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Daily Slop - 30 Jan 24: It shouldn’t be long now; Commanders about to finalize search for head coach

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

Washington Commanders v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

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Commanders zero in on coordinators from playoff teams

The Commanders will be busy, having interviewed two candidates Monday and another three scheduled for Tuesday. They had previously interviewed Houston Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik last week and their current offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy, two weeks ago.

Ben Johnson

Many in the NFL have long anticipated Johnson would get this job. However, multiple sources said, his hire is not a foregone conclusion in Washington. Seattle, the only other coaching vacancy, remains interested in Johnson as well.

Teams want him because of his offensive acumen: In his two seasons as Detroit’s coordinator, the Lions are a combined second in yards per game and third in points.

More than X’s and O’s, new Commanders general manager Adam Peters said leadership will be the No. 1 trait they desire. Those who have worked with Johnson say he’s a clear communicator. One opposing assistant coach considered Johnson “innovative.”

Aaron Glenn

Multiple sources, who either coached Glenn or coached with him, consider him a strong leader. He played corner in the NFL, a position that’s typically not one of leadership for an entire team, but that’s the trait that clearly would draw him to Washington. Chris Spielman’s insight in this area would help as well.

Dan Quinn

Multiple people who played for Quinn, coached under him or worked in the same organization have raved about his ability to lead, with one of his former coaches saying he set the standard for a team as well as any coach he has been around. One current assistant coach, whose team has faced Dallas, praised Quinn for adjusting his scheme over the years.

Quinn also remains among Seattle’s possible choices, having interviewed with the Seahawks.

Anthony Weaver

One person who has worked with Weaver said he has “great presence” and can be “tough but fair.”

Since he joined the Ravens’ staff three years ago, Baltimore ranks a combined third in rushing yards per game and fourth in yards per carry. But it slipped in both categories this season — 14th in yards per game and 25th in yards per carry.

Mike Macdonald

Like Johnson, he has drawn widespread praise for how his side of the ball played all season. Also like Johnson, he’s expected to interview with Seattle.

Macdonald climbed from a coaching intern with Baltimore in 2014 to its defensive coordinator starting in 2022. In his two seasons as coordinator, the Ravens were a combined second in scoring and sixth in yards.

Even in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City, the Ravens allowed only 17 points and none in the second half. In two postseason games, the Ravens allowed a combined 27 points and only 266 yards per game — 56 fewer per game than anyone else.

One person familiar with Macdonald considered him a “great communicator and organized” with a reputation for maximizing his group’s talent — evidenced by how they altered their looks to attack various offenses.

Bobby Slowik

Stroud threw 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions as the Texans went from 3-13-1 in 2022 to 10-7 under first-year coach DeMeco Ryans.

Slowik spent six seasons with San Francisco, starting off as a defensive quality control coach and eventually working over to offense and ending up as the 49ers’ pass game coordinator. But he also has an analytics bent.

Washington Post (paywall)

How Lions OC Ben Johnson became the hottest name this NFL hiring cycle

Cam Sexton is still surprised Johnson turned to coaching after their years together as quarterbacks at the University of North Carolina. “If you asked me back then, what would Ben Johnson be doing today, I would [have said] he would most likely be working on the Artemis program at NASA,” Sexton said.

“Ben really is uncommonly bright,” said John Shoop, his offensive coordinator and position coach at UNC in 2007. “But … he also has common sense and interpersonal skills to go with it.”

Johnson made the jump to the NFL in 2012, when the Dolphins brought him on as an offensive assistant. He rose through the ranks to assistant quarterbacks coach, then coached the tight ends, then wide receivers. It was in Miami that Johnson met Lions Coach Dan Campbell, who was elevated from tight ends coach to interim coach in October 2015. Johnson also added to his list of coaching influences, learning from former coordinators Mike Sherman, Bill Lazor and Clyde Christensen, as well as former head coach Adam Gase and Zac Taylor, a former Dolphins assistant who’s now the Cincinnati Bengals’ coach.

“I’ve tried to hire Ben many, many, many times,” Taylor said in 2022. “He’s one of those guys you want on your staff because he’s brilliant.”

[In Detroit], Johnson began to run an offense he has described as “calculated” with an emphasis on “speed and attitude,” which can “stress the defense in as many ways as possible.” He pulled from his own influences: some West Coast principles, a mix of run-pass options and a more concise verbiage to help control the tempo.

Johnson said his game plans are never truly done; he often adds plays up until game day each week. He also listens to his players and regularly considers their feedback, as Goff noted. He emphasizes technique and fundamentals and has followed a principle Shoop taught him at UNC: Make the same things look different and different things look the same.

“It’s about conflict of assignment,” Shoop said. “… To a defense, he makes the same runs look like play-action passes and play-action passes look like the runs, and it just paralyzes that mid-level of defense.”

Commanders 2023 season review | Safety

Questions to be answered

— What’s next for Curl: As stated before, Curl has been an important part of the Commanders’ defense for the last four years. He has more tackles than any other Washington player in that span, but his versatility, knowledge and leadership have been boons for the team. Now, Curl is entering free agency and is likely going to be one of the top players on the market at the position. The team does have the cap space to re-sign him, but the new regime will need to decide how he fits into whatever system they want to implement on defense.

— Can Martin continue developing: It was hard to pin down Martin’s exact role early in the season. There was no doubt that he was a talented player, and the team tried to utilize that by putting him in multiple spots. But as the season wore on, Martin began to settle in and put together some solid performances. In the last five games, Martin recorded 31 tackles, 16 of which were solo. Martin’s versatility is going to be an asset going forward, and if he continues to develop, he could end up proving that he is worthy of the second-round pick the team used on him last April.

Riggo’s Rag

5 defensive prospects the Commanders should monitor at 2024 Senior Bowl

The Commanders need some fresh defensive blood this offseason...

Commanders should monitor Ty’Ron Hopper

  • Linebacker | Missouri Tigers
  • What to look for: Deep ball skills

Ty’Ron Hopper is an outstanding athlete who makes plays all over the field. He is something of a hybrid - a bit undersized as a traditional linebacker, and a little bigger than a normal safety. But he has the skills to play either position.

The Missouri prospect moves extremely well, knifing through bigger linemen to make plays in the backfield. But his length and speed allow him to drop into coverage and be a force in the middle of the field.

Hopper will make plays at or near the line. I expect that he will improve in that area as he gains more experience in diagnosing running plays. I am not concerned about his ability to stay with tight ends or even running backs on short throws or about his ability to drop into zones.

I’m eager to see what he can do when left on an island in space. I see a lot of Kam Chancellor in Hopper.

We won’t know what type of defensive philosophy the Washington Commanders’ new coaches will favor. However, there is ever-increasing room in today’s game for hybrid linebacker-safeties, and Hopper would seem to be an ideal candidate for such a role.

That means he may occasionally be tasked with playing deeper than a linebacker and stick with wide receivers 20 yards or more downfield. It is not something he has done as a college linebacker. If Hopper can add that deep-field ability to his impressive play near the line of scrimmage, he could be an all-purpose enforcer.


Podcasts & videos

Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Head Coach Candidate Ben Johnson and Mike Macdonald Coordinator Projections

NFL league links


Washington Post (paywall)

Tired of the Chiefs and Taylor Swift? Sorry. There’s no way out.

There is no end in sight. They’re not leaving. The dynasty that has reigned over the NFL for the past six seasons. The cultural moment that has saturated the league these past four months. Neither will go away quietly. The consistent excellence of one has spawned the all-consuming dominance of the other, and so together the amalgamated power that is the Kansas City Swifts are coming to take over your Super Bowl.

The Chiefs, the reigning champions who are now heading to a fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years, had appeared to lose their swagger during stretches of the long regular season. For critics waiting on their demise, it was too tempting to attach their tailspin to the beginning of Taylor Swift’s very public romance with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Just her mere appearance in suite boxes, for games in Kansas City and on the road, would top daily search trends and spawn fan fiction that disguised itself as news coverage. Fans wanting to crown a new champion, and primitives uncomfortable in watching a woman receive all the attention in their man league, formed an alliance of their own. Rooting against the team so that the pop star, and her fan base that colonized the sport, would find somewhere else to linger on Sundays.

But nothing can stop this football team, nor the impact of a singular woman with wavy, blond bangs and red-stained lips. While both are too muscular and mighty to be pushed aside, hers is a particularly ferocious power, gaining in strength as traditionalist fans, sports media and even well-meaning football players accept that the only way to survive the chokehold that her cultural phenomenon has on the league is to tap out and submit to it.

Over the Cap

Creating Cap Space by Extending Players with Void Years

We have a record of 73 contracts that are set to automatically void in 2024. I wanted to look at just how much could be saved by extending players before their contract voids and see what teams can save the most by retaining these players.

No team can save more than the Vikings who can prevent over $30 million in salary cap charges from hitting the cap in 2024 by extending three players. Kirk Cousins has $28.5 million in dead money staring the Vikings in the face. If they decide to run it back with him they will only need to account for $10.25 million plus whatever other cap charges a new contract would hold. Danielle Hunter has nearly $15 million hitting the cap and the team could save $7.5 million with an extension. Finally the team could prevent $5.1 million from accelerating from Marcus Davenport’s contract.