Two weeks into the season, the Washington Commanders were 2-0 and Ron Rivera reveled in questions about their long snapper situation replacing so many of the organization’s off-field issues in recent years.
They’re now 4-10, eliminated from playoff contention and on Monday released long snapper Camaron Cheeseman after a particularly rough performance in the team’s fifth consecutive loss. The move, while a small piece of a big-picture debacle of a season, is a microcosm of Washington’s front office failings that could soon lead to major changes.
“There’s a certain point where it hadn’t been fixed the way it needs to be fixed to be consistent all the time,” Rivera said Monday. “It’s unfortunate because for two solid years, we got some real, good stuff from him. And unfortunately, this year it was not as consistent it needed to be.”
Rivera has run the organization’s football operations since being hired by former owner Dan Snyder in 2020. At the 2021 draft, Washington traded up — using a 2022 fifth-round pick — into the sixth round to select Cheeseman.
Philadelphia flipped that ’22 fifth into tight end Grant Calcaterra, who has since appeared in 26 games for one of the NFL’s best teams, and linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who has played 30 for Detroit. The Eagles are playoff-bound for a third consecutive season, and the Lions lead the NFC North and should soon be on their way.
The Commanders are guaranteed their fourth non-winning season under Rivera, who along with general manager Martin Mayhew and most of the staff, could be dismissed by the new ownership group run by Josh Harris. They visit the New York Jets (5-9) before finishing the season with home games against San Francisco and Dallas.
Well, it’s almost over. The Jets are also out of playoff contention and are coming off a 30-0 loss at Miami, which means Aaron Rodgers appears unlikely to return from his torn Achilles tendon for the Christmas Eve game against the Commanders.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Two games into Rivera firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and taking over the play-calling duties, the defense is still broken — and perhaps bad enough that the Jets can score on Washington without Rodgers or Zach Wilson running the show. The Commanders allowed 445 yards and 28 points in their loss Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams, who seemed to even take it easy on them late rather than run up the score.
Veteran backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed eight of 10 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns after relieving Sam Howell late at L.A., Rivera said if the Commanders were in a playoff race, switching from Howell to Brissett would be “something you have to most certainly consider.”
Instead, the job still belongs to Howell, and it was a good showcase for Brissett, who at 31 could head back to free agency next year.
One of the latest issues is batted-down passes, which at 6-foot-1 explains one reason Howell fell to the fifth round of the 2022 draft.
Punter Tress Way escaped serious injury when he was run into after one of Cheeseman’s bad snaps. The Commanders could also have a new starting left tackle after Charles Leno left in the second half Sunday with a calf injury.
Running back Brian Robinson Jr. could return after missing the Rams game with an injured hamstring.
17 — Yards of separation Cooper Kupp had from the nearest Washington defender on his 62-yard touchdown catch from Matthew Stafford, the second-most space on a reception since the NFL’s NextGen Stats began tracking such data in 2016.
Ideally, don’t get embarrassed by the Jets, who are 3-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook. The final two weeks against the 49ers and Cowboys almost certainly won’t be pretty, unless those opponents don’t have anything left to play for.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl