Sam Howell’s up-and-down play this season has been attributed to a variety of causes. His talent level is first among them, but all of us have also slammed a porous offensive line and pass-happy play-calling that never forced the defense to worry about the run.
Up until now, I have not blamed Howell’s pass catchers, beyond noting how invisible Jahan Dotson has been. That ends today.
Washington’s receivers - wideouts and tight ends - were terrible on Sunday, especially in the first half. Curtis Samuel dropped the first pass of the game. Logan Thomas dropped the second, resulting in an early interception. Dotson fell on the third pass. John Bates dropped a touchdown in the second half.
All of the receivers would make nice plays later in the game. As a whole, other than Terry McLaurin, the Commanders' pass-catchers did their quarterbacks no favors.
It goes beyond simply failing to catch the ball. Howell was certainly pressured at times against the New York Jets. But I have to give some credit to the offensive line which I have blasted most of the season.
In the second half, they were playing with two backup tackles, a center who had been benched earlier this year, and a guard who had recently returned from injury, and who was not playing especially well before said injury. Only Sam Cosmi was even on the field for this team a month ago. They held up pretty well - especially Cornelius Lucas and Trent Scott on the edge.
Still, Howell often had nowhere to go with the ball. Early in the season, we would routinely blame this on the quarterback. He was waiting too long. Or he wasn’t seeing the open player. Sometimes, we would blame it on the play design. It would take too long for the deep routes to develop. All of that is still true.
Maybe it’s time to start acknowledging that Washington’s receivers don’t do a very good job of getting open. Other than McLaurin, they are never running free through the secondary, the way opposing receivers seem to be doing with ease against the Commanders' defense.
There isn’t a lot that can done about this so late into the season. I would hope in the final two games, we will see some of Mitchell Tinsley and Cole Turner - two players who, in extremely limited time, have at least shown an ability to find gaps.