Carson Wentz: 'We've dug ourselves a hole'
Another slow start hampers Washington and the former Bison QB, who was sacked nine times in Washington's loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
LANDOVER, Md. — Wakeup calls are available at every reputable hotel. And Ron Rivera should put an early one in now for every room in Dallas occupied by former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and the rest of the Washington Commanders next Sunday.
Apparently, no one is informing the Commanders about the starting times for their recent games. In the past two weeks, they've been outscored by Detroit and Philadelphia by a combined 46-0 in the first halves of games they eventually lost.
"Unfortunately, in back-to-back weeks, we've dug ourselves a hole," said Wentz, who was sacked nine times in Sunday's not-that-close 24-8 drubbing by one of his former teams, the Eagles. "I've got to be better early on so we don't have to throw the whole second half."
That strategy almost worked a week earlier in Detroit, when Wentz and the Commanders made things interesting in the final 30 minutes before falling 36-27.
On Sunday, though, their makeshift offensive line stood no chance against the Eagles' formidable pass rush, which registered nine sacks. Fletcher Cox and company dropped Wentz on four of his first seven dropbacks and forced him into hurried, inaccurate throws even when he wasn't under pressure.
All of that is a major concern. What's even more jarring, though, is the Commanders' lack of urgency — at least publicly.
"We'll take a few lumps now, but we'll start giving them out pretty soon," said Rivera, who called himself "an optimist."
No one ever wants to betray panic, but Rivera's team is at a crossroads just three weeks into a critical season for the coach and his quarterback.
Despite a wealth of talent at receiver and along the defensive line, the Commanders (1-2) keep playing like a team that hasn't had its morning coffee. They're sluggish and often sloppy, falling behind in all three of their games.
In fact, if Jacksonville hadn't squandered its golden chance in the season opener, Washington could be staring at 0-3 and long odds against even a wild-card spot in the expanded NFL playoffs.
"This NFL is fast and furious," Wentz said. "You've got to learn from it quickly. We've got to get down to Dallas and execute better."
If Wentz thought Cox and Brandon Graham were in his face quickly Sunday, wait until Micah Parsons gets his chance to blow past Washington's makeshift offensive line.
And although Dak Prescott's broken thumb probably won't allow him to play next week, the Commanders' underachieving defense has made every quarterback they've faced this season look like Tom Brady.
On Sunday, Jalen Hurts threw for 340 yards—169 of them to Hesiman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, who feasted on a secondary that was without injured cornerback William Jackson. On the Eagles' first play from scrimmage, Hurts picked on fill-in cornerback Rachad Wildgoose for a 23-yard interference penalty.
Yes, getting Chase Young back sometime after next Sunday's game should help. But there's no guarantee that his reconstructed knee will allow him to immediately regain his 2020 defensive rookie of the year form.
No, the Commanders need figure things out quickly.
Rivera needs to decide if Jack Del Rio is the right man to run their defense. Each week seems to indicate that he's not: Washington entered play Sunday with the 27th-ranked defense and allowed the Eagles an even 400 yards. If Rivera is going to pull the plug, why wait?
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Scott Turner must accept the fact that his line (minus injured center Chase Roullier) can't protect Wentz in the pocket. That fact effectively took Washington's best player, Terry McLaurin, out of commission until the outcome was already decided.
Turner will need to be even more creative with quick throws, formations and motion to get the ball out of Wentz's hands (which aren't always secure, as Sunday's two fumbles proved) and more often into those of McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, Antonio Gibson and Logan Thomas.
And there's some urgency. Three of Washington's next four opponents (Dallas, Tennessee and Green Bay) were playoff teams a year ago.
Yes, it's still September. But thus far, the Commanders haven't shown much of an ability to dig themselves out of in-game deficits. There's little to suggest they can do the same over the course of a 17-game schedule.
"We've got 14 games left," Rivera said. "We've got plenty of time. But we'll run out of time if we don't get things rolling."
They could start with being competitive early in games. The past two weeks have provided all the alarm bells they should need.
© 2022 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.