Washington Times (paywall)
Josh Harris, a little over a month into owning the Washington Commanders, still sounds perplexed by some of the requests that have come across his desk. His facial expression is a mix of disbelief and amusement. A new clock for the practice field? Done. Bigger hot tubs for players? Sure thing.
“I’m like, ‘All right, stop,’” Mr. Harris laughs. “This is a pro team. Just get what you need.”
The new owner at the center of it all, meanwhile, has methodically set about proving, one handshake at a time, that he’s a different kind of billionaire than the reclusive Snyder.
Mr. Harris has greeted fans at training camp, bought rounds of beers for the faithful at bars and this preseason stood in the stands with the rest of the crowd during a game in Cleveland.
If it feels like a strategic rebuke of Mr. Snyder, who increasingly receded from the limelight as controversies mounted, that’s because it is.
Mr. Harris, without acknowledging his predecessor, said a change in approach was warranted.
“I think the city was yearning for someone they could believe in,” Mr. Harris told The Washington Times. “I think it’s very important. I said I was going to be here. It’s a lot. I’m here a lot. … That was part of the bargain that I made with the city.
“Yeah, I felt it was really something I needed to do.”
From the outside, it appears Rivera — who earned the moniker “Riverboat Ron” when coaching with the Carolina Panthers — has bet his Commanders tenure on an offensive coordinator who, though decorated, has never been a primary play caller, and a fifth-round quarterback with 19 career pass attempts.
“This is a calculated risk. This has been thought out,” Rivera said. “It’s something I felt needed to be done. I wanted a change because I wanted to see us do something different.”
“I’ve been a part of this sport for a long time,” Bieniemy said. “I had an opportunity to play two national championship games, played in the Super Bowl, coached in the NFC Championship Game, coached in five straight AFC Championship games. I don’t fear anything, we just go to work.”
“I had to shake it up,” Rivera said. “I’m out of that comfort zone because for 12 years we did the same thing and now I’m changing and adapting and I’m working with EB. What we’ve done is change the outlook.”
Washington Post (paywall)
“We’re trying to start fast this year,” defensive tackle Daron Payne said.
“We got to emphasize starting fast,” safety Kam Curl said.
In its Week 1 press release, above a stat for wide receiver Terry McLaurin, the team’s public relations staff wrote: “Starting fast.”
“Start the season fast, start series fast, start the games fast,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “That’s the number one emphasis.”
Starting fast will be important for plenty of people as a new era dawns Sunday at the Commanders’ season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The new ownership group wants to prove it can provide a good game-day experience at decaying FedEx Field. (It has already poured $40 million into the stadium.) The fans want to prove they’re re-energized after two decades of lethargy. (The game is already sold out.) Many coaches and players want to prove, definitively, that they can excel in big new roles. (Several created optimism with strong preseason performances.)
But the stakes might be highest for Coach Ron Rivera. He figures to have the least time and leeway to prove he is the right person for his job. This offseason, he has regularly acknowledged that, if things don’t go well, managing partner Josh Harris could fire him, and at 61, he may not end up with another head coaching job. Rivera’s teams tend to start slow — his first three seasons here began 2-7, 2-6 and 1-4 — so he must get this team to do what no Rivera team in Washington has ever done: start fast.
The Washington Commanders released an updated unofficial depth chart ahead of their 2022 season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Commanders will open the season at home for the fourth consecutive season under head coach Ron Rivera, and the contest against the NFC West opponent is scheduled for 1 p.m.
There are few, if any real surprises in the updated version of the unofficial depth chart. Saahdiq Charles has taken the starting left guard spot, while rookie Emmanuel Forbes Jr. is in the starting lineup at cornerback opposite Kendall Fuller.
Dax Milne is listed as the team’s starting punt returner with Antonio Gibson as the starting kickoff returner.
Washington Post (paywall)
“Underrated” has effectively replaced Leon as McLaurin’s middle name. Several factors — including his humble demeanor, third-round draft status and consistent production despite a carousel of uninspiring quarterbacks — seem to have magnetized the word to the Washington Commanders wide receiver. If McLaurin’s name comes up in articles or on talk shows or in casual conversation, it feels almost inevitable someone will point out there’s a gap between his talent and the appreciation for it. In April 2022, the night of the first round of that year’s NFL draft, wide receiver Jahan Dotson said he was looking forward to meeting McLaurin, “one of the most underrated receivers in the league.” In fact, McLaurin being underrated is one point that unites the data nerds and the retired Hall of Famers.
But in the last year or so, things have started to change. Gobs of evidence — anecdotal, statistical, testimonial, contractual — suggest McLaurin’s profile is ascending. No experts are arguing that he is the league’s best wideout, that he is better than Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson or Miami’s Tyreek Hill, but they now regularly rank him in the top 10.
In other words: McLaurin now seems properly rated as very good.
It’s difficult to say whether McLaurin cares about the “underrated” label or has even noticed the recent shift. He was unavailable for comment as he rehabs an injured toe. But there are reasons to think he doesn’t care.
“He definitely don’t care,” Samuel said. “But people got to have something to talk about.”
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription site)
Breaking down where opposing defenses might look to attack Howell and previewing the Cardinals defense
I thought I’d watch some of the Arizona Cardinals preseason All-22 ahead of their clash with the Commanders this weekend. I wanted to see if they were particularly blitz heavy, especially with this type of blitz that Howell took a few sacks on. What I found was that the Cardinals, under new head coach Jonathan Gannon, are quite similar schematically to what the Eagles were last year, which makes sense given Gannon was the Eagles defensive coordinator last year.
The Eagles last year were primarily a quarters based defense with some man coverage mixed in too. Quarters coverage requires seven defenders to drop into coverage with four playing deep and three underneath. In preseason, the Cardinals showed they were going to live in quarters coverage regularly too.
Gannon and the Cardinals aren’t necessarily likely to send a bunch of disguised blitzes at Howell and try to test if he’s learned from his mistakes in preseason. In fact, Gannon’s style with the Eagles was to focus more on playing sound coverage and trusting the front four to generate enough of a pass rush. However, in Philadelphia, Gannon did like to throw in the occasional Cover 0 call and that appears to have followed him to Arizona.
Jamison Crowder could make a return to the Washington Commanders after making a free agent visit.
Update: Crowder signed onto the Commanders practice squad today.
Crowder, 30, was drafted by Washington in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and played his first four seasons in the league with the team.
Crowder’s best season with the Commanders came in 2016, when he caught 67 passes for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.
Now, Crowder appears to be looking for a final lifeline to keep his NFL career going. He may not be the kind of player he once was during his first Washington stint, but there still could be some gas left in the tank.
Should he sign with the Commanders, he’ll provide a veteran presence for a young Sam Howell as he navigates his first season as Washington’s starting quarterback.
Crowder could also help in the return game, where Washington might benefit with an additional weapon on special teams.
The Washington Commanders announced today that they have promoted the following coaches: Juan Castillo to the role of run game coordinator, Randy Jordan to the role of senior offensive assistant/running backs coach, Travelle Wharton to the role of offensive line coach and Todd Storm to the role of tight ends coach.
Washington Post (paywall)
With former owner Daniel Snyder gone, Sunday’s sold-out game at FedEx Field against the Arizona Cardinals is arguably Washington’s most anticipated NFL home opener since legendary Coach Joe Gibbs came out of retirement and returned to the sideline in 2004. As the Commanders prepare to kick off the Josh Harris era, here’s a look back at six of the most hyped home debuts in franchise history, including the inauspicious start to Snyder’s 24-year reign.
Sept. 5, 1983: The champs are here
Coming off its first Super Bowl title, Washington opened the season at home against the archrival Cowboys on “Monday Night Football.” It was a rematch of the 1982 NFC championship game, when John Riggins had RFK rocking by rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win.
“We thought maybe by now, after a steamy summer and many other pursuits to occupy the pleasure hours of people in or away from Greater Washington, that the fever that gripped this region one NFL year ago would have subsided — that no sequel to the season of Hog-love, Fun-Bunching and Riggo Drills could begin on the same high,” The Post’s editorial board wrote. “But the scriptwriters are back with a blockbuster tonight, right here at RFK, and already you can hear the town’s pulse thundering.”
As beat reporter Gary Pomerantz wrote, the season opener was “bursting with so much hype, it would blow a dome off RFK Stadium if it had one.”
“You can see it as King Kong versus Godzilla,” Washington wide receiver Charlie Brown said, “or maybe like the Ali-Frazier showdown.”
A sellout crowd of 55,045 watched the Cowboys rally from a 23-3 halftime deficit to stun Washington, 31-30. Quarterback Danny White threw touchdown passes of 75 and 51 yards and ran for the go-ahead score with two minutes to play.
Washington went on to finish 14-2, including a 31-10 rout of Dallas in the regular season rematch at Texas Stadium.
The Washington Commanders aren’t being talked about as a playoff team, but the talent being assembled might see Ron Rivera’s team surprise this season.
Washington does have a bruising schedule, which makes getting to the playoffs harder as they face the Cowboys and Eagles (x2), the Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, the New York Jets, and the San Francisco 49ers.
Many are simply dismissing the Commanders this season, but they showed last year that they can do some damage as they beat both the Eagles and Cowboys.
Much of Washington’s success this season will depend on Jack Del Rio’s defense and if they can maintain their top-10 status in the league.
Podcasts & videos
Episode 649 - Guest: @BenStandig with a preview of the #Commanders' 2023 season. We talk Ron Rivera, Sam Howell, the o-line, RB carries, what Ben's hearing about extensions for Montez Sweat & Kam Curl & much more.— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) September 5, 2023
I also discuss yet another #Orioles win.https://t.co/5tJeqSSOGz
The Ball Boy podcast: SAM HOWELL Talks Best CBs and WRs in NFL, Washington Commanders, and More!
(note: this is the first-ever podcast for the host, so don’t let the first 30 seconds fool you; this is a good 25-minute interview with Sam Howell)
Go time— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) September 5, 2023
New episode of Get Loud
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Expectations for Sam Howell | Coaching Staff Changes | Game Week Schedule
NFC East links
The Dallas Cowboys owner left his head coach and QB1 in the dark about the move
Recently, Jerry Jones made a front-office move that shocked many around the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys owner traded a fourth-round draft pick to the San Francisco 49ers for Trey Lance. In the aftermath of that deal, what wasn’t reported at the time is that Jones made the swap without consulting his football people. Most notably, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy was not included in discussions about acquiring Lance.
“No, we, we didn’t tell anybody until we did it, period,” Jones said. “There was nobody that knew [about] it.”
On ESPN’s NFL Live, Louis Riddick weighed in on the situation.
“There is no way you can tell me Jerry [Jones] didn’t know what he was doing when he didn’t tell his franchise quarterback and his head coach we are acquiring [Trey Lance],” the former safety said.
Riddick and Dan Orlovsky — himself a former NFL QB — made good points about Jones going rogue in making this trade and what it could lead to. It’s been highly publicized how Dak Prescott doesn’t have the full respect of the organization. Forget what players, coaches, and Jones himself try to tell us. All you have to do is watch their actions regarding Prescott. Pay attention to what they do, not what they attempt to sell us.
Whether it’s Jones saying he “overpaid” for Dak’s services publicly after signing him to a massive extension when his rookie deal was expiring. Or trading for a former No. 3 overall pick, who is much younger and still seen by many as having a bright future in the NFL. Then there are incidents like the one during training camp between Trevon Diggs and Prescott following a play where he blatantly disrespected Dak. Call it what you will, but most franchise quarterbacks who’ve earned respect throughout the organization don’t publicly deal with this much internal contempt.