There's good and bad news when it comes to the Washington Commanders' offense.
The good news is that Washington has shown that it can play up to any level of competition on the field. Conversely, it can also play down to just about any team it sees on Sunday.
The offense has been on a roller coaster all season. There have been highs, like putting up 35 points against the Denver Broncos and 31 points against the Philadelphia Eagles; there have also been several lows, and last Sunday's 14-7 loss to the New York Giants was one of them. It's difficult to know which version of the Commanders is going to show up on the field, and the players know that needs to stop if they hope to turn their season around.
"I think we've shown what our potential is," *Sam Howell *said. "We've shown the standard that we want to play at. It's just a matter of each and every week of going into the game and executing the plan, everyone doing their job."
There were several reasons for the frustration that seeped from the Commanders' locker room last Sunday, from the sacks to the overall lack of production from the offense, but one cause for all that ire is because the unit looked nothing like the one that was on the field during the previous game.
Let's make this clear: the Commanders' offense was not perfect against the Atlanta Falcons, but it was much better than it was against the Chicago Bears. They started fast with 10 points on their first three drives, held a lead for most of the game and capitalized on their scoring opportunities.
Almost none of that was present against the Giants. As unsightly as they are, we'll go over some of the stats again. They started the game with seven punts and an interception in the first half; they didn't get a first down until the second quarter; and their final two drives, which ended deep in Giants territory, ended with zero points.
Howell knows it's the NFL, and the number of talented players in the league ensures that it's impossible to execute at the same level every week. Still, for a team that does have talent on the offensive roster, it's not good enough to play with so much variance.
"We know in this league it's not going to happen each and every week, but you definitely should never lose a game when the defense gives up 14 points," Howell said.
What's even more aggravating is that when Washington's offense is clicking, it's about as good as any in the league.
Just take a look at the Commanders' numbers from the game against the Eagles in Week 4. They put up 365 total yards -- Howell threw for 290 of that plus a touchdown -- converted 47% of their third downs and rushed for 107 yards while scoring on four of their five red zone attempts. If the Commanders had managed to play like that more often, then there's a good chance they would have emerged victorious in games against the Bears and Giants they felt they should have won.
"There's definitely a standard, and I think we've shown that standard a few times this year," Howell said. "That's definitely the standard that we chase every single time we step out on the field on Sundays."
There's a strong argument to be made that Washington had its most complete game against the Eagles in Week 4. They'll have a chance to replicate that on Sunday, but despite taking the Eagles into overtime, the Commanders know that they're still going to be a challenge.
"They're doing a good job and they're doing a good job up front, obviously they have all those guys up front and I could sit here all day and name all those guys that they have. They have so much talent up there up front, and they have good players in the secondary."
And they know that just because they played well a few weeks ago doesn't guarantee the same results on Sunday.
"We're going to go into the game with however [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy] feels and we just got to execute. That's what it comes down to."
-- Howell was asked several questions about taking too many sacks for the seven games, and obviously, he's as frustrated as everyone else is about it. One of the most popular suggestions is for the Commanders to get Howell moving outside of the pocket. That might work at times, but there are some limitations that come with that decision.
"When you kind of go out there on the perimeter, it limits what all you can do as far as like route combinations and stuff like that where you kind of got to have the right look to run those types of plays. It's harder to get the right look every single time. Obviously, we did a good job in the game, and we were seeing a lot of man coverage, so we kind of knew a lot of those route combinations would be good. But it's just kind of a throughout the game thing, you like to sprinkle in some movements every now and then just to try to keep the defense off balance."
-- Howell was blunt about what didn't work against the Giants: "We started too slow, and we didn't execute well enough in the first half to give ourselves a chance."
"Obviously, we did some good things in the second half, which gave us a chance to win the game. We had so many chances there on that last drive to score a touchdown and so that one definitely hurts. But the best part about this league is we have another opportunity this week, a good Philly team and we had a good battle with them last time. So hopefully, we'll do a good job this week as far as preparation goes and go out there Sunday and try to put our best foot forward."
-- Howell also spoke on his relationship between him and the offensive line.
"I think it just comes down to we're all in this together. We have a lot of conversations about what we feel like we need to do and obviously the sack issue is what it is and we're all trying to fix it and we're all trying to do everything we can. We're all trying to do our part. I think the first way to solve that is everyone has to acknowledge what they need to do better. I think we have that in our room and we have that in our offense and everyone's acknowledging different ways that we can help each other out."