“I’m an optimistic person,” Rivera said Monday. “But…guys who need to play better need to play better. It’s the truth. You go back and look at some of the things that happened – we had opportunities in this game.
After starting the season on a high note, thanks to a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars which revived hopes of a new start, the Commanders (1-2) almost collapsed. Their offense sputtered, their new quarterback reverted to a past version of himself that many hoped he was past, their defense appeared like a shell of himself in 2020, and now, after just three games , they seem stuck in that same rut. where they have been sitting for years.
In a season in which Rivera has said he expects his team to make a significant leap forward, Commanders have so far been firmly planted on the pitch, adding to their head coach’s palpable frustration. . But perhaps the biggest concerns now are the play up front and Washington’s worrisome quarterback streak.
In Sunday’s games, Commanders had allowed 15 sacks and 53 quarterback pressures, both NFL highs. Philadelphia produced seven of its nine sacks without blitzing, relying on a base four run to wreak havoc.
Though opinions differ — especially on social media, where users are quick to blame — Ross Tucker, a former NFL offensive lineman and host of the “Ross Tucker Football Podcast,” believes that a handful of Sunday’s sacks were the result of Washington’s line simply getting beat up. But the rest, Tucker said, had to do with Wentz’s poor presence and penchant for holding the ball too long.
With Carson Wentz, the Commanders hope that his production will finally match his talent
“Usually it’s because he never wants to give up on a game,” Tucker said. “He believes he can break a tackle or miss a guy and still play. It’s kind of the competitor in him.
Tucker said Wentz’s style worked in 2017, when he helped the Eagles reach the Super Bowl and was an MVP candidate before injuring his knee. But behind the Washington line, and perhaps with a slightly slower pace than he did before his injuries, Wentz was exposed.
“It’s unfortunate because I think he throws a good ball,” Tucker said. “I think he’s a smart football player, but his pocket presence and football protection has always been lacking, and at this stage it’s just not going to get better.”
He added: “I can tell you it’s the worst feeling in the world for an offensive lineman, when you throw it a lot and the quarterback is holding the ball and you lose, so you have to come from behind. I would hate to block for him.
After Sunday’s loss, Wentz accepted blame for “most” of the nine sacks and admitted he should have let go of the ball quicker than he sometimes did. He expected the game movie to show even more problems.
“We looked at it,” Rivera said of the film. ” We understood. We solved it. Now we have to go out and do it.
Svrluga: Commanders trusted Carson Wentz. Finally, he must reward them.
But the problems don’t end with Wentz. So far this season, the mantra after every game has been eerily similar. Commanders must eliminate explosive games. They must strengthen the protection of their pass. They need players to play better and coaches to train better. They just need to win.
“There is a point [where] that urgency is there,” Rivera said. “We’re down to three games and I’d like to think we should be playing better than we are right now. And that’s what we’re going to work on. »
On Monday, Rivera cited his team’s youth as the reason for his lack of execution. Although most of the Commanders’ starters are veterans — the average age of their offensive starters on Sunday is 27.3, and wide receiver Jahan Dotson was the only true rookie to start on either side of the ball — much the depth of the team is made up of rookies and newcomers.
Rivera added that technique has sometimes been the problem. Small details in pass protection can be the difference between keeping a defender at bay and letting them dive or shove a blocker for a sack.
“Some of those things are things that … we can do to help them to the extent that we want to call our protections in those particular games,” Rivera said.
Rivera also noted that on Sunday the defense corrected positioning issues but did not finish plays. For example, a defensive back would read the play correctly and be in the right place to be able to clear an explosive play, but he wouldn’t.
“It’s the end of games that go to ground,” Rivera said. “Keep trying to get that ball. And, who knows, maybe that ball is moving or something. But when you’re there – I mean, you’re right there, it’s hard.
More difficult: watching the attack of the commanders rely on a single dimension instead of distributing the ball and marrying the running game with the passing game. Against the Jaguars, seven Washington players caught a pass. Against the Eagles, Washington’s top receiving option, Terry McLaurin, didn’t have a reception until the third quarter, and his leading tight ends, Logan Thomas and John Bates, combined for just four targets, two catches and five yards. .
“There’s only one ball,” Rivera said, “and we need to find more of that combination that starts with throwing the ball, whether that’s throwing the ball early, throwing the shorter passes or throwing the passes. middle, you know, take a little bit of the pressure off the quarterback and then every once in a while throw in the deep…stuff. It’s a combination of things that we’re working on and trying to figure out.