Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- Taylor Heinicke will continue to start this week with Carson Wentz not yet ready to come off injured reserve.
- J.D. McKissic failed to practice Wednesday after two missed contests with his neck injury, typically not a good signal for a player coming off missed games.
- Brandin Cooks returned from a one-game absence due to a wrist injury in Week 10, immediately picked an additional hip injury, and failed to practice Wednesday.
- Get ready to watch each team repeatedly pound their backs into brick walls (Washington’s offensive line and defensive line are basically brick walls).
- The passing game volume and concentration are almost nonexistent here.
How Washington Will Try To Win ::
The Commanders have maintained a slow pace of play (30th-ranked situation neutral pace of play and 22nd-ranked first-half pace of play), a bottom ten pass rate over expectation (PROE) value, and a moderate 57.21% overall pass play rate as they attempt to tread water in the NFC. Their current 5-5 record has them just a half game back of the 49ers for the final playoff spot out of the NFC, which is a borderline miracle considering they’ve played half the season with a backup quarterback and have fought through countless injuries to primary players this year. The team is coming off a shocking upset of the previously undefeated Eagles on Monday night, a game that saw them run the football a massive 49 total times. They also played the now 8-1 Vikings to a close game throughout on the backs of 30 total rush attempts, beat the Packers four weeks ago behind 38 rush attempts, and beat the Colts three weeks ago in a game that entered the fourth quarter 7-6. Basically, those four games highlight how this team is trying to win games with Taylor Heinicke at the helm, who has held a tight range of pass attempts between 28 and 33 in his four starts (3-1 record). He is now matched up against the team ranking worst in the league in most major defensive rushing metrics and it becomes clear how this team is likeliest to try and win here.
Antonio Gibson has played 77 total offensive snaps in the two games without J.D. McKissic while rookie Brian Robinson has played 71 total offensive snaps. Robinson leads the way in total running back opportunities during that span with 40, versus 31 for Gibson. The point here is that the two have combined for an insane 71 running back opportunities over the last two games and now get the distinct pleasure of facing the worst rush defense in the league. Robinson continues to be the preferred “grinder” option of this backfield even while struggling to a 3.28 yards per carry mark this season. It’s honestly difficult to put into words just how poorly he has looked on film, yet the team continues to employ him as their top option on the ground. To be fair, Gibson hasn’t performed much better with just a 3.61 yards per carry mark this season but he has looked the better back to the trained eye this season. As alluded to previously, the matchup on the ground is a good one, yielding an above average 4.57 net-adjusted line yards metric against a Houston defense allowing a massive 34.0 DK points per game to opposing backfields (14 total touchdowns allowed through nine games). The problem is we quite simply can’t expect either back to separate from the other as far as expected (or efficiency) goes.
Rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson returned from a five game absence to force a maddening snap rate dispersal amongst primary Washington pass-catchers, with only Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas seeing more than 64% of the offensive snaps a week ago. It is likeliest we see Dotson’s snap rate increase a bit here, but unlikely that it makes much difference in the overall state of the passing game. As in, all of McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dotson, Cam Sims, Dyami brown, Dax Milne, Thomas, John Bates, and blocking tight end Armani Rogers are likely to see some run moving forward, which creates a gross expectation of volume considering backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke has finished between 28 and 33 pass attempts in each of his four start this season. Good luck finding volume from this unit outside of McLaurin, and even then, he holds just a 20.2% targets per route run rate, has gone over 100 yards just three times and has scored only two touchdowns this season. The “okay” news is that McLaurin has caught the eye of Heinicke, seeing eight or more targets in each of his starts, a mark he hit in only two of six games with Wentz in as signal-caller.