Andrew Wylie made it clear in the locker room after the Washington Commanders’ 37-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills that it’s unacceptable for Sam Howell to get hit as many times as he did on Sunday, no matter how tough he may be.
“As an offensive lineman, that’s on our unit,” Wylie said. “We take that personally. We gotta do a better job of keeping him upright and getting him that extra tick.”
If Washington’s offense has any hope of gaining some traction this season, it has to protect Howell as much as possible. It’s on the entire unit to fix it, and they know it.
“It’s a team effort.,” Brian Robinson Jr. said. “It’s a team effort. It’s something we all gotta work on together, and I think we’ll get better with that.”
While the Commanders experienced the benefits of having a young, talented quarterback in the previous two games, they dealt with the growing pains of having a player who is still working on his development. He often held onto the ball when his first read wasn’t available, and that was something the Bills took advantage of.
It was a tough reminder for Howell that he needs to get the ball out quicker. According to The Buffalo News sports writer Ryan O’Halloran, Howell had at least three seconds in the pocket on seven of his nine sacks. On one play, Howell had four seconds before the pressure got to him.
Coach Ron Rivera said that this is part of Howell’s development.
“You gotta see what you need to see and then make your decision and move on to the next one or deliver the ball,” Rivera said.
The Athletic (paywall)
To anyone this week who considered or truly believes the best path for the Washington Commanders is benching Sam Howell now or, frankly, anytime this season, please read this in John McEnroe’s voice: You cannot be serious.
This public service announcement isn’t about trumpeting some silver lining from Howell’s hideous Week 3 performance or promoting the 2022 fifth-round pick as a savior for a franchise whose quarterback search traces back to the 1990s. Maybe there’s some preemptive attempt to tamp down any change-under-center talk should the Commanders endure another offensive-challenged loss Sunday on the road against the reigning conference champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Ultimately, this PSA is about staying focused on the bigger picture. The Commanders this season should commit to sink or swim with Howell.
If the kid with grit and a rocket arm who, in Week 2 at Denver, rallied Washington from an 18-point deficit is Howell’s reality, then this era with new ownership begins shining bright for reasons beyond you know who is gone.
There’s the risk for a team with a stout defensive front and talented offensive playmakers to stick with Howell, 23, if he’s ultimately not ready for the QB1 responsibility. Considering all of the months of planning with Howell as the projected starter, any talk or even faint whispering of turning to Brissett, barring another doomsday outing, is nuts.
Not because the veteran journeyman isn’t valued or seen as a potential salve behind an inexperienced player at the sport’s most critical position. Brissett ranked ninth in ESPN’s QB rating last season while making 11 starts for the Cleveland Browns. He currently helps Howell as a mentor, and his roster presence comforts Rivera.
The numbers didn’t work in the Commanders’ favor this week.
The Washington Commanders offense has put too much pressure on Sam Howell’s shoulders with 65 percent of the play-calling being passing concepts. Eric Bieniemy needs to realize that his signal-caller isn’t Patrick Mahomes and needs to utilize the run game more efficiently in the first half.
In Week 1, the pass-to-run ratio was 28:10 in the first half and 9:18 in the second half. In Week 2, it was 33:7 in the first half and 10:16 in the second half.
Against the Buffalo Bills, it was 16:6 in the first half, and 22:7 in the second half. That’s too wide of a margin, although it’s also worth remembering that the Commanders got themselves into an early hole.
Across the first half, the Commanders have run a pass play 77 percent of the time. Given the offensive line woes and Howell’s propensity to hold on to the football for way too long, the team isn’t doing its best to set him up for success.
Week 3 was one to forget for the entire team. But how the Commanders respond next week in a tough Philadelphia Eagles atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field will give us a clearer indication if this team is as resilient as they showed during their two comeback wins.
One day after Washington’s loss, Rivera met with the media and was asked if he had a leash on Howell.
“Well, right now we are 2-1,” Rivera said. “Sam’s won three games in four starts. So, we’ll just continue to go from there and see how things go. We kept Sam in because we felt the only way he’s going to grow and get better is to play. That’s why we did what we did.”
Was this the right time for that question? Howell had one bad start, and someone was already questioning if there was a leash on him. Rivera did a good job of answering the question while also dodging it a bit.
There are multiple ways to look at this situation. If Howell struggles against the Eagles again on Sunday, do you even think of making a move? It depends on how he responds to this week’s performance, but as a whole, no, there should be no move to Jacoby Brissett. You declared that Howell was your guy and spent all of the offseason telling everyone why he was the guy.
Secondly, what if new ownership wants to see Howell on the field for all 17 games? It would make sense, considering this is their chance to know if they need to make a bold move for a quarterback next offseason or stick with Howell.
For now, any talk of benching Howell is silly. Let him show everyone how he can respond. Next week will be tough. Win or lose, his response to his Week 3 performance will say a lot about Howell moving forward.
Antonio Gibson fumbled on the Washington Commanders’ first play in the fourth quarter of their 37-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Among the back-breaking turnovers was Antonio Gibson’s fumble that he lost on Washington’s first play of the fourth quarter after its defense forced a turnover on downs.
While the fumble effectively ended any chance Washington had of making a comeback, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said he isn’t going to fault Gibson for trying to make a play, though he could have better situational awareness.
“Well, I think in this case, more than anything else, you go right back to him,” Rivera said of Gibson’s fumble. “People say, ‘Oh, you know, that had something to do with the way he carries the ball.’ Well, you can’t fault a guy for trying either. He spun, tried to get back inside and tried to spin again, and that’s when he got hit. At that point, you also gotta say discretion is a better part of [valor]. Just take it and go to the ground, and we will live with another play. But he was trying, and that to me, I’m not gonna fault a guy for trying hard.”
There is never a good time to fumble, but fumbling right after the defense forced a turnover near midfield is among the worst situations to do so. The Commanders were down 16-0 and had a chance to make it a one-possession game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. Instead, Buffalo capitalized by scoring six plays later to make it 23-0 and stick the final dagger in Washington’s hopes of making a comeback.
The Washington Commanders ran into a Buffalo Bills team hellbent on destruction on Sunday and Benjamin St-Juste stated that Washington’s season was never going to be perfect.
For Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, while the loss was poor, the focus now turns to making sure that kind of effort isn’t repeated.
“It wasn’t going to be no Cinderella story where we go 17-0,” St-Juste said. “But like we got an L today. Now we’re about see what kind of a team we are. Not just a small L; we got a big L today. So, it’s gonna be like, how can we bounce back from this? Can we recover? Can we fix the issue like we made today and not repeat it next week? You know, that’s what it is. People are going to try to exploit the mistakes we did this week, today, and then see if we fix it next week and that’s what we need to do.”
But for St-Juste, he is looking at the result as glass half full and stated that he would rather take a loss like this now, rather than later in the year.
“I’d rather take an L, week three like this so I can learn from it than losing by that much week 16,” St-Juste said. “Not when we’re trying to make the playoffs, you know. Get all the mistakes and all the stuff we did bad right now so we can fix it and move on with the season.”
Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. disagreed with their play-calling after their loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Brian Robinson Jr. didn’t hold back when asked after the game how the Commanders’ offense could have done better in their 37-3 loss to the Bills Sunday.
“Invest in the run game,” Robinson said. “Numerous amounts of time we put in positive yards in the run game. I would love to stick to it as a running back but sometimes that’s not what’s best for the offense. With that being said, I’ve just got to control what I can control. When my number’s called, I’ve just got to make the most of it.”
The Commanders dropped back 38 times against Buffalo. Sam Howell was 19-for-29 for 170 yards with four interceptions getting sacked nine times.
Washington only handed it off 13 times for a whopping average of 8.1 yards per carry. Robinson ran it 10 times for 70 yards.
Washington Post (paywall)
Washington’s own punt return unit hasn’t had a return of 20-plus yards in nearly three years.
Washington has a long list of issues to address in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills. The lack of production from its punt return team may take a back seat to the unsatisfactory play of quarterback Sam Howell and the offensive line. But finding a way to improve a unit that has just two returns of 20 or more yards since the start of the 2019 season could go a long way in assisting offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy’s attempt to right the ship; facing a shorter field significantly improves an offense’s chances of scoring.
“There’s no question about it: We want to and we need to be better when it comes to returning punts,” Commanders special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said during a recent phone interview. “Good football teams are good at all three phases, and our goal is to be a good football team.”
This one won’t be remembered with any great fondness.
Commanders defense got a wake-up call
The Washington Commanders’ defense was cooked by quarterback Josh Allen in Week 3. The front four did not record one sack against the signal-caller and only hit him once, which was pathetic given the talent at their disposal.
The Commanders’ defensive front is one of the league’s best units with four first-round draft picks. But it still seems outmatched and outclassed by a superior team and this must change quickly.
This defense still struggles with mobile quarterbacks. With Jalen Hurts up next, it could be another long day unless adjustments are made by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in the coming days.
Each time the defense pressed Allen, he found a way to move out of the pocket. This resulted in positive yardage running the football or finding an open man downfield.
Buffalo’s wide receivers were also making the secondary look bad. Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs did whatever they wanted and managed to come up with the goods in crucial situations consistently.
That is because the defensive line and edge rushers could never generate pressure, allowing linebackers and cornerbacks to be out of position. If you are playing elite teams, your pass-rushing options need to come up huge, which didn’t happen at any stage.
Washington’s defense isn’t why they lost the game. However, their lack of production was a huge factor in the overall outcome.
Podcasts & videos
Washington Commanders Need Brian Robinson Workload Increase | Quarterback Protection | Ron Rivera
Commanders Need to Run to Win vs Eagles - Episode 140
Check out the top photos from Brian Robinson Jr.’s 2023 season so far. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
Some great backstory on what led to Josh Harris purchasing Washington Commanders in this @ramonashelburne article for @espn.— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) September 26, 2023
- Harris had to "cultivate" Dan Snyder to make him want to sell to him
- His ownership stake is "well north" of 30% minimum
- Mitchell Rales gave him…
NFC East links
Bleeding Green Nation
Philadelphia is looking to remain undefeated.
The Birds are currently eight-point home favorites against the Washington Commanders (+8)
in Week 4, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.Of course, that amount is less than the 10.5-point spread the Eagles were favored by in last year’s home game against the Commanders that resulted in Philly’s first loss of the 2022 season.
But that was a pretty weird night. The Eagles uncharacteristically turned the ball over four times. There was a jump ball interception that was once right in A.J. Brown’s hands. There was a fumble that happened immediately after the Commanders gave up a deep catch to Quez Watkins. There was another fumble that was caused by Dallas Goedert nearly getting his head ripped off by a facemask penalty that inexplicably went uncalled.
It seems like it’d be hard for the Eagles to be so unusually unlucky again.
At the risk of sounding overly confident, I really, really like the Birds in this matchup. I’m making them my Lock Of The Week for this week’s episode of TGIFootball on The SB Nation NFL Show. Let the record show I’m currently 3-0 with those picks.
The Eagles’ defensive line should be able to feast on a team that’s allowed 19 sacks through three games. That’s the most in the NFL and it’s six more than the next closest team. Sam Howell might not throw four interceptions like he did last week but he’s likely going to be pressured into some more mistakes.
Bleeding Green Nation
Everyone is being so dumb about this.
It’s true that, when the Eagles are in 3rd or 4th and 1, the vast majority of the time, they line up for the Tush Push, a seemingly impossible play to stop that draws the ire of so many in the football world for reasons passing understanding. Rich Eisen is the latest:
“I think it’s particularly unfair, which is why the Competition Committee is looking at it. Because the offense has the opportunity to shove a player at the defense as well as then pull the ball out from that formation and throw it so it’s difficult to defend, it’s almost impossible to defend.” - RICH EISEN
Is it as majestic as Barry Sanders soaring over the top of a defense and splashing down into the end zone? No. Is it as fun as the Philly Special? Certainly not. But some of the rhetoric surrounding the Tush Push is simply over-the-top whining, and there is no discernable reason for it other than people just don’t like it.
And yes, it works pretty much every time. But just because it’s nearly unstoppable, or just because the Eagles’ personnel is so unique doesn’t mean you outlaw it, as some have called for. After all, if we wanted to ban unfair things, Bo Jackson wouldn’t have been allowed to play football. Tom Brady would have had to throw left-handed. Lawrence Taylor would have had to rush the quarterback backwards.
Bleeding Green Nation
It’s never to early to worry
Philadelphia Eagles (3-0)
Panic level: Relaxed, until they lose. The team is 3-0, has been the better team in each of those games and have had the lead for every second of the second half. It is reasonable to point out that they haven’t actually beat a good team yet, but then no one else in the division has either, nor have the 3-0 Dolphins (Chargers, Patriots, Broncos) or 3-0 49ers (Steelers, Rams, Giants).
Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
What is not working: They scored one (1) TD against the Cardinals. Dak Prescott is 24th in yards per attempt, and has fewer TDs and a worse TD% than Mac Jones. Tony Pollard is on pace for 419 touches, which would be 22nd all time and the most since DeMarco Murray in 2014. Brandin Cooks has 39 yards. Teams are simply not giving KaVontae Turpin the ball, he has just three punt returns, and save for one end of half squib, every kickoff to the Cowboys this season has been a touchback.
Panic level: Operators are standing by.
Washington Football Team Commanders (2-1)
What is working: They have two wins. You can not take that away from them. Their first win was by 4 against the Cardinals, their second win was by 2 against the Broncos, but those wins were things that happened. Sure, they trailed at the start of the 4th quarter in both of those games, but that’s a totally sustainable way to have a successful season, right?
Panic level: Panic? Panic? This team might actually have a winning record midway through the season! The Bears are a total disaster, the Falcons can’t score, and Giants can’t help themselves…. 5-3 with a negative point differential is a real possibility.
New York Giants (1-2)
What is working: LMAO, nothing. This team can’t pass the ball, can’t run the ball, can’t stop the pass, can’t stop the run, and can’t win the turnovers. Other than that things are going great.
What is not working: $81 million man Danny Dimes has 4 INTs in 3 games, one shy of his total from last year, and a pathetic 5.8 yards per attempt. Saquon Barkley is already injured, which might be a blessing in disguise because he hasn’t been good since last October. Assuming he actually plays all year, prized addition Darren Waller is on track to have by far his least productive and efficient full season. The defense can’t tackle anyone, has yet to intercept anyone after totaling a league worst 6 last year, and are 31st in sack rate. The offense is 31st in scoring, ahead of the Jets by a single point.
Panic level: Get a paper bag ready to hyperventilate into.