The New York Jets were blown out by the Miami Dolphins last week, 30 - 0. The loss dropped their record on the season to 5-9. Now the Jets take on the Washington Commanders in the Jets’ final home game of this season.
The 4-10 Commanders own the NFL’s fourth worst record. They have lost seven of their last eight games. Their only victory in that stretch came against the hapless New England Patriots. The Commanders have the worst defense in the NFL. They have given up 28 or more points in five straight games and 10 out of 14 for the season. Now that easily moved object faces off against the exquisitely resistable force of the Jets’ worst in the NFL offense. Hilarity seems certain to ensue.
Previewing this matchup, KyleSmithforGM of Hogs Haven was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2023 Washington Commanders.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. This game between the Jets and the Commanders features the worst vs. the worst. The Jets have the worst offense in the NFL. The Commanders have the worst defense in the NFL. Who gets the better of that nightmare?
I expect this will be a very painful game to watch. I have a bad feeling that Washington may actually win this game, primarily by committing to the run throughout the early stages of the game, and then simply focusing on playing as error-free as possible on defense. That said, if Zach Wilson is unable to go on Sunday, and Trevor Siemian is thrown into the fire, a “Comeback Player of the Year”-worthy performance against Washington’s Keystone Kops secondary is not out of the question. Fans should be paid to watch this conflagration at this point.
2. Each team’s fanbase knows their team much better than other fans. Usually there are a few guys who your team’s fans know about and love, but other fans might not be too familiar with. Could you let Jets fans know a few unsung heroes on the Commanders, if possible at least one on both offense and defense?
On offense, it’s incredibly difficult. Most Jets fans probably remember Curtis Samuel from his time on the Panthers. He’s probably been Washington’s best wide receiver this year. He’s been fairly under the radar, but he’s been a reliable target for Sam Howell all season. Lesser known, because he’s an offensive lineman, is right guard Sam Cosmi, who has been essentially the only bright spot on the OL this year. Last I saw, he was one of the top performing guards in the league this season. I expect the Jets to see a lot of running back Chris Rodriguez this week. Personally, I think he’s capable of being a pretty good back in the league, if he can keep his fumbles under control. We’ll see how it goes.
On defense, I’m going to tap linebacker Khaleke Hudson. I had been banging the drum for him since early in the season (https://www.hogshaven.com/2023/9/13/23870430/one-big-idea-play-khaleke-hudson-on-washington-commanders-defense), but it was only in the last few weeks that he began to get serious playing time, as a result of some other injuries at the position. He’s a bit undersized, but he plays with a level of speed and anticipation that Washington has generally lacked at the LB position. The next several games represent an audition of sorts for Hudson, who is a free agent at the end of the year.
3. Tell us about Sam Howell. What does he do well, what are the areas he may need some improvement on, and do you see him as a long term answer at the quarterback position for the Commanders?
Sam has had an incredibly up and down season. First, let’s start with the good stuff. He’s been very durable, particularly considering he’s leading the league in sacks by a significant margin. Many of those sacks came in the early part of the season, where he was having trouble getting rid of the ball as quickly as he should have. Even so, he’s been pretty prolific, currently standing at number seven in passing yards in the league. Over the past several weeks though, the shine seems to have come off a bit. Whether that’s because Sam is regressing, or Eric Bieniemy’s offense is underwhelming, or the offensive line just isn’t very good, isn’t entirely clear. Nonetheless, if you had asked Washington fans five weeks ago if Howell was QB1 in 2024, the vast majority would have said “yes.” I get the impression that fraction has shrunk dramatically over the past few weeks, and will likely even grow smaller before the end of the season.
With the prospects of a top five draft pick looming in the coming draft, I think there’s a very real chance that the next General Manager selects a QB in round one at this point. It’s too great a risk for a new GM to pass on with Sam looking like his ceiling may end up being “high end QB2” in the NFL eventually.
4. If you were the head coach of a rival team, how would you go about attacking this Washington Commanders team on offense and on defense?
Early in the season, Wink Martindale seemed to unlock the secret to flustering Washington’s offense - consistent, unrelenting pressure. Subsequently, the terrible Giants’ operation beat Washington twice in the course of a month. Washington’s offensive line isn’t great, but between Sam Howell holding the ball too long, and Eric Bieniemy relying too much on long developing plays, it has struggled dramatically under pressure. That doesn’t bode well against a talented front like the Jets. It could be a very long afternoon if Washington can’t keep Howell clean.
Washington’s defense has been wretched this year, particularly when it comes to explosive plays. I’m not certain how Trevor Siemian’s arm strength looks these days, but if he can still throw the deep ball, this is the defense to test it against. Communication on Washington’s back end has been a problem on and off for years now, and it seems to be as bad as I can remember it this year. If the stars align properly, this could be a Garrett Wilson breakout game. Washington’s rush defense hasn’t been great this year either, but it’s been better than the secondary.
5. If you were a betting man which team would you bet on winning this game, and why?
I would likely bet on Washington to win, primarily to hedge my happiness at the outcome. I’m strongly pulling for a loss here, as that would virtually assure a 4-13 finish (Washington’s next two games are against the 49ers and Cowboys), and would position the new management group very well for a top 3 pick in the 2024 draft. I can’t wait for the new era to begin in DC.