Week 1: Three takeaways from the Commanders thrilling victory over the Jaguars

By Waleed Aslam

The beginning of a new NFL season means a plethora of things: new fantasy football teams, a chance to win a Super Bowl and for many fans, stress. Especially if you are a fan of the Washington Commanders. In typical Washington football fashion, fans saw an early lead evaporate. Costly mistakes by both teams kept the game close and exciting, with the Commanders eventually sealing a 28–22 victory after Darrick Forrest intercepted a prayer from Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The Commanders started off Sunday afternoon blazing hot, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives while holding the Jaguars offense to just three points. However, on their third drive, Curtis Samuel fumbled in field goal territory, halting all momentum. After a shanked Jaguars field goal attempt, the Commanders took a 14–3 lead into the half. However, the Jaguars looked like a new team coming out of the break, scoring 19 unanswered points after capitalizing on several mistakes by Washington’s offense and defense. Luckily, Wentz put his two horrible interceptions behind him and clutched up down the stretch, hitting Terry McLaurin for a 49-yard touchdown. After the defense forced a quick punt, Wentz built on his previous drive and dotted up Jahan Dotson to take the lead

Here are three takeaways from Washington’s exciting win over the Jaguars:

The receiving core came to play

After three seasons of McLaurin as the only competent wideout, it seems as if the times are finally changing. The passing offense exploded for 313 yards with ample contributions from their entire core. Antonio Gibson, a former receiver turned halfback, caught seven balls for 72 yards, consistently moving the chains for the offense. McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dotson made the biggest splash, combining for 153 yards and accounted for all four touchdowns. Tight end Logan Thomas also showed up, catching 3 balls for 45 yards. With all these weapons, the Commanders have turned a glaring liability into a strength. 

Carson Wentz looked more like his 2017 self

At the helm of the offense, Wentz showed why the Commanders traded for him — and why fans were skeptical. He finished 27/41 with 313 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Wentz showed signs of his MVP-caliber 2017 season, however, with interceptions staying on par from his horrendous 2020 campaign. After throwing his first interception of the year in the third quarter, Wentz dropped back into the pocket on the first play of the next drive. He failed to notice the first overall pick Travon Walker, who leaped up and intercepted the pass, returning it to the 11 yard line. This allowed the Jaguars to score 10 straight points, changing the entire balance of the game. Fans began to leave the stadium in disbelief as they assumed they were witnessing Washington choke away yet another first half lead. However, momentum swiftly changed back in favor of Washington after the aforementioned McLaurin and Dotson touchdowns. Despite some crucial mistakes, Wentz’s strong arm propelled the offense to an impressive showing against Jacksonville. 

The defensive line consistently pressured Trevor Lawrence

Although major holes in the defense allowed the Jaguars offense to consistently get into the red zone, the pressure placed by the Commanders pass rush prevented Jacksonville from scoring many touchdowns. Facing former teammate Brandon Scherff, the defensive line obliterated the Jaguars offensive line, repeatedly forcing Lawrence to get the ball out quickly. This resulted in grave mistakes by the second year quarterback, including missing a wide open touchdown to running back Travis Etienne. After Wentz threw his fourth touchdown pass to Dotson to put the Commanders up once again, the fierce pass rush made a last-second comeback nearly impossible for Jacksonville. Lawrence got pressured on almost every possession, culminating in an incredible interception by second-year safety Darrick Forrest. Forced out of the pocket, Lawrence sent one final heave while running towards the sideline. With that turnover, the Commanders dashed any hope the Jaguars still had of stealing a win. 

Though it wasn’t pretty, the Commanders six point victory over the Jaguars showed the scary potential the team has on both sides of the ball. Up next is a trip to Detroit against a young and talented Lions team who nearly knocked off the uber-talented Philadelphia Eagles. If Washington can continue to be efficient on offense and commit fewer turnovers, a 2–0 start to the season is well within reason.