That Washington’s commanders haven’t gotten the memo that the NFC East is back yet.
The NFL’s best team so far, the Philadelphia Eagles at 5-0, and two 4-1 teams, Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants, have surprised many throughout the NFL. The NFC East has struggled in recent years, and the 1-4 Commanders are still feeling the pain this season.
So what has been the factor that has commanded at the bottom of the division? Head coach Ron Rivera was quick to respond Monday.
“Quarterback,” he told reporters.
Carson Wentz was the choice of Rivera and the front office when they made a change at the position. They needed someone to come in this offseason and jumped at the chance to trade for the veteran signal caller who knows a lot about the NFC East given his time with the Eagles.
Thus, Wentz was thrown into the Commanders’ system, which has some good weapons: Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel at receiver with good running backs in Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson Jr., who made his debut Sunday five weeks after being shot twice preseason, and JD McKissic.
But what’s written on paper doesn’t always translate to the field. While Wentz is fourth in the league with 1,390 yards, he has a 38.0 QBR, good for 24th. He has 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, one of which came on the final drive Sunday against Tennessee Titans on the finish line. A touchdown would have won the game for Washington.
While this was Rivera’s guy, the Cowboys have had their backup, Cooper Rush, lead the team to four straight wins, including one over the Commanders.
“They started with Dak [Prescott]” Rivera said when asked about the Rush’s success. “They build around Dak and the offense is built around Dak. Their back up is a guy who is very solid at what they do. The truth is, this is a quarterback-driven league. And if you look at the teams that have been able to sustain success, they’ve been able to build it around a certain quarterback.”
The Cowboys have certainly built their team around Prescott. The Eagles have done the same with Jalen Hurts as head coach Nick Sirianni has adapted his system to the explosive ability his quarterback gives him on the ground and through the air.
But have the Giants built things around Daniel Jones? Head coach Brian Daboll and GM Joe Schoen did their best to gut their roster and kick-start their rebuild, but Jones didn’t pick up his fifth-year option, leaving his future with the team in limbo.
Daboll and OC Mike Kafka’s offensive scheme has been all about adjustments throughout the game, and they currently rank 23rd in yards per game at 333.2. With a little help from the defense and clutch play from Jones & Co., they get the job done when needed.
However, Rivera doesn’t regret going with Wentz and won’t be giving up on him anytime soon. They believe in their quarterback despite the rocky start.
“I think our quarterback has done some good things,” he explained. “There’s been a couple of games where he’s struggled, but you look at his numbers from yesterday and you’d say, ‘Okay, look, his numbers he’s had all year, at times he’s been very solid.'” But the way he performed yesterday and it just shows you what he’s capable of and we picked him because we believe in him we picked him because we looked at what we felt were things that pointed towards him.”
The Commanders are currently in the middle of the pack at 19th in the league in offensive yards per game at 341.6.
Washington has the Chicago Bears, a team that has lost its last two contests, on the schedule this Thursday.