Washington Commanders have a lot to fix with Dallas Cowboys on the horizon
Washington continues to look for answers following last Sunday’s embarrassing 24-8 loss against Philadelphia, but don’t expect head coach Ron Rivera to be pointing any fingers.
“We all share a little bit of the blame,” Rivera said during his weekly press conference.
The Commanders (1-2) travel to Texas this weekend for the first of two annual meetings with bitter rival Dallas (2-1) in an important NFC East showdown Sunday at AT&T Stadium (1 p.m., FOX).
According to Caesars, the Cowboys are currently favored to win by 3 points (41.5 over/under).
Rivera knows his team must show signs of improvement in a hurry in order to hang around in the division standings.
“There are some things that we have to fix, and that’s the truth of the matter,” Rivera admitted. “We have to play better. When we’re in opportunities and situations to make something happen, we’ve got to do those things.
“We’ve looked at it, we’ve figured it out, we’ve addressed it — now we’ve got to go out and do it.”
One thing the Commanders can’t afford to do is get behind early on the scoreboard again, after facing a 22-0 deficit against Detroit and then a 24-0 hole through three quarters last week against Philly.
Rivera said he and his staff mainly need to figure out ways to get his young playmakers — such as star wideouts Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson — the ball more, but doesn’t want to be too pass-heavy.
McLaurin had his first 100-yard game against the Eagles, while Dotson has shown flashes of massive potential.
Curtis Samuel has also been a somewhat reliable target in the passing game, but Rivera wants to continue to spread the ball around even more and try to get more guys involved.
“We have so many playmakers, but there’s only one ball, and we’ve got to find that combination,” the coach explained. “Whether it starts with running the ball, whether it starts with throwing the ball early on, throwing the short passes or the intermediate passes, take a little pressure off the quarterback and then every now and then throwing the deep ball.
“It’s a combination of things that we’re working through and we’re trying to find.”
When asked if he believed his offense has yet found an identity, Rivera said, “No, I think we’re still working through it.”
There haven’t been many mentions of tight end Logan Thomas through three weeks, and there’s been an overall lack of solid blocking up front. Washington QB Carson Wentz has put up decent numbers overall, but was sacked nine times against the Eagles alone. Rivera admitted after the loss that Wentz “could have played better,” and reiterated that point in his press conference.
“There are some things that he’s got to see and decide on quicker,” said Rivera, “and I think also what happened too was there were a couple of times when he did speed himself up, but he didn’t give the play an opportunity to develop a little bit more, so it’s a combination of things, really.”
Wentz agrees that he can do a better job of getting rid of the ball quicker moving forward. He will have to do so Sunday and be smarter against LB Micah Parsons, DEs DeMarcus Lawrence (if healthy) and Dorance Armstrong, and the rest of the Cowboys’ defense, which has already recorded 13 sacks this season. The aforementioned trio has 10 of those, collectively.
Antonio Gibson leads the Commanders in rushing with just 124 yards on 40 attempts (3.1 yards per carry), and Rivera said he wants more production from the running game in general.
Washington will have its hands full defensively, going up against a strong Dallas backfield tandem of Ezekiel Elliott (team-high 178 yards on 40 carries) and Tony Pollard (156 yards on 28 carries). Noah Brown has emerged as the Cowboys’ top receiver through three weeks with 213 yards to complement star wideout CeeDee Lamb (191 yards).
With all the issues, Rivera refused to throw anyone under the bus, sticking with a theme of team togetherness.
“I’m not going to get up here and start calling players out — they know, they understand, they get it,” Rivera said Monday. “They’ve heard from their coaches today. Shoot, I sat in most of those meetings, I went from one to the other and just listened.
“These are things that we’re working on to fix. It’s a young group of guys that are out there. There’s some veteran guys that made some mistakes too, young guys as well that have to learn and grow, and that’s what we’re working to do here.”
Dallas QB Dak Prescott (thumb) is likely out for at least one more week, and if so, backup Cooper Rush will look to go 4-0 all-time as an NFL starter (3-0 this season). Prescott is hoping to return in Week 5 against the LA Rams.
Rush has been effective, leading Dallas to a pair of wins against the Bengals and the Giants, throwing for 514 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses (no interceptions) in the process.
Meanwhile, Cowboys WR Michael Gallup (knee) was a full participant at Wednesday’s practice and is hoping to make his season debut. Starting TE Dalton Shultz (knee) was limited Wednesday and is also listed as questionable. Other limited participants for Dallas were DE Lawrence (foot), S Jayron Kearse (knee), and OG Connor McGovern (ankle).
Listed as full participants for the Cowboys Wednesday were WR Simi Fehoko (shoulder) and LB Luke Gifford (hamstring).
Washington has a number of players listed on its injury report. Here’s each one’s status after Wednesday’s practice:
- Backup OL Saahdiq Charles (shoulder): limited
- Backup RT Sam Cosmi (knee): limited
- LB Milo Eifler (ankle): limited
- CB William Jackson III (back): full
- Starting LT Charles Leno (shoulder): DNP
- LB David Mayo (ankle): full
- OL Wes Schweitzer (concussion): DNP
- DE James Smith-Williams (abdomen): limited
- CB Benjamin St-Juste (hamstring): limited
- DE Casey Toohill (concussion): limited
- DT Daniel Wise (ankle): limited
Meanwhile, Commanders rookie RB Brian Robinson was seen working out on the field prior to the Eagles game, but won’t play against Dallas. Robinson is battling to get off the injured-reserve list (out a minimum of four games) and onto the field as soon as possible after suffering a gunshot wound prior to the season. Rivera would love to have him in the lineup in Week 5 against the Titans, but said it’s up to Robinson’s doctors to give him the go-ahead for when he can officially rejoin the team.
“He’s heading in the right direction, but we don’t really know,” said Rivera.