The Washington Commanders have dropped to 1-2 after a 24-8 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are five takeaways from the Week 3 matchup, presented by the Inaugural Washington Commanders Fan Cruise.
1. The sacks.
Charles Leno said after the game that it felt like the offense was "constipated," which is certainly a colorful, accurate way to describe the lack of production from the Commanders unit. In a similar fashion to last week, plays were often disrupted before they even began, and that much was clear by the frequency in which Carson Wentz found himself on the ground.
The Commanders' offensive line struggled to contain the Eagles' pass-rush all afternoon, and six defenders got in on the action to bring Wentz down nine times, six of which came in the first half. Philadelphia set the tone early in the first quarter, as Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave brought Wentz down on back-to-back plays, leading to a third-and-26 that eventually turned into a three-and-out.
Wentz was also quick to put some of the blame on himself, saying that he needed to get rid of the ball quicker in certain situations.
"Hat's off to their D-line," Wentz said. "It's a good front, but I gotta be better and help our guys out."
The six sacks in the first half had a detrimental effect on the passing game. While Wentz had 24 passing yards, the sacks accounted for the team finishing the first two quarters with –16 yards through the air.
The Commanders have another talented defensive front coming up next week, as the Dallas Cowboys were fourth in total sacks heading into Week 3.
2. Another dismal first half.
The sacks played a heavy role in how little the offense produced in the first half, but a lack of execution to start games is starting to become a ghastly trend for the Commanders.
Any improvements the Commanders made after spotting the Detroit Lions a 22-0 lead in the first half of Week 2 were marginal at best. Unlike the previous week, there was some initial production, but the pressure on Wentz consistently stalled drives before the unit could build any momentum.
The sacks were lessened in the second half, but the Commanders were marred by incompletions and passes that were just a tick off where they needed to be placed. What's more, Washington had back-to-back three-and-outs to start the third quarter, which is a stark contrast from the boost it had against the Lions.
Even more frustrating was the empty drives that actually went into Eagles territory. Washington got as far as the Eagles' 14-yard line three times and only came away with points once, when the game was essentially wrapped up.
Washington does have potential to put up points, but starting fast continues to be a difficult hurdle for the offense to overcome.
3. The defense did its best to contain the Eagles' rushing offense...
The Eagles have the most productive offense in the league, and it was expected that Miles Sanders and Jalen Hurts would have an easy time against the Commanders' defense on the ground. They had their moments, but the defense did better than expected when it came to containing them.
The Commanders started the game by showing they were at least capable of doing what the Lions and Minnesota Vikings could not, which was limit Hurts and Sanders' running lanes. The Eagles gained just 36 yards on their first two drives, most of which were from a pass interference call. But Sanders often found his running lanes clogged by burgundy and gold, while Hurts was limited to scrambling around in the backfield on those first two possessions.
Overall, the Eagles, which had averaged nearly 190 yards per game on the ground, were limited to just 72 with a 2.4 average. Considering how easily the Eagles ran through the Vikings and Lions, it is a noteworthy stat to build on. However...
4. ...but the pass defense continues to be an issue.
Hurts made up for his lack of production on the ground with a dominant showing in the pocket. He completed 22-of-35 passes for 340 yards, including 279 in the first half, which was 30 more yards than the Commanders' entire offense gained all afternoon (240).
The Commanders had difficulty stopping the Eagles once their offense started rolling. Explosive plays were still an issue; Hurts had 10 passes resulting in gains of at least 13 yards, three of which were gains of at least 38 yards. DeVonta Smith, who had a career high 169 yards, was most often on the receiving end of those passes. He had two receptions of 40-plus yards, which helped move the offense into scoring position.
The Commanders improved in the second half, but like the offense, the defense must have some level of consistency to avoid these difficult starts to games.
5. There is still time to (quickly) correct issues on both sides of the ball.
There are 14 games left in the season. No one likes a 1-2 start, but it is important to remember that there is still time to fix the issues that have confounded the team through three weeks.
However, it is just as important to note that time is finite.
The Commanders have two difficult opponents up next in the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans. Then, after a road trip to play the Chicago Bears, they will come back to FedExField to take on the Green Bay Packers. Perhaps some of those games are winnable, but the Commanders cannot hurt themselves in the same manner that they have done the past two weeks.
The list of improvements is clear for the Commanders; they must get off to quicker starts, put together consistent drives on offense and provide better protection on offense. Defensively, they need to build off the ground performance they had against the Eagles and avoid explosive plays.
The first step towards improvement is recognizing the issues. The next step is to fix them, which has been a problem for Washington. We'll see if they can finally find a solution next week.
Click HERE for more information on the Inaugural Washington Commanders Fan Cruise.