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Previewing the Jets’ Opposition: Washington Commanders

Taking a look at the Jets’ week 16 opponent

Washington Commanders v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Ric Tapia/Getty Images

The New York Jets looked like a team that might not win another game this year in their 30 - 0 blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, but they have a winnable game this week against a Washington Commanders team that has dropped five games in a row and has the worst defense in the league based on points and yardage allowed. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Jets are favored by 3 points in this game.

Quarterbacks

Sam Howell will be back in the starting role for the Commanders this week, despite being benched for backup Jacoby Brissett in last week’s loss to the Rams.

Howell is 8th in the league in passing yards with five 300-yard games to his name. However, he also leads the league in interceptions, and he has thrown four pick-sixes this year.

For much of the year, Howell was on target to break the all-time record for being sacked the most times in one season, and he still leads the league in that category with a total of 59, which the Jets will hope to add to on Sunday.

Brissett has plenty of experience and is arguably an upgrade over Howell, but the Commanders seem intent on letting Howell finish out the season.

Offensive Line

The Commanders will be without two of their starters on Sunday as center Tyler Larsen and left tackle Charles Leno have both been ruled out. Larsen shouldn’t be a massive loss because Nick Gates has started for half the season anyway and isn’t much of a downgrade, but Leno is one of their best pass protectors despite leading the team with 10 penalties.

The right tackle, Andrew Wylie, has started every game, but he has given up a team-high nine sacks. Right guard Sam Cosmi has also started every game and has been the Commanders’ most consistent offensive lineman.

At left guard, Chris Paul and Saahdiq Charles have started about half of the games each, but Paul is currently listed as the starter despite having struggled.

On the bench, Cornelius Lucas started one game in place of Leno earlier in the year and replaced him briefly in last week’s game, so he’ll probably start at left tackle on Sunday.

Interior lineman Julian Good-Jones and tackle Trent Scott are also on the roster, and they elevated Nolan Laufenberg from the practice squad for extra depth.

Running Backs

Washington’s leading rusher is Brian Robinson, but he’s been ruled out on Sunday, so it could be a good opportunity for sixth round rookie Chris Rodriguez to get some extra work. Rodriguez averages 4.6 yards per carry in a limited role.

Antonio Gibson has 42 catches and will probably continue to get third down reps, but he could also get more carries with Robinson out.

Fullback Alex Armah is also on the roster but doesn’t play much. Washington also signed Derek Gore from the practice squad for added depth.

Pass catchers

Terry McLaurin is Washington’s best weapon in the passing game. He has over 800 receiving yards on the season and a team-high 66 catches.

Last year’s first round pick, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel are tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions each. They have combined for over 100 catches, but they have only averaged 10 yards per reception between them.

Depth comes from Dyami Brown, Bryon Pringle and ex-Jet Jamison Crowder. None of them Mitchell Tinsley is also on the roster but barely plays.

At tight end, Logan Thomas has been productive with 46 catches. Cole Turner and John Bates back him up.

Defensive Line

Washington opted to trade their best pass rushers - Montez Sweat and Chase Young - at the deadline. Casey Toohill showed some initial signs of stepping up, but he has just one sack in the past six games and five overall.

The other starter at defensive end is James Smith-Williams. The Commanders have started to give some rotational reps to two rookies they picked on day three of this year’s NFL draft: KJ Henry and Andre Jones. Jalen Harris is also on the roster but hasn’t played much, while undrafted rookie Joshua Pryor hasn’t played at all.

At defensive tackle, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen are both recent Pro Bowlers. Allen has 5.5 sacks while Payne has 4. Payne leads the team with 12 tackles for loss and Allen leads them in quarterback hits with 16.

On the bench, last year’s second round pick Phidarian Mathis and John Ridgeway are the main backups.

Linebackers

At linebacker, the Commanders recently placed Jamin Davis, who had been in a full-time role, on the injured reserve list.

Cody Barton and Khaleke Hudson started the previous game, with Barton in a full-time role. Barton’s statistical production has been much lower than it was last year in Seattle.

David Mayo has made four starts this year, but he didn’t get any reps on Sunday as the Commanders only used two linebackers all day. Jabril Cox hasn’t seen any playing time at all this season.

Defensive Backs

The Commanders usually operate out of nickel personnel, with their three starters at cornerback listed as Benjamin St-Juste, Kendall Fuller and first round rookie Emmanuel Forbes. However, Forbes only played six snaps against the Rams after missing the previous two games with an elbow injury. Second round rookie safety Quan Martin played a full-time role in place of Forbes, mainly lining up in the slot.

Earlier in the season, St-Juste had typically been the one to move into the slot when nickel personnel was on the field. He’s a competitive player with a team-high 16 pass breakups, but he can be exploited. Fuller is the only Commanders player with more than one interception.

The Commanders recently released Danny Johnson, who had started some games earlier in the season, so there may be a chance for someone else to step into the rotation. Tariq Castro-Fields, Christian Holmes and Kyu Blu Kelly have not seen any reps on defense yet. Kelly, a fifth round rookie, was recently added after having been cut already by three other teams.

The starting safeties are Kamren Curl and Percy Butler, although Butler is listed as questionable for Sunday. If he can’t go, Martin could revert to the safety position. With Darrick Forrest, who started five games earlier in the year now on injured reserve, Terrell Burgess would be the other option to back up Butler.

Special Teams

The Commanders have a former Pro Bowl punter in Tress Way, but he’s had a disappointing season. Way is only 23rd in the league in gross average and has given up 241 return yards.

Kicker Joey Slye has also been disappointing as he’s missed eight kicks in total. However, he did nail a game-winner against the New England Patriots earlier in the year.

Washington recently cut long snapper Cameron Cheeseman, their 2021 sixth round pick, after a rough game against the Rams. Tucker Addington will be elevated from the practice squad to handle those duties.

In the return game, Jamison Crowder earned a special teams player of the week award after a 61-yard punt return earlier in the season, but he’s otherwise struggled and averages under eight yards per return. On kickoffs, Gibson and Pringle have split duties, but neither has a return of longer than 40 yards. Dotson is listed as Crowder’s backup.

Washington’s coverage units haven’t been great this year with Brown and Holmes being their main punt gunners. Martin and Burgess are two of their more productive players in coverage because Pro Bowler Jeremy Reaves is on injured reserve.