Hailey’s Notebook: What stood out re-watching Commanders’ Week 3 loss to Eagles

Notebook: What and who stood out re-watching Commanders-Eagles 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 follow 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 3 loss to the Eagles:

  • Washington’s propensity for ceding sacks falls on everyone. You, the person consuming this content, honestly might be a little bit at fault. Seriously. That’s how wide-ranging the issue is. Yes, Carson Wentz is indecisive (see the tweet below for an example of that) or just plain unaware at times, which allows defenders to get to him for major and preventable losses. But in other instances, his linemen get beat soundly and immediately, so Wentz is on his back before having a chance to scan the field. And lastly, some of the play-action fakes and deeper dropbacks that are being called are taking a lot of time to develop, and that’s one resource the offense doesn’t have much of. 

  • So, how can this disturbing weakness be mitigated? Well, again, everyone can improve. Wentz and coordinator Scott Turner need to get together and identify a handful of quick-hitters that the quarterback is comfortable with and deploy those early in games; by doing so, Wentz can get in a rhythm and the offensive line can settle in as well. Rollouts should be considered; same with more handoffs. On top of that, though, the line simply has to handle its own duties with more consistency (Trai Turner in particular). Hell, on Sunday against Philly, Wes Schweitzer’s snaps were rather all over the place, so that also has to be addressed. The good news is there are multiple avenues to better protection in the future. The bad news is there are multiple flaws that are limiting solid protection in the present. 
  • Kendall Fuller is off to a rough, rough start in 2022. In Week 3, he was on the wrong end of a few insane DeVonta Smith grabs, where Fuller just wasn’t explosive enough to contest Smith at the point of the catch. A.J. Brown skied over him for a deep shot, too. Fuller plays a lot of off coverage in what appears to be an effort to make up for his speed disadvantage on the outside yet he’s still getting beaten both underneath and over the top. William Jackson III has been disappointing in his tenure with the team (he missed the Eagles tilt with a back injury), but Fuller is slumping in his own right.
  • Jack Del Rio’s defense ultimately, and once again, permitted too many chunk plays on Sunday, but the unit held on for as long as it could in an effort to support the Commanders’ stuck offense. Jamin Davis notched his second sack of the year early and showed off his athleticism on a couple of pursuits of Jalen Hurts. Benjamin St-Juste, meanwhile, looked supremely comfortable stepping into Jackson III’s starting spot as a boundary corner; it was probably his best outing since entering the league. Unfortunately, the group couldn’t sustain what was a promising opening stretch, as it faltered near halftime due to a dearth of pressure and shoddy coverage. 
  • Terry McLaurin‘s usage has been a bit confounding. Yes, the depth around McLaurin, with Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson emerging as legitimate threats, will inevitably impact McLaurin’s overall numbers. That said, the recently-extended wideout hasn’t logged a reception in the first quarter of any matchup so far. There’s a fine line between emphasizing one target’s involvement and overly forcing it to that target, but Washington ought to nudge up against that second notion when it comes to McLaurin. As awesome as Samuel and Dotson are, McLaurin remains the most well-rounded receiver that’s available to Wentz. 
  • Kam Curl told the media afterward that he felt a decent amount of rust in what was his first appearance of the season. That was evident on Dallas Goedert’s touchdown, where Curl’s tackle attempt on the Philadelphia tight end was reckless and futile. Curl is typically reliable in that department, but on that six-pointer, he was pretty hopeless, as he lunged at Goedert’s legs and was easily sidestepped.
  • Back to Wentz for one more observation. On a second quarter long ball that he launched in the direction of Dotson, you can see Wentz hesitate just a moment before letting it rip. Because of that, his toss led Dotson out of bounds. The fact that Wentz wasn’t even confident enough to heave that one right after setting his feet is not ideal. There’s a subtle hitch there and there shouldn’t be one.
  • Tress Way and the Commanders’ punting bunch is one of the lone aspects that is deserving of praise following Sunday’s frustrating result. Jeremy Reaves, David Mayo and Armani Rogers were menaces when chasing down Way’s punts and all three landed physical hits that they justifiably celebrated. And now, you are free to go to do something else with the rest of your day. Congratulations.

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