result, fans will be punished with the Giants, Jets, Bears, or Broncos in 13 primetime games from now through Thanksgiving
There are so many more interesting teams than the New York Jets and Giants, Denver Broncos, and Chicago Bears, but from now through Thanksgiving, NFL fans will be subjected to those franchises 13 times on national TV. It’s early, and there’s still time to course correct, yet after just two weeks, those four teams are a combined 2-6 with a minus-82 point differential.
I mentioned Thanksgiving because, under the league’s new flex schedule where it can now swap out Thursday and Monday games, those nights can’t be switched until Week 12 or 13. Turkey Day is Week 12, and only Sunday night action is up for realignment prior to then. Even with that, a maximum of two matchups between Weeks 5 and 10 can be flexed into Sunday night. (After that, SNF is subject to the NFL’s discretion.)
So for all of the league’s trumpeting about a more fluid national slate, it’s more or less bupkis, and we’re going to get a lot of incredulousness from Al Michaels, and Kirk Herbstreit, hyperbole from Mike Tirico, and Cris Collinsworth, and existential doubt from Joe Buck, and Troy Aikman. As much as I love those booths calling it like it is, or trying to spin a Zach Wilson pass into something more, that’s not entertaining enough to hold fans’ attention for three-plus hours.
At the risk of tying this argument in circles, there are three national TV slots per week now, and the league has to fill them with somebody. As anyone who’s ever watched their manager stress about who’s working Saturdays can attest, making any schedule is a huge headache, and there aren’t three obvious games per week to appease ESPN, NBC, and Amazon Prime.
That said, this is the NFL’s own doing as it chose to make Thursday Night Football a thing regardless of the shoddy product and truncated turnaround time.
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13. Washington Commanders (up 4)
Projected Week 3 starters:
• Saahdiq Charles earned an 85.9 run-blocking grade against the Broncos, which ranked second among guards in Week 2.
• The Commanders’ offensive line has given up five sacks this season, which is tied for the sixth most in the NFL despite the fact that they have surrendered just the 16th most pressures.
Best player: Charles Leno Jr.
• Leno allowed both a sack and a quarterback hit against the Broncos. It marked just the third time that has happened since the start of the 2022 season.