I want to start by saying our hearts go out to the Leno family. Commanders Capitol and the Washington community will continue to pray for them following their family emergency.
Now to our weekly scheduled report, Washington ends their three-game losing streak with a 24-16 win against Atlanta. They move to 3-3 on the season with a matchup against the New York Giants up next. Every week, I'll write up a report highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Commanders' last game going into their next matchup.
Let's start off with the good. Considering the Commanders were on the verge of facing a four-game losing streak, it was a GOOD sign to see the team play hungry and with a lead for once. Granted, it was against Desmond Ridder, but the defense also kept Bijan Robinson in check. They also were able to pick off Ridder three times, which had never happened in his career. Winning the turnover battle was key to the Washington win streak last season, and will be key for any success this season.
Winning the turnover battle means the defense creating takeaways, but also for the offense to take care of the ball. Howell had another turnover-free output, which really makes that Bills game look more and more like an outlier each week. He finished 14/23 with three passing touchdowns and zero turnovers. He'll look to build on that performance with a favorable matchup against the Giants.
Despite the solid performance from Howell, there was still an issue with taking too many sacks. My co-host Lee and I talked about this on the Commanders Capitol podcast this week: every week we play an opponent whose defense has had an issue generating pressure in the 2023 season, it seems like they have no issues getting to Sam at least five times each game. The Falcons were able to sack Howell five times despite only 28 drop-backs and the outstanding performance of Cornelius Lucas in Charles Leno's absence.
While sacks given up is usually an offensive line stat, the Washington front is actually the eighth highest-graded unit in the league in terms of pass protection. You can also see by watching the tape where the sacks occurred, there was a common theme of Sam holding the ball too long. Whether it was due to receivers not getting open, plays taking too long to develop, or Sam always trying to make the big play, it's evident that all four of Howell, Bieniemy, the receivers, and the offensive line need to make adjustments starting in New York this week.
And now to the ugly. The "ugly" last week was the pass defense, and it's going to be the same this week. The Commanders have given up another 100+ yard game to another single receiver. This has been going since Week 2. It's getting to the point where receivers are circling their calendars waiting to play this secondary. While the secondary isn't star-studded, there is more than enough talent in that unit to not allow this to continue. This is where play-call and coverage schemes come into play.
Jack Del Rio has all eyes on him now as the defense has too much invested into it to be continuously playing subpar. Josh Harris and company have already made it clear what they expect going forward, and Del Rio might not make it to the end of the season at this rate. Hopefully, we don't see Darren Waller having a career day with Tyrod Taylor likely at the helm.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next edition of the Commanders Report: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
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