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In a preseason game that was considered a ‘dress rehearsal, the Washington Commanders walked away with more questions than answers.
The Kansas City Chiefs showed why they are still one of the top team’s in the AFC division with a 24-14 win over the Commanders.
Although preseason is more focused on evaluating talent than the actual final score, the biggest concern surrounds the Commanders starting offense and defense.
For the second week in a row, both sides of the ball got off to a slow start. But with the Commanders ‘elite’ defense, that is unacceptable when most of the pieces from previous seasons are still lining up.
During the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Baker Mayfield marched down the field 54-yards which resulted in a field goal on his opening drive.
In a similar fashion but with a different strategy, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes picked apart Washington’s secondary to include a 39-yard pass to wide receiver Justin Watson that set up the first of Kansas City’s back-to-back touchdowns.
Another lingering issue is the Commanders’ third down defense. The Chiefs went 6-6 on third down conversions against Washington’s starters.
The Commanders couldn’t get much going on offense either. Carson Wentz had a fairly decent day from the perspective of accuracy and decision-making but the entire system had trouble finding a rhythm.
“Once we get inside the 40, we have to put points on the board and that was disappointing,” coach Ron Rivera stated. “Again, I think Carson moved the ball effectively for us. He got us to mid-field a couple of times and to the 40 a couple of times, but we’ve got to put points on the board.”
The starting offense finished their time on the field on a sour note after a third-and-5 at the Chiefs 29-yard line ended in a punt after a false start and sack spoiled the drive.
“You have to give them credit for their coverage. At that point, you’d want Carson to throw it away. As he was trying to elude it, the sack came from the back side,” Rivera explained.
“If you don’t have that five-yard penalty beforehand, you’re not going to call a route where the combination takes a little more time to develop. You’re going to go with the quicker throw we had originally to get the ball out of his hands a lot quicker,” he continued.
Carson Wentz locked in 64 yards on 6-9 completions and no touchdowns. Mahomes finished 12-19 for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
There were good moments from rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson, Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. The offensive line also held up well giving the quarterbacks time to throw.
However, those flashes are not enough to give fans confidence going into the regular season.
Antonio Gibson bounced back from a rough Carolina game due in part to offensive coordinator Scott Turner calling plays that fit his strengths and show what he is capable of in space.
This was highlighted by Gibson’s 22-yard catch-and-run that ended with a Cam Sims touchdown on a Taylor Heinicke led drive in the second quarter.
“Him [Gibson] catching the ball, that’s his background, he was a wide receiver,” Rivera shared. “He’s a guy that has that type of skill set. Catching the ball out of the backfield is something that’s a strength for him so we’ve got to get the ball to him in space to make those things happen.”
Sam Howell continued the momentum that the backups created when he entered the game. He connected with wide receiver Dax Milne on a 22-yard pass that set up a Jaret Patterson rushing touchdown, giving the Commanders a 17-14 lead.
Howell mentioned that the speed of the game surprised him against Carolina and that seemed to rear its head when he threw an interception late in the game. The pick led to a touchdown ending Washington’s comeback hopes.
While it is “just” preseason, the issues that showed up are carryovers from last season. Some would say it’s too early to sound the alarm but it’s definitely time to start raising eyebrows.
The starters will not play in the last preseason matchup vs. the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. That means the next time we see them will be Game 1 of the regular season against the Jacksonville Jaguars.