Washington logged its first win of the Commanders era, beating the Jaguars 28-22 to open the 2022 season. Making big plays at clutch moments on their respective sides of the ball, safety Darrick Forrest, wide receiver Curtis Samuel, wide receiver Jahan Dotson and running back Antonio Gibson took command in the hard-fought victory at FedExField. Here's how they played on Sunday afternoon:
The second-year safety didn't let his opportunity to start go to waste after being tapped to step in for Kamren Curl, who was ruled out of the season opener with a thumb injury. Forrest worked to be a nuisance all afternoon, dishing out clean tackles and asserting himself in plays at the right times to neutralize Jacksonville threats.
In the dying seconds of the first half, Forrest delivered a hit that leveled running back Travis Etienne with a force that popped the ball out of his hands. In the very next play, with the Jags knocking at the door on third-and-goal, he swatted down a ball in the end zone intended for Zay Jones.
That momentum continued into the third quarter when Forrest came up with another key red zone play by denying Jacksonville's 2-point conversion attempt. The Cincinnati product put his final stamp on the game with the Commanders' final defensive play of the afternoon. Trevor Lawrence and the Jags' offense needed to score with just over a minute to play, but Forrest did well to read the pass and intercept the ball to seal the win.
Teammates Curl and Jeremy Reaves hyped up Forrest for his performance today, and deservedly so.
The highly-touted receiver was vocal about the frustration and discouragement he experienced throughout last season, as he was at the mercy of a back-and-forth injury roller coaster. As training camp progressed, Samuel talked about how he was feeling better, and the coaching staff worked to make sure to protect that feeling by taking a measured approach to ramping him up.
The talent that the coaches carefully nursed, the one that Samuel was so disappointed in not being able to show last year was on full display today. Samuel was a game-changer on several occasions. He was a favorite target for Carson Wentz in the first half, amassing 54 yards of the team's total 145 yards during its first two drives, and recorded his first Commanders touchdown -- the first Commanders touchdown ever -- in the team's first drive of the game. He was effective as both a pass-rusher and pass-catcher, finishing the day with 72 yards on 15 touches.
The rookie out of Penn State impressed throughout training camp, exhibiting his impressive catch radius, shifty route running and speed while embracing new expectations as a professional athlete.
In his regular season debut at FedExField, Dotson showed that those positive comments were well-founded and offered a glimpse as to why the Commanders chose him with the No. 16 overall pick in the draft. In the second quarter, the wideout wielded good footwork to get some distance from his defender and hauled in his very first NFL catch -- a 7-yard pass for the Commanders second touchdown of the game to go up 14-3. The last Washington rookie to catch a touchdown pass in Week 1 was Terry McLaurin. Not bad company to keep.
Dotson's second touchdown was arguably the play of the game. Jacksonville had clawed its way back to take a narrow 22-20 lead with just a couple minutes left in the game. Dotson faked out his defender and accelerated into the end zone to get open for Wentz and connect on a 24-yard touchdown. In his NFL debut, Dotson 40 yards on three reception and two touchdowns.
Washington's starting running back last season experienced some challenges in training camp. Gibson was honest in talking about the mistakes he had made and expressed his determination to get back in top form, saying he stilled believes he is one of the best running backs in the league.
Behold the power of self-belief and a commitment to the craft. Gibson was an important offensive weapon in Washington's Week 1 win. He was solid between the tackles on the afternoon to chomp up yardage on the ground. He finished the afternoon with 14 carries and 58 yards. The running back was also a reliable pass catcher, snagging seven catches for 72 yards. Finishing with 130 total yards, the Jaguars win marked the 10th time in Gibson's career that he eclipsed 100-plus scrimmage yards.
The Washington Commanders are kicking off the 2022 season with a home matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photos by Kourtney Carroll and Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)