3 Takeaways from Washington’s Week 1 Performance

(Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP News)

Washington kicked off the Commander era with a 28-22 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are three takeaways from the Week 1 matchup.

Wentz Has Weapons

Curtis Samuel (left), Logan Thomas (center), and Terry McLaurin (right) celebrate a touchdown (Photo Credit: Commanders Wire / USA Today)

A glaring weakness in Washington’s offense last season was the lack of options at wide receiver. Terry McLaurin accounted for 41% of the team’s total yards through the air, second most among all pass catchers last season (via Next Gen Stats).

If the Commanders’ Week 1 performance proved anything, it’s that McLaurin is not the only threat downfield. Curtis Samuel notched eight catches, 55 yards, and a touchdown in his return from an injury plagued 2021-22 season. Samuel’s ability to create yards after the catch proved he is as dynamic as before the injury.

Rookie Jahan Dotson showed why he was worth a first-round pick. Wentz connected with Dotson three times for 40 yards and two scores.

If Samuel and Dotson continue to contribute throughout the season, Washington will have it’s best pass-catching trio since DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder.

Wentz also hit Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic out of the backfield. Gibson hauled in seven catches and led the team with 72 receiving yards. McKissic added another 20 yards through the air.

Logan Thomas also provided value at the tight end position racking up 45 yards in three catches. Wentz overthrew Thomas a few times, but with Thomas rehabbing an injury over the summer, the pair didn’t have much time to build a rhythm.

When Wentz joined the Commanders, he joined a squad with more weapons at his disposal than ever before in his career. As the offense continues to build chemistry throughout the season, opposing secondaries will struggle to contain Washington’s air attack.

The Defense isn’t There Yet

(Photo Credit: AP News)

Jaguars’ quarterback Trevor Lawrence was able to push the ball downfield with ease on the opening drive. However, Washington’s defense was bailed out by two Redzone drops and only allowed three points.

Washington’s defense stepped it up a notch after the opening drive, but their overall performance was not great. Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne were Washington’s best defensive players and both recorded a sack.

When Jacksonville’s offensive line managed to delay the rush, cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III allowed Lawrence to hit receivers at will and continuously gave up big plays.

Second-year player Darrick Forrest was the best player in Washington’s secondary after assuming the starting role in place of the injured Kamren Curl. Forrest delivered a massive hit to force a fumble and later secured the win with a late-game interception.

2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis showed improvement from his rookie year and made some athletic tackles. However, Davis was exploited in pass coverage when lined up against slot receivers and tight ends.

Washington was missing some key players on defense, but should have performed much better against a Jaguars roster with below average offensive talent. Jacksonville’s ability to move the ball downfield in the second half kept the score close and nearly won them the game.

The return of Kurl and Chase Young should help Washington’s defense, but if they don’t fix the issues in the secondary, talented quarterbacks and receivers will dominate the passing game.

The Commanders are Resilient

(Photo Credit: Commanders Wire / USA Today)

The first half was undoubtedly exciting. Wentz looked like a completely different version of himself from the previous season and effortlessly moved the ball downfield. It wasn’t until the second half when it started to look the Washington of the past two decades.

The Jaguars dominated the start of the second half and scored 19 unanswered points to gain the lead. Washington’s defense had no answer for Lawrence. Wentz’s decision making suffered and he threw back to back interceptions to open the fourth quarter.

Now down 22-14, Wentz returned to the field. The first two plays resulted in a net gain of two yards, leaving the offense with a third and eight. Wentz, calm in the pocket, delivered a 27-yard strike to Thomas. Immediately after, Wentz effortlessly flicked the ball nearly 50 yards through the air to hit McLaurin in stride for a touchdown.

Fans at FedEx field were rocking. It’s been decades since a Washington quarterback has been able to deliver a downfield strike like the one Wentz dished to McLaurin.

The defense carried the momentum into the next drive and held Jacksonville to a three and out. Wentz got the ball back trailing 22-20 with under seven minutes left in regulation. Washington’s new Commander-in-Chief led the offense on a 90-yard drive ending in a spectacular touchdown grab by Dotson –– giving Washington a 28-22 lead.

Not only was Wentz able to lead a game winning drive, he also managed to eat up five minutes on the clock, leaving Jacksonville less than two minutes to score and win the game. Washington’s defense held strong, and Forrest snagged an interception to seal the victory.

On the last play of the game, Wentz and the offense lined up in victory formation to make the win official.

It wasn’t a perfect 60 minutes of football, nor a pretty one at that, but Wentz showed that he is exactly what the Commanders need: a quarterback with proven arm talent who has the grit and mental strength to lead a team to victory.

Although it’s the beginning of the season, and Jacksonville is one of the NFL’s worst teams, what Washington showed was pure potential. The Commanders are still without multiple starters and haven’t quite built the chemistry needed to win competitive games.

The Dallas Cowboys suffered a devastating injury to quarterback Dak Prescott, and the NFC East is now wide open. With Wentz in the driver’s seat, Washington might shock the NFL come January.

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