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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Bryan Manning

Studs and duds from Commanders’ 30-28 loss to the Jets

The Washington Commanders dropped their sixth consecutive game Sunday, falling 30-28 to the New York Jets. The Commanders are now 4-11 and have also lost eight of their last nine and 11 of their past 13 games.

Washington began Sunday’s game about as poorly as we’ve seen from an NFL team in years. There were dropped passes, penalties, ineffective QB play, turnovers, a blocked punt, a muffed kick return, bad defense and so much more.

Yet, somehow, the Commanders overcame a 27-7 deficit midway through the third quarter to take a 28-27 lead late in the fourth quarter behind quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who replaced Sam Howell under center.

It was an overall bad performance from Washington despite the Commanders coming all the way back. The Jets are bad, yet Washington’s defense made them look like a competent NFL offense at times.

So, which players stood out — good and bad — from the Commanders’ loss to the Jets?

Here is our Week 16 version of studs and duds.

Stud: QB Jacoby Brissett

Jacoby Brissett #12 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

He did it again. Jacoby Brissett relieved Sam Howell in the third quarter and led Washington to three consecutive touchdown drives. If you’re keeping score from home, that’s five touchdowns in five straight drives for Brissett. Unfortunately for Brissett, he didn’t lead the Commanders to another score or first down on their final drive as they looked to run out the clock.

This offense has its problems, regardless of who is at quarterback. But it’s clear things are different with Brissett under center. He’s calm under pressure; he sees it and throws it, something Howell and other young players struggle with, and everyone around him plays better as a result.

Part of Brissett’s effectiveness is that he’s a veteran quarterback, and he’s seen everything, unlike Howell. Brissett didn’t put up big numbers on Sunday, but he lifted the offense in so many with his presence.

Dud: QB Sam Howell

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14). Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Howell hit rock bottom on Sunday. He’s been trending toward it for weeks, but he completed just six of 22 passes for 56 yards and two interceptions. Let’s start in saying this: He had almost no help. Curtis Samuel dropped his first pass, and on his second pass, Logan Thomas missed it, and it landed in the waiting of the Jets.

There were other drops, too. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was running slow-developing routes on third-and-seven, with no shorter routes for Howell to check to, and those longer routes were covered up.

But Howell was vacating a clean pocket at times, perhaps a sign that the pressure he’s been under all season has him seeing things that aren’t there. His accuracy has tailed off. His aggressiveness isn’t there. Those are traits that helped him succeed earlier this season.

While allowing Howell to finish out the season makes the most sense for his own well-being, perhaps Brissett should start the final two games. Howell clearly isn’t functioning at the level he was earlier, and it’s impacting the entire team.

Stud: RB Chris Rodriguez Jr.

Chris Rodriguez Jr. #23 of the Washington Commanders celebrates after scoring a touchdown. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

One of the bright spots in any bad season is seeing young players receive an opportunity. That’s been the case for rookie running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. Rodriguez had 10 carries for 58 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s loss. He showed quickness, vision and power in his rushing opportunities. With Antonio Gibson headed for free agency, the Commanders will have Rodriguez and starter Brian Robinson Jr. on the roster next season.

Dud: The receivers

Washington’s receivers and tight ends, not named Terry McLaurin, had issues with drops. One cost the Commanders a turnover. They left yards on the field, yards of which were hard to come by in the first half. There were so many mistakes in the first 30 minutes, and the pass-catchers played a large role in the offense’s lack of success.

Stud: LB Khaleke Hudson

Khaleke Hudson #47 of the Washington Commanders blocks a pass for Breece Hall #20. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Khaleke Hudson just always seems to take advantage of his opportunities. Last season, he was outstanding in the season finale against Dallas, which led coaches to heap praise on him throughout the offseason. Yet, in 2023, Hudson remained on the bench until injuries impacted Washington’s linebacker depth chart. No one is saying Hudson is a star, but he can play. He was good against the Rams last week and had another strong performance against the Jets, leading all tackles with 15 tackles and he also defended two passes. Hudson is solid in coverage, which isn’t a surprise considering he played safety in college.

Cody Barton had some good moments, too, but had his issues in the run game.

Dud: Pass rush

Trevor Siemian #14 of the New York Jets. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

The Jets have arguably the NFL’s worst offensive line. Yes, even worse than Washington’s group. They also had a veteran quarterback who isn’t very good starting against the Commanders. Care to guess how many times Washington sacked Trevor Siemian? If you said zero, you would be correct.

That’s inexcusable on so many fronts. It’s amazing to think of the investments made into the defensive line, its lack of production and what’s left to show from those investments.

Dud: Coaching staff

Head coach Ron Rivera looks. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Ron Rivera and his staff will remain here throughout the season. The players look like they don’t know their assignments, Rivera doesn’t look like he knows where he is half the time and there always seems to be a lack of preparation.

Everyone wants to crown offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as the next coach. Seriously? Owner Josh Harris should wipe the slate clean. That doesn’t include some younger coaches getting their starts. If the next coach wants to keep some of the lower-level assistants, that should be their call. But the head coach, the coordinators and the position coaches, to a large degree, have failed miserably.

Rivera’s fourth-down decision-making is comical at times. The Commanders had a fourth-and-3 in the first half and were in Jets’ territory. He punted. I mean, you are 4-10, struggling to move the ball a nd finally have something going — and you punt. It’s laughable.

Dud: Special teams

Jermaine Johnson #11 of the New York Jets blocks a punt by Tress Way #5 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Over the last few weeks, Washington fans have asked, “Who is this guy?” The player in question is defensive back Terrell Burgess. He actually leads NFL players in Pro Bowl voting at the special teams position. Well, fans finally noticed him Sunday in the worst possible way. He failed to block his man, and punter Tress Way’s punt was blocked, leading to tremendous field position for the Jets and an easy score.

Also, wide receiver Jamison Crowder had an excellent punt return and fumbled near midfield after he just lost the ball.

Somewhere, Camaron Cheeseman is relieved he can’t be blamed.

Bonus stud: Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein

Greg Zuerlein #9 of the New York Jets prepares to kick the go-ahead field goal during the fourth quarter against the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Zuerlein’s 54-yard game-winner kept the Commanders in the No. 4 position in the 2024 NFL draft. Had he missed, Washington could have fallen as low as No. 9. When you are starting a new rebuild — again — those extra few spots are a huge difference, whether it comes to drafting a quarterback or looking to trade back for additional picks. If you land in the top four, your chances of landing an elite talent are much greater.

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