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

Studs and duds from Commanders’ 38-31 loss to Eagles

The Washington Commanders dropped to 3-5 after Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Much like their meeting four weeks ago, the Commanders had multiple chances but failed. Whether it was QB Sam Howell’s late interception, Terry McLaurin missing two catchable passes, or another pathetic performance from the defense, Washington couldn’t make enough plays to defeat the defending NFC champions.

After a loss, a team’s focus immediately turns to the next game. However, things are a bit different for the Commanders, with the NFL trade deadline approaching on Tuesday. Will the Commanders sell? There’s a growing belief that at least one of Washington’s four former first-round picks on the defensive line will be moved.

As for Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, we look at the studs and duds from Week 8.

QB Sam Howell

Sam Howell #14 of the Washington Commanders throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Sam Howell wasn’t perfect on Sunday. He shouldn’t have had to have been perfect. Howell completed 39 of 52 passes for 397 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. The one interception was a killer, but the Commanders still had chances after the turnover to tie the game.

On Washington’s final two drives, Howell had three passes combined dropped by Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. The two on McLaurin weren’t classic drops. The throws were a bit off, but McLaurin had his hands on one while the other hit him in the face mask. Dotson’s was bobbled, leading to the fourth down on McLaurin’s second miss.

Howell played well. He was the reason Washington was not only in this game but leading for much of it. He was only sacked one time and was excellent at balancing when to run when to throw the ball away, and when to take shots. He missed a few, but he deserved the win on Sunday.


Dud: Head coach Ron Rivera

Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Sometimes, I am not sure what is more painful, Rivera’s in-game mistakes or his explanations after the game. I am not saying he’s wrong in his description of the non-challenge on the DeVonta Smith catch or his answer on the Dotson catch that was ruled not a catch, but these things continue to happen. That’s what makes it unacceptable.


Studs: New-look offensive line

Washington Commanders center Tyler Larsen. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Washington had two new starters in center Tyler Larsen and left guard Chris Paul. Larsen’s ascension back into the starting lineup could be exactly what Howell needs. He’s not flashy, but he’s a big, physical presence who will not be pushed into Howell’s lap easily. Paul and Larsen helped the running game — when Washington ran — and that was evident on Brian Robinson’s 29-yard first-half run.

Most importantly, the Commanders allowed only one sack. Sadly, that one sack was costly and came toward the end of the game when Haason Reddick easily defeated right tackle Andrew Wylie for a strip sack.

Overall, though, it was an encouraging day for the offensive line.

Dud: DC Jack Del Rio

Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio react during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Nevermind the fact that Washington’s defense allowed 38 points again. Nevermind that Del Rio’s blitzes do not work. Nevermind that Del Rio can get nothing out of Washington’s first and second-round picks. But let’s talk about Del Rio’s usage of benched first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes. The Commanders had essentially benched Forbes since Week 5. He was back on the field Sunday — against A.J. Brown. Let’s not forget what Brown did to Forbes in Week 4. What was Del Rio thinking? And this was for more than one play.

There’s really nothing left to say.

Stud: WR Jahan Dotson

Jahan Dotson #1 of the Washington Commanders scores a touchdown. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Dotson had 183 receiving yards coming into Sunday’s game. He had the best performance of his career, catching eight passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. The one knock was the ball he bobbled in the fourth quarter. Personally, by the rules — which no one really knows anymore — it should have remained a catch.

Moving forward, Sunday’s effort was encouraging for Dotson. He was outstanding and exactly what the Commanders need from him.

Dud: Starting defensive line

Chase Young #99 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but Washington’s defensive line comes up small against the better teams. It’s games like Sunday where you can see why new ownership would want to trade some members of this group. Chase Young can dominate Justin Pugh, a guard signed off the streets to play left tackle, but struggle against Philadelphia’s stud offensive tackles. Montez Sweat was much more impactful, but neither did enough. Sweat’s sack was created by Daron Payne.

Where was Jonathan Allen? We all heard his rant after the game last week. Make a difference on the field. Be a part of the change, not another complaining about losing. It’s not as if these guys were terrible, but so much more is expected and, quite frankly, should be expected from the group.

Stud: K Joey Slye

Joey Slye #6 of the Washington Commanders celebrates a field goal. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)

Joey Slye drilled a 56-yard field goal just before halftime. It didn’t count, as the Commanders were called for a false start. How did Slye respond? By drilling a team-record 61-yard field goal on the next snap. When you do that, you belong on this list.

Duds: CBs Benjamin St-Juste and Emmanuel Forbes

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) catches a touchdown pass as Washington Commanders cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (25). Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We touched on Forbes earlier. He should be playing but not matched up against A.J. Brown right now. As for St-Juste, he gets beat deep far too much. He’s often in a good position but just a step behind. St-Juste has excellent size, but it just feels like he’s never going to take the next step. Losing DBs coach Chris Harris has been bad for Washington’s young secondary.

Stud: WR Jamison Crowder

Jamison Crowder #83 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you saw Jamison Crowder being Washington’s best offseason addition. Crowder didn’t arrive until just before the season but has stabilized Washington’s punt return team. On Sunday, he was pressed into duty at receiver when Curtis Samuel left with an injury. He caught seven passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown reception was a thing of pure beauty.

Crowder’s return to Washington has been a good story.

Dud: Officiating

Head coach Nick Sirianni of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with game officials during a game on Commanders. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

No, the officiating didn’t cost Washington the game. But there were multiple controversial calls that went the way of Philadelphia. There was the 15-yard penalty on Logan Thomas that was a bad call. The whole Dotson catch or non-catch, and ruling DeVonta Smith’s non-catch a catch. It should have been challenged, which we noted earlier, but still a horrible call. The Eagles don’t need help to beat the Commanders, but they received plenty of it on Sunday.

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