Commanders must run the football
In last year’s game, the Washington Commanders did not run the ball well. No running back averaged more than 3.3 yards-per-carry and as a team, they only managed 3.1 for the game. The longest run was 11 yards.
But they kept running.
Washington ran the ball on 49 of their 78 snaps, excluding kneel-downs. For those of you who are mathematically challenged, that’s 63 percent of the plays. And Washington continually put themselves in third-and-short situations so that they could continue to pound the ball for first downs.
On the Commanders' first touchdown drive, both Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson converted short third down runs, before the latter took it in from one-yard out.
That set the tone in the first half when Washington had drives of 13, 12, 16, and eight plays, taking a 20-14 lead into the halftime. Their first drive of the second half was 14 plays, nine of which were runs.
In the middle of that drive, Taylor Heinicke hit Terry McLaurin for a huge play down the right sideline. It was set up by a play-action fake to Robinson, and then the wideout simply outran the Philadelphia Eagles' best cornerback Darius Slay.
I would expect to see the Commanders go with a lot of heavy packages to help out their struggling offensive line. Then, ideally, Eric Bieniemy will pick and choose when to spread things out and try to hit the Eagles with some razzle-dazzle.
But it only works if Washington commits to the run.
You are right to be concerned about Washington’s offensive line going up against the Eagles' front seven. But if you are looking for a silver lining, here is a stat to hang your hopes on. Of the opposition's seven leading tacklers in last year’s game, five of them no longer play for Philadelphia.
That includes Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, and safeties Marcus Epps and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Those players combined for almost half of Philadelphia's solo tackles against the Commanders during the 2022 game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Philadelphia has replaced Hargrave, who had 13 combined tackles last year - stunning for a defensive tackle - with the massive Jordan Davis. But at linebacker and safety, plenty of questions remain.
Washington needs to exploit that if they hope to keep control of the ball, and of the game.