5 reality checks for the Commanders’ Week 2 clash vs the Lions
By Tim Payne
The Washington Commanders kicked off their new era on Sunday with a dangerously wobbly win against Jacksonville. Thanks in large part to a poor performance from Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence, the good outweighed the bad for the burgundy and gold leading to a Week 1 victory.
It was great to open the season with a win. It was awesome to see and hear a large and loud home crowd for once! It was a nice feeling knowing there was someone under center who had the ability to execute the entirety of the offense and allow the entire playbook to be available. It was great to see Terry McLaurin hit in stride on a deep ball for the first time since his first game of his rookie season. It was a good feeling to know that a “wow” play on offense was never out of reach. It’s been a long time since that was true in Washington, and I’m here for it.
The Commanders now enter Week 2 with a unique opportunity: To reach 2-0 for the first time in Ron Rivera’s tenure. Perhaps more importantly, they have the opportunity to build momentum leading into their first two NFC East contests the following two weeks. Here are this week’s Commanders Reality Checks – even-keeled analysis of what to watch for and expect out of the Commanders before you plop down on the couch or head out to the tailgate.
Commanders Week 2 Reality Checks
1. The Reality Is, you gotta let Carson be Carson.
The Washington Commanders rode the entirety of the “Carson Wentz Experience” on Sunday, with touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the first and fourth quarters, and interceptions on back-to-back drives in between. If Washington expects to sustain success this season, Wentz will need to avoid the lowest lows while still maintaining his natural, attacking style. Indianapolis tried to turn Wentz into a game-manager last year, and we’ve all heard ad nauseam how well that worked.
You don’t buy a Porsche and drive 10 mph under the speed limit. It will be essential that the Commanders don’t get too cautious or ask Carson to simply “make his layups”. Expect continued aggressive play-calling from Scott Turner this week in Detroit – and expect that to lead to more highs….and lows. Wentz will have 3 more touchdowns this week, but he’ll also lose a fumble on a play all the haters will call “vintage Wentz” or some garbage like that.
2. The Reality Is, Scott Turner and Carson Wentz have no excuses.
Scott Turner has never had this many weapons at his disposal. Carson Wentz has never had this many weapons at his disposal. There’s no excuse if they can’t find a proper balance and rhythm to operate a highly efficient, explosive offense this season. Look for more creativity this week as Turner tries to unlock more from Terry McLaurin, JD McKissic, and Logan Thomas, while still keeping Curtis Samuel, Antonio Gibson and NFC Offensive Rookie of the Week Jahan Dotson cooking. I expect the offense to put up a higher yardage total and more points on Sunday in Detroit than they did against Jacksonville.
3. The Reality Is, Sweat, Payne and Allen looked GOOD.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the defensive line, and its three stars in particular, looked better on Sunday against Jacksonville than they did collectively at any point last season. They are currently second in the NFL in pass-rush win rate. It’s premature to declare that the woes of last season are gone. It’s premature to think that the pass-rush and pressure will be consistent throughout the season. But it was encouraging to see the unit able to produce at a good clip in Week 1.
Going up against a vaunted but nicked-up group in Detroit this week will provide a good opportunity for the unit assistant-coached by the most prolific sack artist in Washington franchise history to start to convince us they are ready to put the mysterious ineffectiveness of last season behind them. I don’t – and you shouldn’t – care about the sack numbers if the pressure is this efficient, consistent, and impactful….but since everybody loves a sack, I’m taking the over this week on Commanders team sacks…Goff goes down at least 3 times.
4. The Reality Is, Jack Del Rio was right to call out Jamin Davis.
Sure, Davis could have been put in better situations a few times, but generally, he still looks lost out there on the field. On Sunday, he had a few positive flashes and a bunch of head-scratching moments of indecision and flat-footedness. His athleticism is being wasted behind what appears to be an extremely confused and overwhelmed mind.
The coaching staff has tried a variety of things to get Davis out of the funk that has travelled with him throughout his career so far, and nothing has seemed to really click. So a little public honesty and accountability isn’t the worst idea to try. Will Davis fold under the criticism? I doubt it. Will he rise to the challenge? Kinda doubt that too, at this point. But it’s possible that he’s the type of guy who needs a little burr in his saddle, a little chip on his shoulder to bring his best to the table. Maybe he’ll really respond and unleash his immense potential in response to his coach’s honest critique. Here’s hoping…
5. The Reality Is, the Lions provide a unique test for Washington on Sunday.
In watching the Lions’ game against Philadelphia last week, it’s clear that the Lions present a significant challenge for the Commanders on Sunday. Their pass rush is talented and relentless. Their defense is fast and explosive, their receivers are twitchy and speedy, TJ Hockenson is a legitimate top-5 receiving threat at TE, Goff is way more accurate than Trevor Lawrence, and D’Andre Swift is a top-tier weapon.
Perhaps most significantly, this team believes they can and should be winning games to a degree that no Lions team has appeared to believe in recent memory….and they are fired up not to start their season 0-2. So this will be a tough test for the Commanders on Sunday.
At the same time, though, it was also clear that the Lions aren’t ready to make the leap from “scrappy” to legitimate playoff contender. They made too many mistakes and simply don’t have the depth or high-end roster quality quite yet. Essentially, they are a year behind Washington in their rebuild.
Teams at the top of the NFC won’t lose to Detroit this season. Sure, Detroit might get a fluky win somewhere along the way against a much better team, but by and large, this is the kind of team that truly good teams beat. On Sunday in Detroit, we’ll find out about what the Commanders truly are going to be this season. Are they a more exciting and fast-paced after-thought, or are they a threat in the wide-open NFC? Follow me on Twitter @TheRealityIs__ for my game-day predictions!