The Washington Commanders traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to take on the Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason and were defeated, 24-14. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Washington was thin at offensive line today.
The Commanders were down a whopping three starters up front with Andrew Norwell and Wes Schweitzer being absent for most of the week and Charles Leno addressing a "slight medical issue," according to Ron Rivera.
That left the Commanders digging into their depth for answers. Aaron Monteiro and Saahdiq Charles were the starting guards, while veteran Cornelius Lucas slid in at left tackle. Most of the attention was on Charles and Monteiro, and while their performances were solid at times, it was far from perfect.
One of the best examples of that came in the second half. Monteiro delivered a beautiful block on a Chiefs linebacker that led to Jonathan Williams scampering for a seven-yard run. On the next play, however, Monteiro was flagged for a holding call after his defender slipped into the backfield.
At the same time, Washington did have a few positive plays in the run game with 69 rushing yards on 20 carries. That led to some traction during the starters' three drives, although it did eventually fizzle out. Washington's offensive line can be one of the better groups in the league, but the starters need to be on the field. Hopefully we'll see Norwell, Schweitzer and Leno back in the lineup soon.
2. Brian Robinson continues to impress.
Brian Robinson’s talent is not just a flash; it's starting to become a trend.
Robinson, who rushed for 26 yards against the Panthers, earned more reps with the starters in Washington's second preseason game, and he responded by leading the team with 31 rushing yards on eight carries. This week, there were more instances of Robinson showing off the downhill talent he had at Alabama.
Robinson's longest run was nine yards, but his more impactful attempts came in short yardage situations. The vision and patience he showed against the Panthers was back again, as he converted all three of his attempts on second-and-1 plays. They weren't substantial gains, but he did give the offense a fresh set of downs.
Robinson's biggest skill is that he finds ways to move forward, and it continues to pay off for him and the offense.
3. More third down issues.
Last week, the third downs problems that flustered the Commanders in 2021 emerged again against the Panthers, as Baker Mayfield completed his first three third downs on the way to an opening field goal.
This week, those problems came back.
The Chiefs converted 9-of-15 third downs, and most of that came from Patrick Mahomes and the starters. Mahomes and the starting offense converted six straight before the Commanders could muster a stop. Some of that can be chalked up to magic from Mahomes; it's also the result of shoddy coverage at certain points.
The good news is that it's just the preseason, which means there isn't much of a game plan, even against a contender like the Chiefs. Seeing the same problems from a year ago is still concerning, so the defense will need to tighten up in the next three weeks.
The Washington Commanders have begun their second preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
4. Sam Howell flashed again, but still has much to learn.
There was plenty of excitement about Sam Howell after his two-touchdown performance that nearly helped Washington take a win from the Panthers, and some of that was warranted for the rookie.
And there was some of that against the Chiefs, too, but like the rest of the unit, Howell was uneven and showed that he still has a way to go before being a finished product.
It looked like we were going to get a repeat of last week with seven minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. Howell hit Dax Milne for a 22-yard gain, which helped set up a touchdown run from Jaret Patterson two plays later. Howell completed 10-of-22 passes, and he had several moments where he showed off his rare arm strength.
He also had a few head scratching errors, the biggest being the easy interception that was grabbed by Chris Lammons. The cornerback returned the ball to Washington's 3-yard line, dashing any hopes Washington had of making a comeback.
It's an error Howell will need to learn from, and he should have plenty of opportunities to do that next week against the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Dwindling opportunities.
There are 10 days left until the Commanders need to make their final roster cuts, and while that does mean we're getting close to the regular season, it also means that 32 players will be cut soon. There are players who are on the bubble to make the roster, but their chances to secure a spot are now limited.
Fortunately, the next week of preparation for the final preseason game is going to be mostly about getting them ready for one last opportunity to make an impression. Most of the Commanders' starting roles are set, but the coaching staff has questions to answer at cornerback, tight end and defensive end.
Rivera said the staff will have difficult conversations at several positions soon. With almost none of the starters expected to play against the Ravens, the hope is that the increase in snaps will provide some answers.