What changes could we see from the Washington Commanders as they prepare for a showdown with the Buffalo Bills in Week 3?
After two resilient comeback wins to start the 2023 schedule, Washington Commanders fans have a lot to cheer about. With a high-scoring new offense and a fearsome defense, the team has been one of the pleasant surprises from the campaign so far.
Though the early results have been extremely encouraging, the Commanders still have a number of changes to consider as they get ready for a crunch showdown against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3.
Commanders should start TE Cole Turner
This one might just happen out of necessity after incumbent starter and veteran leader Logan Thomas was knocked out of last week's game versus the Denver Broncos on a vicious and obviously intentional shot to the head by Kareem Jackson.
Jackson's dirty hit on Thomas came as the big tight end was hauling in a touchdown pass in the end-zone. He somehow managed to hold on despite the brutal contact for a crucial score.
Thomas stayed down motionless for a few moments after the play as fans held their collective breath watching Washington's training staff quickly tend to the injured tight end. Jackson was flagged for illegal targeting on the play and was ejected from the game, while the converted quarterback was immediately ruled out with a concussion.
Even more disturbing was later finding out that it was the second straight week in which the Broncos defensive captain had been penalized for a late hit on a defenseless opponent.
If Thomas is ruled out versus the Buffalo Bills this Sunday, Commanders backup tight end Cole Turner is ready to step into the lead role.
Turner established a clear blossoming connection with quarterback Sam Howell during OTAs and training camp. This was thanks to getting a significant amount of reps with the first-team offense due to Thomas recovering from a previous injury.
Meanwhile, the second-year pro from Nevada continued to build momentum, looking confident and capable this preseason. His ten receptions led all NFL tight ends during the 2023 exhibition slate.
The converted college wide receiver showed marked progress as a pass catcher and blocker this summer, repeatedly standing out on tape with important catches on key third downs. Turner also made some uncharacteristically physical blocks in the run game.
After a stellar preseason, Turner has played only 23 percent of the Commanders offensive snaps, managing three catches for 38 receiving yards through the first two games. The 6-foot-6 threat could see a big bump in playing time if Thomas doesn't make it through concussion protocol.
When Thomas is healthy, Turner and fellow tight end John Bates are routinely relegated to rotational duties. But with the Commanders' veteran starter uncertain for Sunday, an enormous opportunity looms for the sophomore to show what he can do with increased responsibilities.