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MORSE: Week 9 Preview of the Washington Commanders

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
4 weeks ago at 9:59 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Week 9 Preview of the Washington CommandersBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this game I didn’t know a lot about the 3-5 Washington Commanders team.  All I knew was that QB Sam Howell is an up-and-coming QB; Washington had traded away both their young Defensive Ends, and according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the Commanders are interested in trading for Bill Belichick.

Offense 3WR 1TE
QB Sam Howell Jacoby Brissett
RB Brian Robinson Antonio Gibson Chris Rodriguez
WR Terry McLaurin Jamison Crowder Mitchell Tinsley
WR Jahan Dotson Dyami Brown Dax Milne IR
WR Curtis Samuel Q Byron Pringle
TE Logan Thomas Q John Bates Cole Turner Curtis Hodges
FB Alex Armah
LT Charles Leno Cornelius Lucas Braeden Daniels IR
LG Chris Paul Ricky Stromberg Q Saahdiq Charles IR
C Tyler Larsen Nick Gates
RG Sam Cosmi Ricky Stromberg Q
RT Andrew Wylie Trent Scott


Sam Howell has played very well the last three weeks.  He has thrown 7 TDs to just 1 INT.  The Commanders beat Atlanta in Atlanta.  Howell threw for 151 yards and 3 TDs.  Against the Giants in the Meadowlands, they lost 14-7 but Howell was 22 of 42 for 249 yards and his lone INT.  The Commanders nearly pulled off the upset of the Eagles at Washington but came up short 38-31.  Howell was brilliant going 29 of 38 for 319 yards and 4 TDs.    Howell is 2nd in the league in passing attempts, 6th in yardage, 6th in passing TDs.  On the negative side Howell is second in INT with 8 and he has been sacked 41 times already this season.  That is a combination of the O-line play and Howell holding onto the ball.

The new Offensive Coordinator is Eric Bieniemy and he brings the Andy Reid offensive system to Washington.  Bieniemy has been interviewed for several Head Coaching jobs in recent years.

The Wide Receiver group is very good in Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson.  Any one of these wideouts can take it to the house on any given play.  Samuel is listed as Questionable.  Antonio Gibson can catch the ball out of the backfield like he was a Wide Receiver.  He is being underutilized by Bieniemy.   Look for him to have a big impact against the Patriots LBs, who are not very good in coverage.  Dyami Brown is also a big play receiver but it’s tough for him to get on the field with all that talent ahead of him.

Logan Thomas is a big target but had been battling injuries all season.  He was listed as questionable but he was back Thursday to Full Participation.  Thomas has 29 catches on 49 targets for 280 yards, a 9.7 YPC and 3 TDs.  His backups are John Bates with 8 catches and Cole Turner with 7 receptions.

The Oline are surrendering an alarming 41 sacks on the year.   This offense is designed to get the ball out quickly.   They should be better at protecting Howell.  Left Tackle is Charles Leno entering his 9th year in the league.  The Boise State grad was drafted by the Bears in the 2014 draft in the 7th Round (236).  The 32-year-old Leno made the Pro-Bowl in 2018.  In 2021 he signed a one-year contract with Washington in 2021 and then added a 3-year extension after that.   Left Guard is manned by Chris Paul from Tulsa.  He was a 7th round (#230) pick last year by Washington and is now the starter.  Paul was beaten out by Shaadig Charles to start the season, but Charles ended up on IR and Paul was reinserted in his place.  Backup rookie Guard Ricky Stromberg is listed as questionable.  Center is the veteran Tyler Larsen.  Larsen layed for Utah State and went undrafted in 2014 when he signed with Miami but was cut before the season and did not play in 2014.  Same thing in 2015 when he signed a futures contract with Washington but was released in camp.  In 2016 he signed with Carolina and made the team only to be cut in October and re-signed to the Practice Squad, only to be elevated to the 53-man Roster in November.  He made his 1st start.  In 2017 he played in 14 games with 10 starts.  In 2021 he signed with the Commanders and later that season took over as the starting Center.   Right Guard Sam Cosmi attended Texas and was a 2nd round pick (#51) in 2021.   He started at Right Tackle for the Opening Game of 2021, but was injured and spent most of the season on IR.  He was hurt again in 2022 with a thumb injury in week 4.  He came back in week 8 and played with a club on his hand.  He did not start until week 13 and injured an ankle which kept him out the remainder of the season.  He was reinstated as a starter and has played all the games so far.  Cosmi is considered an above average player.  Washington is thin at Guard as both backups are hurt.  Right Tackle is played by Andrew Wylie.  In 2017 he went undrafted out of Eastern Michigan.  The 6’6” 309 lb tackle was in camp and on practice squads for 3 different teams in 2017 (IND, CLE, and LAC).  In December 2017 he signed with Kansas City, and they promoted him to the 53-man roster.  He was the starter for Super Bowl LVII which the Chiefs won 38-35 over the Eagles.  Wylie was highly criticized for his play. Washington signed him as a Free Agent in March 2023.

The backs are Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson, and Chris Rodriquez.  The running game is nothing to be worried about.  The last three games they ran 22 times for 72 yards against Atlanta with Robinson leading the way with 10 carries for 31 yards.  Versus the Giants they ran 19 times for 76 yards with Rodriguez leading the way with 7 carries for 31 yards.  Last week in the Eagles game they rushed 16 times for 84 yards and Robinson lead the way with 10 carries for 59 yards.  Gibson is more a receiving back than runningback.


The Defense is led by Jack Del Rio a close friend of Head Coach Ron Rivera.  The Commanders traded away their two top young defenders that had 11.5 sacks between them.  The Patriots O-line will not have to deal with Montez Sweatt (6.5 sacks) or Chase Young (5 sacks).  According to Rivera, “We have an opportunity to go out and play well. I do think there’s every opportunity in front of us. … It’s an opportunity to see what else we have. It’s an opportunity to go out and win football games using different guys.”   I throw out the BS card, that I what I call tanking.

The Commander’s Defense was ranked #29 in the league and that was with Sweatt and Young playing.  According to Pro Football Database the Commanders were 22nd against the run and 29th versus the pass.  This is by far the worst defense the Patriots will be playing all season.


Defense Base 4-3 D
LDE James Smith-Williams Efe Obada KJ Henry
LDT Daron Payne John Ridgeway Curtis Brooks IR
RDT Jonathan Allen Phidarian Mathis David Bada IR
RDE Casey Toohill Andre Jones Shaka Toney SUSP
WLB Khaleke Hudson De’Jon Harris
MLB David Mayo Cody Barton IR Drew White O
SLB Jamin Davis
LCB Kendall Fuller Danny Johnson Jartavius Martin Christian Holmes
SS Kamren Curl Jeremy Reaves IR Troy Apke IR
FS Percy Butler Q Terrell Burgess Darrick Forrest IR
RCB Benjamin St-Juste Emmanuel Forbes


Who are the Commanders Defensive Ends, James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill?  These are the replacements for Sweatt and Young.  Smith-Williams is a 2020 7th round pick (#229) from North Carolina State.  He has 11 tackles this season with 1 sack.  Toohill is a Stanford grad who was drafted by the Eagles in 2020 (#233) 4 picks after Smith-Williams.  He was cut in October after making the original 53-man roster of the Eagles.  Washington snatched him up off waivers.  On the season Toohill has 10 Tackles but has 4 sacks (more than any active Patriots player).  Washington boasts former Alabama studs, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne inside at Defensive Tackle. Allen is tied for 1st among interior defensive linemen in stops (20) and ranks 5th in total pressures (28), including the 3rd-most hits (8). Payne hasn’t been far behind in production, ranking top-10 among at the position in quarterback hits (6, t-8th) and tying for 11th in stops (14). Payne was re-signed after last season.  He was drafted in the 1st round (#13) out of Alabama.  The 6’3” 330 lbs run stuffer has 25 tackles on the season.  Allen is 2017 1st round pick (#17) again out of Alabama.  He is 6’3” 300 lbs and has 29 tackles and 3 sacks.  Hey are both Washington’s Defensive Beasts.

The linebackers are Khaleke Hudson at Will linebacker, David Mayo in the middle and Jamin Davis on the Strongside.  Hudson is a 2020 5th round pick by Washington out of Michigan.  He is one of those smaller/quicker linebackers.  At 6’ 200 lbs., he is smaller than Patriots S Kyle Dugger who is 6’2” 222 lbs.   The Patriots should run right at him.  Jamin Davis was an acclaimed player at Kentucky.  He was the Commanders 2021 1st round pick (#19).  The 6’3” 234 lbs. backer now leads the LBs in tackles with 48.  The placement of LB Cody Barton on IR last week was a huge loss.  He was playing 88% of the Defensive snaps and led the linebackers with 61 tackles thru 7 games.  He was on a one-year contract and playing the most he had ever played in his career.  David Mayo is filling in for Barton.  He was a 2015 5th Round selection (#169) by Carolina.  He played 4 years for Carolina.  In 2019 he signed as a Free Agent with San Francisco but was cut in the final cutdowns.  He played two years with the Giants before joining the Commanders in 2021.  He has signed two one-year contracts with the Commanders.  While playing against the Patriots for the Giants he had 13 tackles in that game.

The secondary is led by SS Kamren Curl.  He leads the team in tackles with 65.  Emmanuel Forbes will forever be linked to the Patriots Christian Gonzalez because of where they were drafted.  Washington took Forbes with the 16th pick, just ahead of the Patriots that took Gonzalez 17th.  Gonzalez was completely outplaying Forbes through the 1st month when the injury bug hit, and Gonzalez was out for the season.  Forbes has 1 INT and 20 Tackles through 7 games.  According to Taylor Kyles of CLNS Media, “The stats say they’re (Washington Secondary) hemorrhaging, allowing an NFL-high 18 receiving touchdowns and 32 catches of 20+ yards. Rookie corner Emmanuel Forbes has been the chief aggressor in a leaky group, with his aggressive style resulting in the league’s highest explosive reception rate allowed (8.8%, min. 10 targets). Forbes serves as back up to Benjamin St.-Juste.  For the season St.-Juste has 35 tackles.  Free Safety Percy Butler is listed as questionable on Thursday’s Injury Report.  If he can’t go, then Terrell Burgess will take his place.  The Washington secondary could be very thin.


Special Teams
PK Joey Slye
P Tress Way
H Tress Way
PR Jamison Crowder Jahan Dotson Dax Milne IR
KR Antonio Gibson Byron Pringle Dax Milne IR
LS Camaron Cheeseman


The Kicking game in Washington is suspect with Joey Slye just being average. He ranks 21st in the league for FG kicking.  Tress Way is 5th in Punting.  Patriots Bryce Baringer is 2nd but he has an incredible number of punts inside the 20.  Half his punts have landed inside the 20.  That is far above the nearest competitor.  Jamison Crowder ranks 8th in Punt Return yardage.  The Patriots Demario Douglas doesn’t have the required number of punt returns to qualify for ranking.


Coming and Going

Kendrick Bourne was put on Injured Reserve and is out for the year with a Torn ACL.  I would like to see the team sign him to a one-year contract so that he can rehab his knee and see if he can contribute next year.  Depending upon his progress, that will determine if he can get another contract with the Patriots.

His place on the roster was taken by rookie Defensive Back Alex Austin from Oregon State.  He was 7th round selection in this year’s draft by Buffalo.  He was waived at the cutdown and claimed by Houston.  He was inactive for two games and played three games for the Texans before he was waived.  He cleared waivers and was signed to the Houston Practice Squad.   He spent two weeks on the PS and was waived on Wednesday 1 November.  The Patriots wasted no time signing him on Thursday and he was at practice on Thursday.  I am not sure they were actually awarded Austin on waivers!  Austin is 6’1” 196 lbs. and ran a 4.55 40-yard dash, with a 7.06 3-cone drill.  He came out early for the draft.  His attributes are that he supports the run very well.  He has trouble on deep coverage and his back pedal needs work.

Austin is very familiar with the Patriots and the “Patriots Way”.  His “Uncle” is Willie McGinest, and although not a blood relative, he is very close with McGinest having grown up in Long Beach.  McGinest was the 1st person he called when he was notified, he was going to be a Patriot.  He was also a teammate of Jack Jones in Pop Waner Youth Football and on the same High School team together.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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