Behind Enemy Lines: Week 13 Q&A with Commanders Wire

With a Week 13 matchup between the New York Giants and Washington on tap, we go behind enemy lines for a chat with Commanders Wire.

The New York Giants (7-4) and Washington Commanders (7-5) will square off on Sunday afternoon in a Week 13 matchup at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Giants opened the week as 2.5-point home favorites but that has completely shifted and is now +2 as of this writing.

With this matchup on tap, Giants Wire took the opportunity to hold a Q&A with Commanders Wire managing editor Bryan Manning.

Commanders WR Jahan Dotson’s targets have gone way down since his return

Part of it is Washington’s commitment to the run.

Through the first four weeks of the 2022 NFL season, Washington Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson looked like the leading contender for NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Dotson had 12 receptions for 152 yards and four touchdowns in his first four games. He was named Pepsi rookie of the week for his performance in a Week 1 win over the Jaguars.

Then, in a Week 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Dotson injured his hamstring. He would miss the next five games, and a lot would happen during those five weeks.

Dotson returned in the Week 10 upset win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He received one target in the game, making a catch for 14 yards. Unfortunately for Dotson, a lack of targets has been a theme since his return.

In three games since his return, Dotson has four targets. He has two receptions for 27 yards.

Some point to Washington’s change at quarterback for Dotson’s lack of targets. Dotson worked with Carson Wentz a lot in the offseason, and the pair had developed a strong rapport. Taylor Heinicke has been starting since Week 7 and often targets Washington’s No. 1 wideout, Terry McLaurin.

The quarterback change isn’t why Dotson only has two receptions. It’s the game plan. The Commanders are running more with Heinicke under center, meaning fewer targets for everyone in the passing game.

Heinicke discussed his connection with Dotson this week.

“Yeah, obviously we want to give him the ball more, but we’re running the ball like we are doing and what Terry’s doing, some guys aren’t gonna get the ball,” Heinicke said. “I kind of said this several weeks ago, when you have a bunch of weapons like this, someone’s gonna get shorthanded, and from week to week it might be one person or another.”

This isn’t coachspeak from Heinicke. For the first time in a while, the Commanders do have multiple legit offensive weapons. But with a focus on running the ball and dominating the time of possession, there aren’t going to be a lot of targets.

Head coach Ron Rivera echoed a similar sentiment but believes Dotson will receive more opportunities.

“I think a lot of that has to do with what we’re doing,” Rivera said. “It was mentioned that we’re playing a little bit more 12 and 13 personnel, and that’s by design. So it’s going to cut some of those opportunities for Jahan. He’s still important and very integral into what we’re doing, and he’s developing, and he’s growing, and we all know he’s got the potential to be a very, very good player for us. And it’s just a matter of time before you see him start getting some more opportunities.”

There’s nothing wrong with Dotson. He will get his opportunities again, but right now, the Commanders have a winning formula and will continue to follow that blueprint until they are forced to change.

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Commanders make three roster moves Saturday

The Washington Commanders made some roster moves ahead of Week 12.

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As expected with the personnel news the Commanders announced Friday; there were corresponding roster moves made Saturday as well.

With Dax Milne being unavailable for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, the Commanders elevated WR Alex Erickson up from the Practice Squad. 

Erickson will be the final wide receiver, filling the role that’s been held by Milne this season. It had been reported that Penn State rookie Jahan Dotson would be returning punts in the absence of Milne. Perhaps Erickson may be returning punts himself with Dotson being the backup punt returner? Erickson does have NFL returning experience, and perhaps the Commanders’ coaching staff determined they would rather utilize his experience in the role.

Saturday also saw the Commanders release Troy Apke from the practice squad. This is the third time this season the Commanders have released Apke who was a fourth-round draft choice (109) out of Penn State in the 2018 NFL draft.

The third roster move Saturday saw the Commanders sign DT David Bada from the International Pathway Program to the practice squad. Bada, age 27, is listed at 6-foot-4, 293 pounds. Adding Bada to the practice squad, the team had to release someone, and that lot fell apparently to Apke. 

Commanders rule out St-Juste and Milne vs. Falcons

Losing Benjamin St-Juste and Dax Milne for Sunday creates two big openings for the Commanders. How will they replace them?

Friday was a not a good news day for the Washington Commanders.

The team ruled out both Benjamin St-Juste and Dax Milne for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Naturally, the first thought that comes to mind is the size of Falcons receiver Drake London. St-Juste certainly has the most size and best range of any of the Commanders defensive backs. The loss of St-Juste against the Falcons should not be minimized.

Of note, the team elevated corner Danny Johnson from the practice squad on Oct. 24 and Johnson has seen action in each game from Weeks 8-11. Johnson only played two defensive snaps against the Colts and none against the Eagles. However, he was in on 50 defensive snaps against the Vikings and 11 last week in Houston. So, Johnson is the likely candidate to see more action against the Falcons.

Corner Rachad Wildgoose has not seen action on defense since the Colts game and rookie corner Christian Holmes has seen only special teams action this year, with the lone exception being six snaps on defense against the Eagles in Week 3.

Washington does have three other defensive backs on their practice squad, were they to determine to elevate one up to the roster this week. Corn Elder has seen regular season action with the Panthers (2018-20) and last season with Washington. Texas Tech rookie Damarcus Fields saw action for the Saints on special teams in two games earlier this season and was signed to the Commanders’ practice squad on Oct. 26.

Troy Apke was released from the practice squad, but brought back to the squad this season and has the most regular-season game experience of those available to be elevated to the roster.

With Milne being out Sunday, possibly rookie Jahan Dotson will be called upon to return punts. Dotson started out quite well, with four receiving touchdowns in the first four games, but pulled a hamstring and missed the next five consecutive games.

The Commanders did receive some good news Friday. Defensive end James Smith-Williams who is producing his finest year thus far in 2022, had been out of practice with an illness, but he returned Friday and is expected to play against the Falcons.

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Commanders OC Scott Turner likes his offensive skill position leaders

Scott Turner is pleased with several of his offensive playmakers.

Commanders offensive coordinator Scott Turner told the press Thursday, he likes how quarterback Taylor Heinicke can bounce back after a bad play or bad series.

“I think he just has a short memory. I mean, he’s a confident guy. He understands like a lot of good players that, you make a mistake, you move on, don’t let it affect you. And he does the same when he has a big play positively. You move on to the next play. You never get too high, never get too low.”

Turner even alluded to Heinicke’s key interception when Washington led the Vikings in the fourth quarter before losing 20-17.

“Like I’ve said about him after the Vikings game when obviously it was negative or anything that happens, he’s gonna walk that line, and I don’t want him to lose his stinger, and you want him to be aggressive, and that’s why everyone loves him. We coach around the other stuff and you want him to be a good decision-maker, but I want him to play confident and loose, and that’s what you’re gonna get from him sometimes.”

Turner was asked regarding Heinicke being given advice concerning the starter at times being undecided.

“I don’t worry about that. I mean, Taylor’s been through a lot in his career, so he doesn’t really take much for granted. He’s an ultimate team player, so he’s ready to go whatever his role is. Obviously, he’s a competitor, and he wants to play. He’s gonna be starting this week and coach will obviously make those decisions as we go down the road. I don’t worry about him with that stuff. He’s good to go.”

Turner likes that not only is wide receiver Terry McLaurin fast and athletic but also a physical player.

“He might get hit as soon as the ball gets on him. But, there’s a high level of confidence that I have that he’s going to end up with the ball at the end of it. That’s a physical route where guys, a lot of times they try to sit inside or they play it, and with his speed, toughness, and competitiveness, he finds a way.”

“Obviously Terry does a nice job on it (slant), but you want to mix up stuff with the route tree. Obviously, the slant we ran, the go routes complement those. If you’re going to just sit inside, you’re going to get run by, you know what I mean? So, Terry’s obviously done a nice job with those over the course of the year. He had caught a great one in the third quarter of this past game. So, Terry can do it all.”

The depth at wide receiver is something on which Turner feels he can rely.

“I think you feel good that everyone can make plays and we designed stuff for certain guys, but if it gets a second and third read, you still feel good that the play’s going to be made. [WR] Dyami [Brown] had that unbelievable catch that set up [K] Joey [Slye]’s career-long kick before the half. [WR] Jahan [Dotson] had the big catch that got us down inside the five and I think that was their only catches of the game. And you know, you like to get those guys the ball more. ”

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What we learned from the Eagles’ Monday night loss to the Commanders

As we head towards Week 11 at Indianapolis, here’s what we learned from the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Washington Commanders.

The Eagles will return to the practice field Thursday as the team prepares for a critical Sunday matchup on the road against the Colts.

The NFL world is still reacting to the Commanders’ 32-21 upset win on Monday night. Philadelphia will have to adjust after placing Dallas Goedert, Avonte Maddox, and Marlon Tuipulotu on injured reserve with various injuries.

Teams can learn a lot from a loss, and we’ve highlighted four key takeaways and what we learned from Monday night.

Studs and duds from Eagles 32-21 loss to the Commanders

Here’s a look at the studs and duds from the Philadelphia Eagles Week 10 loss to the Washington Commanders

The Eagles are dealing with an unfamiliar feeling after suffering the first loss of their 2022 regular season after a disastrous showing against Washington.

Philadelphia didn’t make enough plays on offense and was physically outmanned by the Commanders on defense for the first time this season.

Here are the studs and duds from Monday night.

National reactions: 8-1 Eagles exposed after suffering first loss to the Commanders

Here’s what the national media is saying after the Philadelphia Eagles fell to 8-1 on the season after suffering their first loss to the Washington Commanders in Week 10

It wasn’t Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson, but the Washington Commanders shook up the NFL world for 24 hours after a 32-21 upset win over the then-undefeated Eagles.

The Commanders held the ball for nearly 50 minutes and were more physical than Philadelphia, dominating the line of scrimmage on offense while doing enough to keep one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses grounded.

Washington provided a recipe for success against the Eagles, who’ll look to adjust on defense with Jordan Davis out two more games.

Here’s the national reaction to Monday night’s loss.

What the Eagles are saying after 32-21 loss to the Commanders

Here’s the postgame reaction and quotes from the Philadelphia Eagles after their 32-21 loss to the Washington Commanders

The Eagles are dealing with an unfamiliar feeling after suffering the first loss of their 2022 regular season after a disastrous showing against Washington.

Philadelphia didn’t make enough plays on offense and was physically outmanned by the Commanders on defense for the first time this season.

The Eagles are on a short week and need to mentally rebound ahead of a trip to Indianapolis to face the rebuilding Colts.

Here’s what the Birds are saying ahead of Wednesday’s walkthrough.

Eagles snap count vs. Commanders: Breakdown, observations from Week 10

Here’s a look at the snap count and playing time usage from the Philadelphia Eagles’ 32-21 loss to the Washington Commanders

The Eagles are now 8-1 on the season and looking to rebound from a shocking Monday night loss to the scrappy Washington Commanders.

Philadelphia will now adjust and look towards a Sunday matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, and we’re breaking down the snap counts from Monday’s loss.