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The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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February 19, 2024

Commanders Weekly: 10/15 – 10/28

In+a+hard-fought+battle+against+the+New+England+Patriots+last+Sunday%2C+the+Commanders+turned+things+around+to+secure+a+pivotal+win%2C+proving+they+have+not+given+up+on+the+2023+season.
Vassili Prokopenko
In a hard-fought battle against the New England Patriots last Sunday, the Commanders turned things around to secure a pivotal win, proving they have not given up on the 2023 season.

After starting the season strong with two straight wins, the Commanders have struggled to find consistency. Washington has lost four of their last five matchups, including two against the Chicago Bears (2-5) and the New York Giants (1-5). Their only win came in a tight battle with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, ending their three-game losing streak. Here are three takeaways from the last two games and an outlook on what Washington needs to do to win its next two against the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots:

 

The Lack of Defensive Consistency

After coming off a solid end to the 2022-23 season, the Commanders’ defense looked like one of the most substantial units in the NFL. However, the hype evaporated as Washington began to let up an average of 27.1 points per game — the fourth most this season. The secondary has struggled to contain the passing attack of opposing teams, who have thrown for an average of 248 yards per game. Despite these glaring issues, the defense has held opposing offenses to under 20 points for the second consecutive week. After allowing nearly 300 passing yards to Desmond Ridder and over 400 yards to the Atlanta offense, the Commanders only gave up 16 points. The defense capitalized on the opportunities that Ridder gave them by intercepting three of his passes. Two came late in the fourth quarter, with cornerback Benjamin St-Juste and linebacker Jamin Davis recording their first-ever picks.

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In the following game against the Giants, the defense had a standout performance, letting up just 14 points. Similarly to the game against the Falcons, the Commanders gave up many chunk plays but prevented scoring opportunities. Veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 279 yards as the Giants achieved 356 overall, yet midfield struggles by Washington were canceled out by strong red zone play and turnovers. The team had two forced fumbles and four sacks, with two of them going to defensive end Chase Young in a time of uncertainty about his future with this team. The once highly praised defensive unit must curtail the yards they allow, but should they continue to make big plays in crucial situations, the Commanders may gain momentum again.

Sam Howell 

Quarterback Sam Howell was primarily an afterthought after getting drafted in the fifth round by the Commanders in 2022. However, his performances at the end of last year, in the preseason and certain games, have given fans hope that they may have found their quarterback of the future, though his struggles in games against the Bills and Giants have others worried. 

Against the Falcons on Oct. 15, Howell threw for three touchdowns with zero turnovers, putting up an excellent passer rating of 119.7. In the most recent game against the Giants, however, Washington struggled to gain any rhythm, ending with a completion rate of 52.4% and having an interception without a touchdown. Throughout the season, Howell has displayed traits typically seen only in veteran quarterbacks, whether relating his quick reads to receivers, toughness or leadership. Yet his struggles to get the ball off on time have contributed to his status as the most sacked quarterback in the league. Against the Falcons, he took five sacks, with many being avoidable. Against the Giants, he took another five in the first half alone. Though Howell has remained unshaken so far, the rapidly increasing total of quarterback hits must end to ensure consistent performance throughout the 18-week season. 

Offensive Struggles

Though Howell has shown promise, Washington’s offensive unit has been, at best, average throughout the season. They have especially struggled in the past two weeks, averaging 15.5 points and 233 yards per game. All units have underperformed, whether through dropped passes from wide receivers, lack of protection from the offensive line or inefficiency from the running backs.

Last Sunday, Washington went 1/15 on third down conversions, one of the most essential metrics. Their only touchdown came from an outstanding field position due to a muffed punt by the Giants’ special teams. The Giants pass rush dominated the line, giving Howell less time to find his intended target. It also led to drive-stopping sacks, one of the Commanders’ most troubling occurrences this year. Yet, thanks to staunch play from the defense, the offense still had opportunities to turn the game around late in the fourth quarter. But soon after every drive came a punt, as the offense couldn’t convert any third downs. 

Looking Ahead 

The Washington Commanders have faced a rollercoaster of a season, swinging from exhilarating highs to disheartening lows. Their defense, once touted as one of the league’s best, has shown signs of inconsistency, struggling to contain formidable passing attacks. Yet there are glimpses of hope, such as their improved performance these past two weeks, where they have demonstrated their ability to adapt and make necessary adjustments. Sam Howell, the young quarterback, has been a beacon of promise in Washington’s journey. However, he needs to address his vulnerability to sacks, which could jeopardize his long-term success.

Perhaps the most important of all, the Washington offense has not performed sufficiently to secure wins these past two weeks. They can’t seem to start drives and methodically move the ball down the field, giving the defense less rest time and opponents better field position.

As they prepare to face the Eagles (6–1) and the Patriots (2–5) next week, Washington must use these experiences as valuable lessons. The Commanders have shown they have the potential to succeed. It’s a matter of harnessing that potential and translating it into victories. The remainder of the season promises an exciting journey for the team and its loyal fans.

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About the Contributor
Vassili Prokopenko, Online Production Head
Grade 12 Why did you join The B&W? To improve my art and design skills. What is your favorite board game? Blokus

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