Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media during his weekly Monday press conference following the team's 20-17 win over the New England Patriots. Here are some notes and quotes from his time with reporters.
-- As Commanders fans know, Sam Howell has taken more than his share of hits this season. He's been sacked 44 times through nine games, which is by far the most in the league. And yet, despite the consistent pressure he's received from defenses, he's tried to keep his eyes downfield to make the correct decisions. That is not a surprise to Rivera because of the trust and comfort level he's developing in the offense.
"You can see the comfort level in which he's executing the play call," Rivera said. "How he's involved in the protections, how he's involved in checking with the receivers and changing routes and stuff like that. It's taken a little bit to get there. We kind of figured it would take some time. We didn't expect him to take as many hits as he did early on, but what's happening is I think the confidence is starting to really show."
Check out the best photos of the Washington Commanders' Week 9 matchup with the New England Patriots. (photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
-- After getting limited reps for the last few weeks, Emmanuel Forbes Jr. played much better against the Patriots. He was targeted seven times but allowed just two catches for 12 yards. Rivera doesn't believe the cause for that improvement comes from drastic changes to Forbes' technique; rather, it was about Forbes getting a better grasp of the system and what it takes to play the position.
"He still has a ways to go. He did some good things, but there's still some things that we're missing that he's gotta get better at, and he's gotta understand how important those things are."
-- After giving up 40 sacks in the first seven games, the Commanders only allowed four in Weeks 8 and 9 combined. Some of that is a credit to Tyler Larsen being moved to the starting center position, and Rivera believes there are a few things that have been affected by Larsen's presence. For one, he contributes to a stouter presence in the middle of the offensive line, but Larsen's understanding of the offense has played a major role in how the protection has improved.
-- The coaching staff has emphasized how much it believes in Howell, but his teammates are also voicing his support. Jonathan Allen, for example, said he believes that Howell is the franchise's long-term answer at the position. Rivera believes that Howell having that kind of confidence from his teammates is important.
"The guys believe there's a chance with Sam," Rivera said.
-- Washington's rookie class played a bigger role in the team's win over the Patriots, which Rivera views as a sign of the group's growth.
"Those young guys are coming along pretty well. And again, if these young guys play and grow and develop, things bode well as we go further down the line."
-- Jamison Crowder has proven to be one of the Commanders' most important offseason pickups because of his abilities as a return specialist and a depth piece at the wide receiver position. Rivera said Crowder has been "tremendous" this season because of the excitement and energy he brings.
"He's gotten more opportunities, and it really has helped us. One thing you see is his professionalism, his willingness to go out there and play."