The Washington Commanders have concluded their preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers, and Ron Rivera, Carson Wentz, Sam Howell, Charles Leno, Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson all spoke to the media. Here are some of the highlights from their scrums and press conferences.
On what he saw from the starting unit:
- "Well, I was pleased with what we got on the offensive side. First of all, on kickoff, we can't get the ball outside the 25. That was a little infuriating to me. There was no excuse for that. If we are going to return the ball, we need to buzz and get outside the 20. You can't have your offense starting inside the 20. That is the first thing. Second thing is, you've got an opportunity on second-and-long when you're on defense. You've got to keep it second-and-long. Too many third-and-mediums to short. That was one of the [things] that [defensive coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] and I talked about. And we talked about it directly. It was obvious, you get to second-and-long or third-and-three, third-and-four. We can't do that, that's too hard. We've got to be better and that's one of the things that we talked about."
On QB Carson Wentz's performance:
- "Well, I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he threw where he was supposed to. He threw a very catchable ball and delivered it on time. I thought he went through his progressions the way he needed to. I thought he handled the huddle well. I thought he got the calls out. And he did the things we hoped he would do."
On TEs Curtis Hodges and Armani Rodgers performances:
- "I thought they did a hell of a job. For two young guys to come in and basically play the whole game. And got to give [TE] Eli [Wolf] a little credit too. We brought him about a week ago and he's done a heck of a job picking it up and learning it. I mean, three guys come in and basically play the whole game. That's a hell of an effort, and it was good to see. These young guys have got to learn and have got to understand. They did a nice job."
On how he thought QB Sam Howell played today:
- "I thought Sam did a nice job. He played like he did in college. This is a guy that is very smart, got a good arm, very athletic, runs well with the ball. He's a guy the more he learns the better he is going to become. He is a guy that has a bright future."
On how the three safeties looked out there:
- "The one thing about Darrick [Forrest] that you like is that he is a high impact guy. He runs around. He runs into things. He is physical by nature and he's got tremendous athleticism. Watching Percy [Butler] move around was very impressive as well. He had an opportunity for a big play and that is unfortunate because we turned it over a couple times and we didn't get one. It would have been good to have gotten at least one or two. But, again, at least our guys are flying around playing hard right now."
On how the first game went:
- "I thought it wasn't perfect, but it was good to get our feet wet offensively for one, slower start unfortunately but I thought that third drive was good for us to get out there and stay on the field and convert some third downs and finish in the end zone. So, as far as that went, I thought that was okay. A loss is never fun but there's a lot we can learn from on both sides of the ball, that was good for us."
On WR Curtis Samuel playing:
- "He looks great, he's explosive and everyone knows that he's dynamic with the ball in his hands and I thought he looked good today. I'll see the tape, but I've seen it in camp. I've seen how he is and how quick twitch he is and how explosive he is with the ball in his hands so that's good for him to get out here and it's good for me to feel that and start developing that chemistry in game but not just him, with all of them."
On the tight end group and performance:
- "Totally hard to say, I thought getting them involved was cool, there was a couple plays in a row where Armani [Rogers] got the ball, but I think all of them have done a great job as these other guys have gone down. Stepping up, their getting a ton of reps in practice, a ton of opportunities. The game today was no different. I thought they did a good job of stepping up. We'll see the tape to see how they did but I thought they did a good job."
On the balance of the preseason and a new team:
- "I thought coach did a great job. We're always trying to toe that line and for one, coach [Turner] calls the plays so we just go out there and try to execute them the best we can. Coach did a good job of that and just understanding his demeanor, his personality on how he sees the game has been really fun for me throughout the offseason and into training camp as well. So, just seeing that in game experience, moving pieces around, seeing his flow of the game with him I thought was cool to get that long drive to try and experience that a little bit."
On the rhythm in his scoring drive:
- "I thought it was good. Just coming out and moving the ball, whether we were calling plays down the field, there's a couple down the field that maybe I want back, but even though we were calling the plays down the field, we were finding guys underneath and we were moving the chains. I thought that was important for us, and there's a lot we can learn from it. I'm sure we'll go back and watch the tape. I thought that third drive was important for us to sustain a drive and pick up some third downs."
On what he was most pleased with today:
- "I was just pleased to be able to put some points on the board. I try to do what I can and execute on every single play that's called. I think I definitely left some plays out there though and there's some things I can improve on and build on from this game, so I just can't wait to watch the film and get back to work."
On the 17-yard touchdown scramble:
- "I didn't really see anything open but I saw a little hole, so I just tried to tuck it, run it, and make a play. I ran the ball a lot in college, so it's something I'm kind of used to."
On what surprised him the most from his debut:
- "The speed of the game, for sure. You can see it in practice, but you can't really see it until you get to the games. I would definitely say just the speed of the game."
On how long it took for him to get comfortable the speed:
- "I was comfortable after I completed a couple of passes, and with some of the more 'down the field' passes, I felt pretty comfortable with those."
On how it feels to have so much support from the fans after his performance:
- "It's awesome. Every opportunity I get I'm going to try to take advantage of it and do my best for this organization. That's what they drafted me here to do, and I'm going to try and continue to get better. I'm gonna give this organization all I got."
On what his first NFL touchdown was like:
- "I don't know, I can't really explain it. I feel like I worked so hard up to this point and to finally step into the end zone felt amazing really."
On how long did it take for him to feel comfortable in his first NFL game:
- "I still don't feel comfortable. I still don't feel like I've played enough to gain the comfortability that I need to play at this position, but the series that I was in gave me a good feel for what's to come. The more I continue to get game reps, the more comfortable I'll get over time."
On how it felt to run out onto the field:
- "It just felt like home all over again. I wanted to get a feel for where I'll spend most of my time playing my games. That was an amazing feeling, just grasping that energy from the crowd."
On how he's improved at catching passes from camp to today's game:
- "I feel like I can really catch the ball. I've never doubted my catching ability, but I got to continue to prove that I can be consistent with catching the ball out of the backfield. Even though most people wouldn't think that's part of my skill set, I continue to show that I can catch the ball. I was just happy I got the chance to do that."
On what he needs to work on:
- "Just as far as getting comfortable. Today, I felt like I didn't time up on some of my reads on some of my runs. Even though they looked good from the outside, I know I could've ran some plays a bit better. I just have to be a bit more patient in my run game. I just got to clean it up and that will help me perform better."
On his fumble:
- "Just got to hold the ball all the way down. Had ball security and was low to the ground and I let up. I just got to have it all the way up until the ground."
On the overall team performance:
- "Everybody looked good. Everybody came in and performed. They got an opportunity to look good, got in the end zone. [QB Sam Howell] looked real good out there to me. Just team effort and come out with that W at the end."
On where he goes from here:
- "Just keep critiquing at the craft and trying to get better. That's it for me."
On what goes through his head on a fumbled play:
- "Very frustrating. Can't have that though. Its a big time, big game league, cant have that happen. I can't do nothing but move on to the next play. Correct what I need to correct and keep it moving."
On talking to RB Antonio Gibson after the fumble:
- "My biggest message was, you know, I know how he felt after last year. He worked so hard I don't think he's dropped a ball at all anytime in camp, been working really hard for that. Then he comes out and this happens you have to understand, recognize the situation, release, and refocus to get right back to it. Understand that that's one play, it doesn't have to happen again. Work on technique and understand the way he runs, we really appreciate how he runs, when he runs hard that ball doesn't come out. Just making sure we keep attacking, don't be passive."
On RB Brian Robinson Jr.:
- "He runs hard. He did that at Alabama, that's what he is doing. He does it for us. I could tell right when we got he was going to be a good player, we could definitely use him and he does a really good job for us."