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Daily Slop - 8 Sep 23: Magic Johnson speaks to Commanders players, kids in the community, and Commanders fans

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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NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Magic Johnson on NFL ownership: ‘A lot of minorities standing on my shoulders’

There are no Black majority owners in the NFL, but Johnson became a limited owner when Josh Harris bought the Commanders this year. Johnson also is a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Los Angeles FC. But he said Sunday’s home opener against the Arizona Cardinals will be “emotional” for him because he’s a minority.

“It’s important because now all African-Americans and minorities in this country feel like they’re owners of this team, too,” Johnson said, “because I’m sitting in this position, and so I can’t wait.”

Later, he told reporters, “It’s important to me, but it was more important to Josh Harris. So give him credit, and important to commissioner Roger Goodell, too. So I think that the NFL is better because I’m standing here. I think that this ownership group is better because I’m standing here. I know what I stand for, who I am, and I know that there’s a lot of minorities standing on my shoulders. I get that, but I got broad shoulders.”

The Athletic (paywall)

Magic Johnson: Commanders players ‘don’t have to worry about problems’ from new ownership group

Magic Johnson said there’s a way for new Washington Commanders ownership to help the players maximize their season: Don’t create negativity.

“You don’t have to worry about problems from this ownership,” Johnson said Thursday. “You just have to concentrate on Sundays. You ain’t going to read no headlines. You’re not going to have to worry about nothing. No questions from (the media) about stuff off the field.”

“Your job is just to concentrate on doing your job and having fun,” Johnson told the players. “Every Sunday, every Thursday, or every Monday. That’s it. That’s exactly what I told them.”

As for the game, his first as an NFL owner, Johnson said he knows the scene at a sold-out FedEx Field is “going to be emotional.”

“My wife is coming. We go to a lot of games. We are a sports family. Cookie and I sit there and (think), ‘We never thought this day would happen.’ That I would be an NFL owner and she would be an NFL owner,” Johnson said. “It’ll be an emotional moment, a great moment. Then, when that kickoff happens, I’m gonna be ready for the Commanders to kick some you know what.”

Riggo’s Rag

How Magic Johnson can inspire the Commanders to greatness in 2023

The magic man continues to increase his influence within the Commanders.

Sam Howell...clearly relished the experience of gaining advice from one of the greatest icons in sport based on his comments via The Bleacher Report.

“It was awesome, man, just to be able to hear what he had to say and be able to ask him questions at the end and pick his brain. He’s been through so many different teams and not only as a player but as an owner and won so many championships on both sides of it.”

- Sam Howell via The Bleacher Report

Imagine being a player and having the benefit of Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson’s ear. Even the most established star is in awe of the great man and even though Ron Rivera might be saying the same things, it probably hits home more coming from a different source.

If Rivera and the Commanders had any sense, they would make this a regular occurrence. Having Johnson speak and inspire a talented group of players through the good times or the bad could be invaluable during the season - something that could make a huge difference between success and failure along the way.

Khaleke Hudson playing with more confidence heading into Year 4

At this point last season, Hudson was on the team’s practice squad after being cut in his third season. Now, he’s one of the four linebackers the Commanders kept on the active roster, and the work he’s done to improve his skill set has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

“I think it’s confidence more than anything else,” said head coach Ron Rivera. “He really had a very good training camp this year and he gave us a lot of confidence being able to keep four [linebackers] knowing his versatility, but also knowing he’s grown so much as a player.”

Versatility was part of what made Hudson so appealing when Washington used a fifth-round pick on him in 2020. He played Michigan’s “Viper” position, a SAM/nickel hybrid role that requires players to blitz quarterbacks, operate as a traditional linebacker and drop back in coverage.

Washington Post (paywall)

Sam Howell is out to prove he’s more than just a short-term solution

Throughout training camp and the preseason, Coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy praised Howell’s study habits and his even-keeled demeanor at the line of scrimmage. When plays broke down, he didn’t seem rattled. He just got creative.

“He has the athleticism to get out [of] the pocket to find the guy down the field or to scramble for a first down to make it happen,” General Manager Martin Mayhew said. “You saw that during the preseason, and a lot hasn’t been talked about that, but he’s really athletic.”

When fights broke out at joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens, Howell kept his cool and refocused the offense.

“He’s very direct to certain guys,” Rivera said. “... When he gets into the huddle, though, there is a calmness about him.”

And when he made mistakes, he usually didn’t make them twice.

“I take that stuff seriously,” Howell said. “I tell [quarterbacks coach] Tavita [Pritchard] that I want to be coached hard, and if he has something to say, say it. I want to know your opinion, I want your feedback so I can apply it.”

Sports Illustrated

Commanders’ Chase Young ‘Ready to Go’ But...

Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young has yet to be cleared for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

When asked if and when he would be ready to go, Young’s answer was quite simple.

“I’m ready to go. Straight up.” “Feel fine. I’m ready to go.”

The only thing standing in his way from actually suiting up and practicing is the most important thing in an injured athlete’s life; clearance from the doctor. Young also explained to the media that he is working on getting a Zoom call with his doctor scheduled so that he will be able to get cleared and play.

Young was able to practice on Wednesday, which is a positive.

Riggo’s Rag

4 Commanders who could be entering their last season with the team in 2023

Jeremy Reaves - Commanders S

If Jeremy Reaves didn’t get a long-term deal after becoming an All-Pro special teams ace in 2022, one has to ask just what he has to do for more financial security. The Washington Commanders did tender the defensive back to prevent him from leaving without compensation, but $2.9 million is an absolute steal considering his underrated impact last time around.

Reaves is fully focused and goes about his business with customary determination. If he manages to impact the defensive rotation more prominently and remains an elite special teamer, the Commanders would be wise to pay up.

However, a situation could emerge where Reaves gets a better offer from elsewhere with the promise of more involvement. Something that would be extremely difficult to ignore.

The Athletic (paywall)

The doorman, Jerry Springer and brotherhood: Inside the Commanders’ tight-knit locker room

“If you look at the excitement that the new ownership has created … everything is promising right now,” Rivera said during his weekly radio appearance Tuesday.

Things weren’t so promising last October after four consecutive losses dropped the team to 1-4. But the same group won six of its next seven games. During the lows and highs, the vibe remained the same.

“We’re trying to keep the same tone,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said in December. “It’s never as good as you think or as bad as you think. Ride the ebbs and flows of the season.”

“We started slow and then picked it up. That was a big time for morale. We rallied together,” guard Sam Cosmi said. “It all depends on the guys you have. We have a great group of guys and still have a lot of the same guys.”

Most of last year’s 8-8-1 team returned, but a roster never stays intact. Popular figures like Taylor Heinicke moved on. Others moved in, including tone-setting offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Bieniemy, or took on much more prominent roles, like starting quarterback Sam Howell. Any change could undercut those previous positive vibes — or reinforce the new standard set by team leaders.

“We have all good dudes,” Allen said. “No bad dudes on or off the field. It’s easy to play with guys like that. I genuinely love being part of this team and having fun hanging out with them.”

Practice notes | Commanders defense preparing to see either Dobbs or Tune for Week 1

There are reports that Dobbs will be the starter, but there has been no official announcement from the team.

The decision by first-time head coach Jonathan Gannon adds another wrinkle to a matchup that already has a fair number of unknown factors for the Commanders. The Burgundy & Gold defense is taking precautions, however, and intends to be prepared for whoever lines up under center.

“Study them both,” said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. “Study everything that we can, which includes Cleveland, Philadelphia, Dobbs in Tennessee. Just doing all the due diligence and work that you can leading up to an opener.”

Of the two quarterbacks, there is more NFL film on what Dobbs can bring to an offense. A fourth-round pick in 2017, Dobbs has played in eight games after spending time with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.

DC Sports King

Commanders owner Josh Harris on Ron Rivera future: ‘Ultimately we have to deliver wins’

Harris got asked about the future of Ron Rivera during the Economics Club event, which featured Harris and Commanders’ minority owner Mitchell Rales.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Coach Rivera,” Harris said, per ESPN’s John Keim. “He’s a good man; he’s done a great job in terms of where the team is relative to where it was when he got here and relative to a lot of the distractions going on.

“He has a very capable front office. We’re getting up to speed. We want to hear how you want to learn [and] how you make decisions. It’s going really well… Ultimately, we have to deliver wins on the field. You don’t need to say anything. It’s just out there so far, so good.”

Podcasts & videos

Howell HandedKeys to Commanders O | NFL Preseason Game Tape Breakdown by Kurt Warner

Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Sam Howell and Ball Security Key to Winning Week 1 Against Arizona Cardinals


PHOTOS | Commanders practice, 09/07

The Washington Commanders moved practice to the bubble for their second day of prep against the Arizona Cardinals. Check out the top photos from Thursday afternoon. (Photos by Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)

NFC East links

The Athletic

NFC East roundtable: Will Eagles pull off rare repeat? Expectations for Sam Howell

One of the league’s biggest mysteries is Sam Howell as Washington’s QB1. What do you expect from him?

Carroll: As Ben stated, the playoffs are a lot to consider when it comes to thinking about Howell’s role in Washington. But with the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys jockeying for top status and taking up the talking points, there’s something to be said for having the attention off of you. I’ve yet to go too deep into his game, so I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise. But if the blitz is a concern, I’m already fearing for Howell come Wink Martindale and the matchup against the Giants.

Yousuf: The two best things Howell has going in his favor is that teams don’t have tape on him yet and, relatively speaking, he has very little expectations to live up to. Quarterbacks often come out of the gate with some juice, but it’s always tougher after defenses have the book on you. Howell enters with an empty slate. And given his draft status and the roster around him, few would expect Howell, or the Commanders, to be a serious factor in the division, let alone the league. He’s playing with house money, which should allow him to play loose.


MetLife Stadium may no longer have the worst playing surface in the NFL

After years of complaints, the artificial turf was finally replaced (with better artificial turf)

Towards the end of last season, MetLife Stadium announced that a new artificial turf would be installed. The slit film was going out and the company FieldTurf would construct the replacement. The product that has been installed is called FieldTurf Core. According to the company website, it is the “first multi-layer dual-polymer monofilament fiber.”

All of those syllables basically mean that the imitation grass pieces are put together in individual blades. With more space between the pieces, players’ cleats should not get stuck into the turf as often.

When Kyle Fuller went down last season with a torn ACL, John Harbaugh told the media that the turf at MetLife Stadium did feel “a little tight.” Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall both played for the Giants and have been openly critical of the stadium’s playing surface.

Complaints were finally acted upon, and MetLife Stadium supposedly has the best artificial turf that money can buy.

The Giants and Jets both play primetime games on the new surface in Week 1. If there is a problem, it certainly will not be missed.

NFL league links