Pete's Post Office: What to make of Commanders' run game in Week 1 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Every Tuesday, Pete Hailey will answer questions from Washington Commanders fans about their favorite and always-interesting team. From inquiries about the depth chart to random ones about what it's like on the beat, he hopes to provide insight into whatever is on the mind of those who care so much about the organization.
In this edition, Pete touches on one aspect of the franchise's offense that's in better shape than the statistics portray.
This submission from Deonta might be the simplest in the extended, illustrious (eight-installment) history of Pete's Post Office. However, its answer is anything but.
On the stat sheet, the Commanders ran the ball 28 times (a very encouraging number) for 85 yards (a not-so-encouraging number that comes out to an average of three yards per carry) in the Week 1 victory over Jacksonville.
So, yes, I do think the squad was properly committed to the ground game, especially in a contest that was back and forth and one where the Jaguars weren't very generous up front.
However, as is becoming more common around the NFL, coordinator Scott Turner shouldn't just be credited for the 28 handoffs he initiated, because he diagrammed and called for passes that were easy to execute like runs but went for larger distances than their more conservative counterpart.
Take, for example, the 23-yard gain that Carson Wentz and Armani Rogers connected on during the hosts' opening drive at FedEx Field.
At the snap, Rogers went to fake a block, but after realizing there was no one to even pretend to engage with, he proceeded to turn around and show his chest to Carson Wentz, who hit him with ease.
The toss traveled about five yards and Rogers actually caught it a few yards behind the line of scrimmage, much like a running back would on an exchange with Wentz. From there, Rogers had lots of grass ahead of him.
Then there were the multiple instances where Wentz partnered up with Curtis Samuel on bubble screens, such as the one on the offense's second possession that spanned 11 yards.
Samuel, aligned in the slot on the left, essentially drifted a bit toward the sideline when the play commenced, hauled in Wentz's ball and followed two blockers for a first down. No one really broke a sweat and yet the chains were moved.
Antonio Gibson — who posted seven grabs of his own — Samuel and J.D. McKissic all logged traditional carries, but once the kinds of sequences like the ones highlighted above are added into the mix (Turner also tried to involve Jahan Dotson on a reverse, but that decision didn't work out), Washington's fine rushing effort begins to look better.
And until Brian Robinson Jr., who appears to be the most natural runner on the roster, returns, Turner will likely need to stay creative.
With Wentz at quarterback, the Commanders are hoping to expand their deep passing repertoire, something that Wentz definitely accomplished in a four-touchdown performance. That said, if he can remain content with the quick completions that were designed and available versus the Jags, he can supplement the backfield and keep the overall operation in rhythm.
For a while now, the league's most efficient units have used a selection of passes as substitutes for the run when they have the personnel to do so. Washington, with its many backs, receivers and tight ends, finally seems ready to join in on that fun. It's up to Turner and Wentz to continue to orchestrate that approach.