Like New Year’s Day – or that morning you woke up in a strange room with idea of how you got there – the bye week is a good time to take stock. Look at the decisions you have made in the recent past and decided whether they were good or bad. You don’t do this is to grab credit or accept blame. You do it to learn. Understanding what worked and what didn’t are pretty good ways of ensuring better decisions in the future. With that noble purpose in mind, I offer the Washington Commanders my own personal report card.
Not of their moves this past year, but of my own. Here are the things I got right and wrong about 2022 Washington Commanders.
Commanders 2022 report card during the bye week
All apologies – Taylor Heinicke
I’ve admitted it before, but I’ll do it here formally, and then shut up about it. I seriously undervalued Taylor Heinicke. He still has a below-average arm for an NFL quarterback, but even a stubborn curmudgeon like me has to admit the Commanders perform better with him under center than they have with anyone since a modestly healthy Alex Smith. Heinicke is a legit NFL backup QB, and that’s a lot more credit than I gave him coming into this season.
Have a cigar – Brian Robinson
It was apparent from the earliest days of training camp. B-Rob is different. Antonio Gibson is a converted wide receiver. JD McKissic is a specialist. B-Rob is all runner. His timing, his vision, his strength – they are the ingredients of a very good NFL running back. Recently, an announcer (Mark Schlereth, I think) used the phrase “plus 2” to describe Robinson. That means the line provides a certain amount of yardage by opening holes, and then the runner gets two more.
Early on, it was apparent that Robinson did that – only I’d call him a “plus 3.” He has changed the offense, so much so that I wouldn’t have roasted Ron Rivera (BTW – Roasted Ron Rivera – good band name) had he gone for two at the end of the Giants game. As it was, the Commanders scored with too much time left to consider that, but had there only been a few seconds left, it would have been a defensibly call.
And this coming from the guy who has pointed out how bad the Commanders have been at 2-point tries. Robinson’s presence changes that entire equation, because he can run for those two yards, which suddenly opens up the offense.
Mea culpa – Cole Holcomb
I never doubted Holcomb’s talent or drive. He is clearly the best linebacker the Commanders have had in the Rivera era (BTW – Roasted Ron Rivera’s first album should be called The Rivera Era). But I did worry a lot about how much was being asked of him early this season. With just two legit linebackers on the roster, and with one of them still learning his craft, I envisioned Holcomb trying to do everything and ultimately doing nothing. Indeed, for the first few weeks, that’s exactly what it looked like. He was overrunning gaps. He was slow in coverage. Even when he was making tackles, they were eight yards downfield. But by about week 5, he settled into his role and returned to the high level of play he has demonstrated over the past several years. At least, until he got hurt.