Commanders will get large test from Cowboys’ front seven

It’s the Dallas front seven that is Washington’s biggest challenge in Week 4.

“Dak Prescott is going to be out of action at least four weeks with an injury to his throwing hand? Oh, Dallas is absolutely going to go 0-4 in that stretch.”

So, thought most everyone that isn’t a diehard Cowboys fan. Two weeks later, the Cowboys defense has shown it they who are the backbone of the team in Dallas.

No doubt, Commanders, Eagles and Giants fans wrote off the Cowboys, and now at 2-1, winning both games started by Cooper Rush at quarterback, we now know we wrote off the Cowboys too soon.

The Commanders travel to Dallas for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff in Week 4. In the last two weeks, it is the Commanders who have looked nothing short of terrible in the first half of both games being outscored 46-0 by the Lions and Eagles. The Commanders yielded 17 QB hits to the Eagles.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ front seven defense has led the way in their victories over the Bengals and Giants. Often in team sports, it is matchups that are crucial in making a difference. If the Commanders’ offensive line is no better than they were the first two halves against the Lions and the Eagles, it will be the third consecutive halftime blowout the Commanders will suffer.

On the flip side, the Cowboys running game splitting time between Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 178 yards in 28 carries prior to Cooper Rush taking a knee on the last two snaps. That means Dallas averaged 6.35 yards each time Pollard or Elliott carried the ball. Consequently, the clock was running, and the Dallas defense was getting rested, permitting Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence to be energized to rush Daniel Jones for 5 sacks and 9 QB hits.

The Eagles’ Brandon Graham was the NFC defensive player of the week because of his huge success against the Commanders in Week 3. DeMarcus Lawrence against the NY Giants accumulated 6 solo tackles, 3 QB sacks, 3 TFL and 3 QB hits.

The Commanders’ offensive line will also have to prepare for and execute well against the explosive Micah Parsons.

What can offensive line coach John Matsko do to improve the Commanders’ performance enough in one week?

Around the NFC East in Week 3

The Eagles stand alone atop the NFC East with a 3-0 record.

The Eagles and Cowboys were big winners in Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season, as the four NFC East teams faced off against each other.

Both the Eagles and Cowboys not only won their games against the Commanders and Giants respectively, but both wins were on the road.

  • Eagles 3-0
  • Cowboys 2-1
  • Giants 2-1
  • Commanders 1-2

 

 

 

 

Dak Prescott will ‘probably not’ play in Week 4 vs. Commanders

It looks like the Commanders will face Cooper Rush on Sunday.

When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott broke the thumb on his right throwing hand in a Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many fans speculated the team’s season was over. After all, Prescott would need to go on injured reserve and return sometime later in the season, which, by that point, the Cowboys would already be out of contention.

In true Jerry Jones fashion, he said not so fast. He refused to put Prescott on IR and said he would be back soon. Prescott would miss Weeks 2 and 3, with backup Cooper Rush leading the Cowboys to wins over the Bengals and Giants.

In Week 4, the Cowboys host division rival Washington.

Could Prescott be back on the field against the Commanders? According to Prescott himself, not likely.

“Nah, probably not,” Prescott told Lorenzo Reyes of USA TODAY Sports. “But Week 5 against the Rams? That’s the one I’m looking at.”

You could look at this two ways. One, Prescott has such little regard for Washington that he thinks Rush can lead the Cowboys to another win before his triumphant return in Week 5.

Or, at 2-1, Dallas believes it is in a good spot with Prescott out and is playing it safe with his return.

Either way, it looks like Washington’s defense will see Cooper Rush on Sunday.

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Doc Walker shocked by Commanders’ weak performance

Doc Walker puts a lot of blame for Sunday’s loss on Ron Rivera and Scott Turner.

Former Washington tight end for two Super Bowl teams, Rick “Doc” Walker, was shocked Sunday watching the Commanders lose 24-8 to the Eagles.

Walker was the scheduled guest on the “Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast Monday. Here are some of Walker’s observations and opinions of Sunday’s game.

During the conversation, Walker questioned the offensive line, Carson Wentz, Scott Turner and Ron Rivera. He praised the three pass breakups by Benjamin St-Juste.

“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what was going on because the Commanders were manhandled.”

“We really got manhandled; I felt bad for them… I was embarrassed; that’s all I can say about it.  I am hopeful we can get somebody who can block this kid number 11 (Micah Parsons) for Dallas and see if we have a chance.”

“They (Scott Turner, Ron Rivera) didn’t sense that Carson was out of sync, that he couldn’t handle the immediate pressure. He held on to the ball instead of throwing it away. It was a jailbreak on him.”

“One of our best guys 82 (Logan Thomas); it was like he was not even in the game plan. We were out of sync and didn’t recover. With Turner on the sidelines, you’ve got to feel it. You’ve got to see that something is not happening, and how do we fix it?”

“When you got two big horses, 320 pounds in front of you, you don’t expect them to get beat like a turnstile. It was inexcusable. You cannot be beaten that way after the defense gives you a couple of stops (early).”

“Oh, by the way, the game is Sunday. All week you are supposed to peak on Sunday, not Monday. Not at the podium; you are supposed to peak on the field, on game day.”

“Why would it change? The same guy is making the decisions (Dan Snyder). I don’t have to ‘think’ anything (about Ron Rivera). Everybody has a record; it’s documented.”

Sheehan mentioned how an NFL team can’t be outscored 46-0 two consecutive weeks in the first half. Walker responded by asking, And he (Rivera) got pi**** off because he was asked about Jimmy Garappolo?”

“It’s ironic that both guys we got up front (Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner) are once again from Carolina. So clearly there is a soft spot for people who have been in Ron’s past. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is best for the program.  And right now it is blowing up in his face because they are not.”

“As bad as it looks and feels you still got a shot. But you are not going to be able to talk your way out of this one. The people you train are going to have to look like they have been coached.”

Walker called for Chris Paul to be inserted into getting playing time. He stressed the jury is out on the guys up front. “You drafted him (Paul). He made your team; coach him up! Get him in there. It can’t be worse.”

“That’s the problem; we get stuck on people here as if you have no alternative. If you have no alternative, that is your fault (referring to Rivera who has control of player personnel).

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Carson Wentz excited to be a Commander

Carson Wentz sees big things for Commanders’ offense, and is excited to play Eagles Sunday.

Carson Wentz is calm on the outside but excited on the inside.

His emotions have to be churning somewhat as he prepares to face the Eagles at FedEx Field Sunday.

“I’m excited for it just because of the nature of the game. Obviously, you know, they’ve started hot. We know where we’re at and everything. It’s a divisional rivalry, all of those things. I’ve been a part of this one. I know the emotion that goes into it from the other side. So, I’m excited for it.”

Wentz would rather talk about playing for the Commanders and offensive coordinator Scott Turner.

“Obviously last week, the way we started was pretty bad, myself included. I do think just the way we can attack. I think we’ve shown we’re capable of being an explosive offense with the way we can spread the ball around, create mismatches. I think we got a lot of speed, a lot of playmakers that make my life easier. It has been fun when we see that we’re clicking out there, it has been fun. We just gotta find ways to be consistent when we’re doing it.”

He has one home game under his belt in burgundy and gold but is looking forward to this one Sunday.

“It’ll be fun. I do know it is exciting playing at home here. Week 1 was a lot of fun, you know, being at home there at FedEx. I’m sure the Eagles fans will travel well like they always do, but hopefully, we’re still dominating the stands there, but either way, it’ll be fun.”

When Wentz was asked about going up against Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, he didn’t take the bait.

“Again, we’re preparing to play their defense, you know, they got a good defense. I know our defense will be up for the task of stopping him in that explosive offense that they have there. But yeah, I don’t put a lot of stock into that. It’s a new team. A lot of new faces over there, so yeah, it’ll be a fun one either way though.”

Regarding the absence of the offense in the first half against Detroit, “I think we’ve shown that it just takes one play. I think, you know, for us last game not getting a first down those first couple drives and just missing here or there just one little thing. If we can just find a way to force the issue and find a first down. Create one play, one chunk play to kind of spark a little momentum and spark a little bit of that. We gotta find a way to do that.”

Hating to see center Chase Roullier injured was difficult for Wentz.

“Seeing him go down in the game, I think was the second to last play, it really made my heart hurt for him and, and the type of guy that he is not just for this team as a player, but who he is as a person and how hard he’s worked. So, definitely prayers up for him and I think things will look different in that regard front, but at the same time, I know those guys will be prepared, whoever it is and guys will be ready. They’re coached well.”

 

 

When they last met: Washington and Philadelphia

The last meeting between these two teams is remembered more for what happened after the game.

“When they last met” is an ongoing series during the NFL season, recalling the preceding game between Washington and the next opponent on the Commanders’ schedule.

Philadelphia 20, Washington 16 – Week 17, January 02, 2022

Leading by halftime by 9 points, the Washington Football Team could not score in the second half, falling to the Philadelphia Eagles 20-16 at Fed Ex Field in Landover.

Washington moved the ball quite well in the first half with drives of 67, 63, 54 and 57 yards resulting in a 11-yard touchdown by Jaret Patterson and three Joey Slye field goals for a Washington 16-7 halftime lead.

However, four second-half offensive possessions resulted in Washington moving the ball -5, 9, 30 and 55 yards. The final WFT drive began on the Washington 25 with the Eagles having taken a 20-16 lead with 2:21 remaining in the game.

Taylor Heinicke completed five consecutive passes moving the ball to the Philadelphia 35. On second down, Heinicke connected with Patterson to the Eagles’ 30. Then Heinicke again found Patterson for 10 yards to the Eagles’ 20 with 30 seconds remaining.

However, on first down, Heinicke attempted to connect with John Bates in the end zone but was intercepted by Rodney McLeod, sealing the come-from-behind win for the Eagles. Washington had built first-half leads of 10-0 and 16-7, yet the Eagles responded, outscoring Washington 13-0 in the second half.

Immediately following the game, as both teams were leaving the field, a security railing being leaned on by several Eagles’ fans collapsed, leaving the fans on the ground and Jalen Hurts whom the Eagles fans were attempting to reach.

 

Chris Cooley: Commanders miss Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle

Washington fans can certainly relate to Chris Cooley’s film review.

“They have a ton to correct,” said former Washington tight end Chris Cooley.

Cooley was a guest on Kevin Sheehan’s Wednesday podcast providing a film review of the Commanders’ 36-27 loss to Detroit. He disagreed with Ron Rivera that the defense missed a few explosive plays, feeling Detroit could have made even more big plays. The defense was a mess.

Sheehan pointed out that under Ron Rivera, Washington has been down 25 of the 35 games and in most of those have been down double digits in the first half.

Cooley felt an issue early was Carson Wentz took too long to get into a passing rhythm. He faulted Scott Turner for not providing quick rhythm throws, the offensive line for not protecting well, and Wentz for taking too deep of drops, moving too much in the pocket, and didn’t see the couple of receivers he did have open. He praised Wentz for bouncing back in having a good second half and Terry McLaurin for his effort in chasing down a long pass reception from Wentz.

“I didn’t feel like Turner got any of the first four drives going. I didn’t love the lack of balance I thought he had going early against Jacksonville…I don’t think they had balance to get into 3rd & 2. I still feel like they are going to struggle to run the football, don’t feel like they are good enough up front. I don’t feel like they are committed enough to run the football.”

Defensively, Cooley was flabbergasted at how badly the Commanders played the fly sweep which St. Brown ran for 58 yards with Washington having narrowed the 22-point lead to 22-15. He called out Jamin Davis, Darrick Forrest and William Jackson as simply clueless as to what was transpiring on the play. Cooley was aghast that St. Brown was uncontested, declaring this is not a new play in the NFL.

The D’Andre Swift 3rd & 15 touchdown play? Cooley clearly questioned why Washington was rushing six and dropping only five when the Lions needed 15 for a first down. He called out how Swift could fall down, pick himself up and still easily score, citing that William “Jackson was loafing.” Cooley said the Commanders’ defense on that play made Swift look like he was Barry Sanders.

Cooley said the zone run by Swift early was an embarrassing display of defense. “Their linebackers are terrible in terms of reacting and instinct. There were actually more big plays out there.”

“They don’t talk well, they don’t communicate well, they are not good enough at the line of scrimmage and they are not covering well on both levels.

“I don’t think they are as good up front as they have been in the past.” Then he pointed out how the backers are not filling gaps, and they are getting gashed in the run defense.

“I think Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle were good players and they were consistent run-stop players. Why don’t you keep those guys? When you get 5th and 6th round picks that develop, just keep them. From what was an unbelievably built defensive line, they are now not that.”

Cooley pointed out the defense had zero tackles for loss in the run game. He added the game film was not fun to watch.

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Rick ‘Doc’ Walker: ‘Detroit was tougher’ than Commanders

Doc Walker had plenty to say about the Commanders and the coaching staff Monday. He’s not wrong.

Former Washington tight end Rick “Doc” Walker still loves Washington NFL football.

Walker still wants to win as well. There are times like Monday when Walker is a good listen. While a guest on the “Kevin Sheehan Show” podcast, Walker had some compelling/provocative things to say about the Commanders’ 36-27 loss to the Lions in Week 2. Here are a few excerpts.

“They don’t seem to be clear about what it is they are trying to accomplish.  It’s like I don’t know who is really in charge. I have no idea. From a conceptual standpoint, we keep leaning on our defensive line, and that is good. But we have seen other people destroy us, disrupt us and we don’t seem to have that level of disruption.”

“It would seem we have to create more immediate presence through blitzing or play more man coverage than zone, to where we dictate the outcome. We seem to be a punching bag. I, for the life of me, don’t understand why we don’t contest our opponents’ passes.”

“Our opponents are catching balls uncontested. We are giving them too many junk plays, and that is confusion, disorganization, or incompetence.”

“If Jackson (William) is so good at what he does (man coverage) let him do what he does well. Same thing with 52 (Jamin Davis). ‘Well, he’s really athletic and fast.’ Well then, when in doubt, why don’t you have him rush the passer?”

“I’m telling you, it’s their job (coaches). They selected him (first round) and then said, ‘Oops, we want him to do something different. Oops, we are changing that.’ Come on, man. It’s a classic clown show act! You figure it out, and then we will follow you. The kid seems to be confused. It appears to be a mixed message on the defensive side of the room.”

They (Detroit) were tougher. They were more aggressive. That’s how they train. They were exactly what we thought they would be. I thought we had more talent, but we couldn’t get it cranked up. When we did, it wasn’t enough. And then we became analytics and all that other crap that goes into it. At that point, you can stick a fork in yourself.”

“It’s the new way out. It’s the new thing, the new jive. You can just say, ‘It’s the Analytics.’ Oh, ok, He (Ron Rivera) is really lucky that there are a lot of people who are not in that press crew.”

“We had Carter (DeAndre) last year, and he was a threat. But that was not a high enough priority for us. We figured it out. Maybe the Analytics didn’t allow us to think he had a value.”

“What matters is are we going to have people that can come up and fundamentally tackle people? This is the worst (pause), I don’t even want to call them linebackers. I don’t know what you call them, But I do know this, the guy that they don’t want to sign (Landon Collins) tackles better than anybody on their defense right now except 22 (Darrick Forrest). The best they have been is when he was at his best. They need an offensive lineman and a guy who tackles, and they are playing badass.”

Regarding the Commanders not bringing in more defensive help, “Yea, the Analytics said they didn’t need anybody.”

“Forget the publicity, forget where they went to college and all that crap. Just look at how they (Detroit) performed. People are different than we are. We get close, but we don’t get the prize. Our guy 90 (Montez Sweat) who I consider a freakish guy, is really good but he doesn’t finish. He doesn’t get the desired results. He’s close; our guys are close.”

“Payne (Daron) is playing like he just got out of lockdown. You see that difference? That is the difference that you either have to be coached into that, punked into that, or forced into that. We don’t have THAT. ”

“We have good guys, they are doing a good job, but there is not canine in them that comes out. You don’t get gashed like that. It just doesn’t happen. There is a disconnection, a communication void that is going on. It’s as clear as day to me because I’ve been on winners.”

“Right now if this was a soap box this would be a best-seller; it would be a No.1 rated sitcom because that’s what it is, a sitcom. You think I’m laughin’; I’m not laughin’. It’s pitiful.”

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Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio in agreement on LB play

Ron Rivera agrees with Jack Del Rio’s comments from Thursday but remains positive and excited about Jamin Davis.

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera may have surprised some of the media Friday, but he made himself absolutely clear.

Rivera was asked if he saw defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s comments Thursday concerning Commanders’ linebacker Jamin Davis. In addition, he was asked if those comments “were necessary to get some better play out of Jamin?”

Though the two sharply disagreed earlier this year resulting in Del Rio being fined, in this instance, Rivera made it clear from the outset that he and Del Rio are on the same page regarding the play of the second-year linebacker out of Kentucky. Shouldn’t they be? They both were NFL linebackers, linebacker coaches, defensive coordinators and head coaches.

“Well, I think we know that Jack’s honest and it’s an honest assessment. You know, the guy (Davis) did have a really good training camp. He played very well and we would like to see him play better. I don’t disagree with it. Jamin played hard. He gave a great effort, but let’s play smarter. Let’s understand that we gotta use our techniques. I talked about it. We put him in a tough position, but we think he can do it. Now, use the technique and make that guy go up and around. Don’t lose your leverage. Those are the things that I think Jack was a little frustrated with because he had a good camp and he did play well.”

Rivera was then asked regarding Davis’ struggles against Jacksonville in Week 1.

“Going up against somebody a little bit different, some things that you anticipate certain things happening, but something else happens. Well, then you’ve gotta react and fall back to your techniques and he didn’t. But that tells us that we’ve gotta continue to work with him and continue to put him in positions where he can have success.”

Rivera spoke of sometimes inexperienced players can inadvertently have the game’s excitement result in their missing their techniques. “The excitement of the game. The way things happen, and it’s gonna happen. And it’s a thing where you just continue to rep it, continue to work it and continue to develop your craft and your skill.”

“I think that (the technique) was probably the biggest thing. If you sit there and you watch him, he backs up a little bit, opens up the underneath and the guy takes it. Now, if he pops his feet, stays active, plants that inside leg, and forces him up over the top, that’s exactly what we’re hoping to get out of that situation. It’s just, those are little detail things that you’ve gotta continue to develop and grow as a player. And at that point, that would’ve been a good opportunity to show the growth that we’re looking for and expecting from him.”

Rivera likened Davis to one of linebackers in Carolina years ago.
“We had a player in Carolina, [LB] Thomas Davis, who arguably could be a Hall of Famer, but you look at the beginning of his career and he made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of things that he had to learn and grow through, and fight through the injuries that he had. But, you see the same thing when you watch Jamin, you see the little detail things that he doesn’t quite get right now. But as he continues to work at it, and continues to grow and continues to develop, his skill set is gonna translate because the young man has good quickness, he’s got good speed and he’s got good natural strength. It’s just a matter of time.”

Rivera also was clear that he and Del Rio expect more from Davis now in his second year.

“The expectations are higher. You know what I’m saying? And those are our expectations. So, our expectations shouldn’t be higher than his. He should be wanting to be perfect every time. We just wanna make sure he understands and again, I have no issue with what Jack said, because again first of all, it’s just his honest assessment. Secondly, I agree with him. I agree that the young man had a good camp and I thought he played well in the preseason. I expect him to go out and do those things. Again, if it’s a base fundamental thing, issue like that, like it was, let’s get those corrected, don’t repeat the mistakes.”

 

 

When they last met: Washington and Detroit

Washington hasn’t been good in Detroit over the last decade.

“When they last met” is an ongoing series during the NFL season, recalling the preceding game between Washington and the next opponent on the Commanders’ schedule.

Detroit 30, Washington 27 – Week 10, November 15, 2020

Matt Prater’s 59-yard field goal on the game’s final play provided the Lions their 30-27 victory over the Washington Football Team at Ford Field in Detroit.

When Lions quarterback Matt Stafford connected with running back D’Andre Swift for a 15-yard touchdown, the Lions led comfortably 24-3 with 7:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Washington suddenly responded, scoring 21 consecutive points. J.D. McKissic’s 2-yard run with 2:30 remaining in the third gave Washington hope. Then Antonio Gibson scored from the 2 with 11:21 remaining to bring Washington to within 24-17. Another Washington drive resulted in Gibson scoring from the 5-yard line, tying the game with 6:09 showing on the game clock.

The Lions responded with Prater’s 37-yard field goal. But with 2:37 remaining in the game, it was time for Alex Smith to drive Washington to tie the game with 16 seconds remaining on Dustin Hopkins’ 41-yard field goal.

Astonishingly, the Washington defense could not keep the Lions from driving, setting up Prater’s 59-yard kick. From the 25, the defense surrendered a 10-yard pass. The next play was a Stafford incompletion leaving Detroit with only 6 seconds from their own 35.

However, rookie Chase Young had taken a cheap-shot shove into the back of Stafford, clearly late after Stafford’s incompletion, moving the ball 15 yards to the midfield stripe.

Washington defenders stood 10 yards off of Detroit receivers, so Stafford quickly connected with Marvin Jones for 9 yards to the Washington 41, in time for Prater to nail the game-winning field goal.

The Lions have won the last four games played in Detroit (2020, 2016, 2010, 2009).