Notebook: What and who stood out re-watching Commanders-Jags originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Pete Hailey is not a current or former NFL player, nor is he a current or former NFL coach. He is a reporter. Therefore, this space won’t be used to closely analyze schemes or assign blame on coverage breakdowns or anything like that related to the Commanders, because those things are hard to discern without knowing the design of and plan for a given play.
That said, he does cover Washington on a day-to-day basis, meaning he can (hopefully) pass along helpful observations after re-watching each of the franchise’s games. So, here’s what stood out to him from the Week 1 triumph over the Jaguars:
- Let’s start with the positive from Carson Wentz, because there was plenty. His third touchdown, the 49-yarder to Terry McLaurin, was a throw that’s been missing from the offense for at least a couple of years now. Thanks to his arm strength, Wentz could link up with McLaurin deep on the right sideline while not having to put much air underneath it; the ball got there in a hurry before Jacksonville’s safety could get over in time. That replay will never get old.
- Another pinpoint pass from Wentz came on the team’s opening possession, and it’s one that might be overlooked due to the chaos that was yet to unfold. Antonio Gibson, who began next to an in-shotgun Wentz in the backfield, tore through the line, navigated his way through the second level and then broke off his route to the sideline. As Gibson was turning, Wentz unleashed a heater that sailed over a dropping defender and stuck to a leaping Gibson before a charging defensive back could knock it away. Again, it was an example of Wentz allowing coordinator Scott Turner to be more aggressive. By the way, this was excellent involvement of Gibson, who executed this sequence rather naturally.
- Of course, Wentz was fantastic on a handful of other plays, including the game-winner to Jahan Dotson. However, let’s focus on Dotson here. The rookie’s out-and-up was sudden, while his shielding of corner Tyson Campbell was subtle. Lastly, the snag by Dotson was outrageous. He got his already-famous hands out just in time to pluck Wentz’s lob and send FedEx Field into a frenzy:
- For a quarterback who finished with 313 passing yards, Wentz sure bricked some layups. The most vexing ones were his first toss to a wide-open Dotson after play action where he overshot his receiver. That high miss plagued him late when Dax Milne emerged past the first-down marker (luckily, the following third down was converted to keep the show moving). That’s what Wentz is, however, and the trade-off is that he has the talent to do the things mentioned in the bullets above.
- This interruption of all the offensive chatter is related to Jamin Davis. The second-year linebacker had a sack taken away because of a flag in the secondary, and aside from that, he was mostly either not noticeable or noticeable because he was trailing his assignments after they caught balls. Yes, Davis must be better and more confident. Must be. That said… he was put into multiple unfair matchups that coaches have to help him avoid. On three instances, he found himself across from Christian Kirk in the slot. Kirk, to the surprise of no one in the stadium/on the planet, dusted him on all three. Davis theoretically has the speed to cover shifty running backs, yet stopping Kirk just isn’t in his repertoire. That has to be addressed before the Detroit game.
- The Curtis Samuel touchdown to kick off the home scoring Sunday was timed well and drawn up well, too. Samuel was split out wide to the right and motioned in before sprinting back out right as the snap came. Therefore, he had built-in speed for his route, and Wentz nailed him in stride so he could plunge past the pylon. Perhaps the key to it all, though, was the mini screen that McLaurin set for his fellow ex-Buckeye, which was effective but not penalty-worthy since McLaurin did it so quietly:
- Logan Thomas was integral on both of the Commanders’ fourth-quarter touchdown drives, where he hauled in third-down throws ahead of the eventual six-pointers. After the second, it sure appeared as if he brushed off his left knee — the one with the previously torn ACL — to declare that the leg is working just fine.
- All training camp long, Darrick Forrest seemed poised for a breakout, but with all camp ascensions, it was necessary to wait until the regular season before getting too hyped. Well, commence the hype. Forrest’s clinching interception was beautiful because of his toe-tap on the boundary, and the rest of his day was loud and physical. He wrecked Travis Etienne, was in coverage on one third-down end zone shot and also showed up on the Jaguars’ failed two-point try. Without Kam Curl, Washington needed a member of the secondary to step up. Forrest fortunately obliged.
- Forrest’s outing was not matched by Kendall Fuller or William Jackson III. Fuller was whistled for back-to-back flags in the second quarter and was burnt by Kirk on a 49-yard strike. Jackson III was flagged on the first defensive snap of the contest and victimized on a litany of passes as well. Those two are supposed to be a couple of the unit’s more reliable guys. They weren’t Sunday.
- Daron Payne was a problem from start to finish for the visitors’ offensive line. In all, Payne registered a sack, a tackle for loss, three QB hits and two pass deflections. Jonathan Allen was productive, and yet Payne was even more so. If Phidarian Mathis, who was carted off in the first quarter, is out for an extended period — Rivera admitted he was worried about Mathis’ injury — then Payne and Allen will have to maintain their dominance.
- Finally, this formation dreamt up by Turner may be banned by Week 2. Up top, there’s Dotson, Samuel, McLaurin and J.D. McKissic. On the bottom, Thomas is isolated. On this rep, Samuel corralled a short one for a first down as Jacksonville was understandably lost. Seeing what else this lineup can do will be a treat in 2022: