Miami's Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill celebrate the Dolphins' win against the New York Jets.

Dolphins continue climb, visit reeling Commanders

The Miami Dolphins are chasing a third victory in a row when they visit the Washington Commanders on Sunday afternoon in Landover, Md.

Miami (8-3) sits atop the AFC East and is coming off wins over the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Jets. The Dolphins are in pursuit of their first division title since the 2008 season.

Washington (4-8) has lost three games in a row and eight of its last 10. No team has allowed more points than the Commanders, who gave up 30-plus points for the seventh time this season in their most lopsided loss of 2023, a 45-10 thumping at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Embattled coach Ron Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and will oversee that group after giving players extra time away to recharge.

“Hopefully, some of these guys come back and they’re a little more energized, a little more focused and we’ll see how they handle it and how they react to things,” Rivera said.

Based on the results to date produced by Miami’s dual-engine offense, the Commanders need all the juice they can muster.

The only losses for Miami came against the Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, who have a combined record of 24-10.

Coach Mike McDaniel’s scheme led by fourth-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is No. 1 in the NFL in total offense with 430.5 yards per game, and they rank No. 2 in scoring offense with 30.8 points per game prior to Dallas’ contest versus the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday.

Wideout Tyreek Hill has caught at least eight passes in five consecutive games, but he is nursing an ankle injury that kept him out of the first full practice this week. He has posted 100-plus yards and a touchdown in each of his past two contests.

Fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle also has game-changing ability. He had eight catches for a team-high 114 yards in last week’s 34-13 win over the Jets.

Tagovailoa praised Waddle for shining as the second option when he would be the No. 1 receiver on many other teams.

“I think he’s done a really good job, sort of mitigating the outside noise,” Tagovailoa said. “I do understand as a competitor he wants to be in the mix with (Tyreek Hill) continuing to make plays for the team. He does have big games but it’s sort of minimized because of the production that Tyreek gives our offense.

“But I think highly of Jaylen, and I mean he’s going to continue to do things that we need for him to do to help us win games down the stretch.”

Washington also has shown that it can move the ball. In his first full season as a starter, quarterback Sam Howell leads the NFL in completions (323) and passing yards (3,339) through the first 12 weeks of the season. The issue for the Commanders has been protecting Howell in the pocket. He’s on pace to shatter the NFL record for times sacked in a season.

Howell and the Commanders’ receivers, led by Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, face a tough test this week against Dolphins cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard.

“We definitely have our hands full out on the perimeter,” Howell said. “But we’ve got some good wideouts, and I’m going to take our wideouts vs. anybody every week.”

In addition to Hill (ankle), three other Dolphins players missed the first full practice of the week: running back Raheem Mostert (ankle, knee), safety Jevon Holland (knee) and offensive lineman Kendall Lamm (back).

Washington had three players out with injuries for its first full practice: cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (elbow), center Tyler Larsen (knee) and defensive end James Smith-Williams (hamstring). Forbes, a rookie first-round pick, missed the loss at Dallas and is unlikely to return this week, Rivera said.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; A Washington Commanders helmet on the sideline against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Commanders hire DBs coach Jim Salgado

The Commanders hired former Bills defensive backs coach Jim Salgado on an interim basis, ESPN reported Wednesday.

Washington fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and DBs coach Brent Vieselmeyer last Friday.

Buffalo parted ways with Salgado after six seasons following last season’s playoff loss against Cincinnati.

He joined the Michigan State staff for 2023 but was available following coach Mel Tucker being fired by the Spartans.

Before joining the Bills, Salgado coached at Princeton (2013-16) and Syracuse (2005-08).

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in the game abasing the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders fire DC Jack Del Rio, DBs coach

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer on Friday.

The moves followed a 45-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, a third straight setback that dropped the Commanders to 4-8.

“Today I relieved Jack Del Rio and Brent Vieselmeyer of their duties,” Rivera said in a statement. “I appreciate all that they contributed to the organization over the past four seasons and wish them all the best moving forward.”

Rivera is expected to call plays for the defense for the remainder of the season.

Del Rio, 60, was in his fourth season as the defensive coordinator in Washington.

He was a head coach in the NFL for 12 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-11) and the then-Oakland Raiders (2015-17), compiling an overall record of 93-94 with three playoff appearances.

Vieselmeyer, 48, joined Washington’s staff in 2020. He was the assistant defensive backs coach for three seasons until being promoted to defensive backs coach for the 2023 season.

The Commanders rank last in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing 29.2 points per game. The Cowboys gained 431 yards on Thanksgiving.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) drops back to pass against the Washington Commanders during the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dak Prescott, Cowboys notch their latest beatdown of Commanders

Dak Prescott continued his mastery of the Washington Commanders and DaRon Bland set an NFL record with his fifth pick-6 of the season as the Dallas Cowboys rolled to a 45-10 victory in their annual Thanksgiving Day game in Arlington, Texas.

Prescott completed 22 of 32 passes for 331 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, helping Dallas (8-3) dominate on the way to its third straight win as it moved a step closer to clinching its third consecutive playoff berth.

Bland’s 63-yard interception return came long after the outcome was decided, with 4:39 left. On his way to scoring, Bland dodged three potential tacklers, including Washington quarterback Sam Howell.

Bland previously was tied with Eric Allen (1993), Jim Kearney (1972) and Ken Houston (1971), with four interception return touchdowns.

At home in his career, Prescott is 6-0 against NFC East rival Washington with 17 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Howell completed 28 of 44 passes for 300 yards and his one interception. Howell scored the lone touchdown for Washington (4-8), which has lost eight of its last 10.

After Prescott missed two open receivers running deep on the Cowboys’ first possession, he guided touchdown drives the next three times Dallas got the ball.

Rico Dowdle capped the first drive, which covered 90 yards, with a 15-yard touchdown reception as he used Zack Martin’s block on a screen pass to sprint unencumbered to the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

After Washington answered with a 43-yard field goal by Joey Slye, Prescott threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks to give the Cowboys a 14-3 lead.

Washington answered as Howell capped a 75-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring carry to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 14-10 with 1:51 before halftime.

But Washington’s defense, which has surrendered more points than any team in the NFL, was easy pickings again for Dallas as it needed just five plays to cruise 75 yards. Tony Pollard ran 7 yards up the middle for a touchdown and a 20-10 Cowboys lead at the break.

After neither team scored in a quiet third quarter, Brandon Aubrey increased Dallas’ lead to 23-10 with a 52-yard field goal. Aubrey, a rookie, missed an extra point earlier in the game but now is perfect this season on 22 field goal tries.

Johnathan Hankins set up a Dallas touchdown when he sacked Howell on a fourth-and-1 play at the Washington 23. Three plays later, Prescott threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb for a 31-10 lead.

After another fourth down stop by the Dallas defense, Prescott fired his fourth touchdown pass, a 34-yard strike to KaVontae Turpin.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera talks to Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) after an interception during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders, embattled coach Ron Rivera face tall task at Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders enter their NFC East Thanksgiving Day matchup in vastly different mindsets.

While the Cowboys (7-3) are rolling toward their third straight playoff appearance, the Commanders (4-7) are on track for their seventh consecutive non-winning season.

With speculation flying about a potential pink slip for coach Ron Rivera on Black Friday, especially if Washington lays another egg on national TV in Dallas, there’s one overarching storyline entering the game.

Rivera hit perhaps the nadir of his tenure in Washington on Sunday when the Commanders committed six turnovers in a 31-19 loss at home to the lowly New York Giants.

Peppered with questions about his future and the team’s lack of improvement over his four seasons in D.C., Rivera stuck to his one-game-at-a-time mantra Monday.

“What I try to do is just focus in on what’s important today and that’s really just preparing to get ready for Dallas,” Rivera said.

Throughout this season, Rivera has emphasized the development of second-year quarterback Sam Howell and his role as a long-term building block.

But against the Giants, Howell threw three interceptions, including a fluttering pass that Isaiah Simmons returned 54 yards for the game-clinching touchdown with 16 seconds left.

“It’s not like we got outplayed. We just didn’t take care of the football. We were moving the ball up and down the field,” Howell said. “We literally beat ourselves.”

The mistakes on Sunday gave Washington the worst turnover differential in the NFL at -8, while Dallas is tied for fifth best at +6.

With the Cowboys producing 30.2 points per game, which is second best in the NFL, and quarterback Dak Prescott gaining traction as an MVP candidate, this figures to be a particularly tough matchup for the Commanders.

Their defense has allowed more touchdown passes (24) than any team in the league. They also rank last in opposing passer rating (100.8).

Dallas is coming off a 33-10 romp at Carolina as DeRon Bland had his fourth pick-6 of the year, tying an NFL record, and the Cowboys defense registered seven sacks.

That’s a daunting prospect for Howell, who has been sacked 51 times and is on track to top single-season record holder David Carr, who was sacked 76 times in 2002.

Schedule-wise this has been an odd season for Dallas as nine of its first 11 opponents currently have losing records.

“It’ll be my job as a leader making sure guys understand that once again, you’re looking (at a) lesser opponent, but we’ve got to come in and take care of business on Thanksgiving,” Prescott said. “Then we can enjoy our holidays the right way.”

Next week starts a rugged stretch for Dallas as it faces Seattle (6-4), followed by December games against Philadelphia (9-1), Buffalo (6-5), Miami (7-3) and Detroit (8-2).

On Tuesday, Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (back) did not practice for the second straight day. Wideout CeeDee Lamb (ankle) and offensive tackle Terence Steele (ankle) were full participants after being limited on Monday.

Washington starters who were held out of practice were CB Emmanuel Forbes (elbow), LB Khaleke Hudson (back) and DE James Smith-Williams (hamstring), while RB Antonio Gibson (toe) was limited.

DE Efe Obada (broken leg) was placed on injured reserve.

– Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada (97) is carted off the field after being injured against the New York Giants during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders DE Efe Obada undergoes surgery on leg breaks

Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada underwent surgery to repair multiple leg fractures Sunday night, hours after being carted off the field in a loss to the New York Giants, The Athletic reported Monday.

Obada suffered the injury in the first quarter of Washington’s 31-19 defeat in Landover, Md.

Obada, 31, was playing in just his fifth game of the season after spending time on injured reserve with a knee injury. He had two tackles. He’ll be a free agent after the season.

Obada recorded 24 tackles and four sacks in 17 games (one start) last season.

He has totaled 88 tackles, 15 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in 69 career games (three starts) with the Carolina Panthers (2018-20), Buffalo Bills (2021) and Commanders.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) throws the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders plan on-the-fly defensive fixes with Giants up next

How the Commanders’ defense went from No. 3 in yards allowed in the 2022 to the fourth-worst entering Week 11 remains one of the questions Washington is actively working to answer with seven games to play in 2023.

Identifying reasons for the freefall isn’t easy. The unit, guided by the same coordinator, Jack Del Rio, was bolstered by first- and second-round selections in the 2023 draft and has remained relatively injury free.

But here sits Washington (4-6), a loser of six of its last eight games and all fingers pointing at its defense, heading into a date Sunday at home with the New York Giants (2-8).

“I’ve been disappointed. It’s unfortunate, but it’s happened,” Rivera said of allowing big plays and big points.

New York has lost seven of its last eight with the lone win coming at home over Washington, 14-7, on Oct. 22. Despite that defeat, the Commanders are a double-digit favorite for the first time since 2017.

The margin says more about the state of the Giants than the Commanders. They are down to their third quarterback, Tommy DeVito, and injuries have eliminated several other starters.

But if there is a defense DeVito can riddle, it might be Washington’s. In a 29-26 loss Sunday at Seattle, the Seahawks scored on their final three possessions to eke out the win.

Geno Smith carved up the Commanders for 31 completions in 47 attempts for a career-high 369 yards and two touchdowns.

“We’ve got to be better on first- and second-down situations,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re playing a number of different guys now, especially after last week and there’s some cohesion that has to come.”

Rivera was speaking about deadline day deals that sent starting defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young to the Bears and 49ers, respectively, in return for draft picks. Those moves elevated backups to starters.

“The mindset of the team more than anything else is the opportunity that’s in front of us — focusing, preparing and doing the things we need to do to prepare ourselves to win,” Rivera said.

The struggles of the defense have left the Commanders wondering what might have been. Sam Howell, who leads the NFL in passing yards (2,783), may finally be the answer at quarterback.

But some of his best performances have come in losses in which the defense collapsed. The Commanders twice put up 31 points against the Eagles and dropped both games.

“I feel good about the direction our offense has grown. The guys are playing faster. They are playing with more confidence. They have a better grasp for what we’re doing,” Rivera said.

When Washington fell to New York four weeks ago, the Giants sacked Howell six times, exposing his primary flaw. Howell has been sacked 47 times, putting him on track to break David Carr’s single season record of 76.

DeVito has risen to the starting job after the loss of Daniel Jones (torn ACL) and Tyrod Taylor (rib injury), who passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns when the Giants beat the Commanders four weeks ago.

New York has struggled with DeVito at the controls. In a 49-17 loss at Dallas last week, DeVito completed 14 of 27 passes for 86 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The two touchdowns came in the second half and the first was after the Cowboys were already up 28-0. Playing behind a patchwork offensive line, DeVito has been sacked 11 times the last two weeks.

“You make no excuses about it,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “We are at where we are at and that’s where we’re meant to be right now, relative to what we’ve done.”

Commanders who missed practice on Wednesday include cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (illness) and running back Antonio Gibson (toe). WR Curtis Samuel was limited.

Giants starters missing practice include cornerback Adoree Jackson (concussion), offensive tackle Evan Neal (ankle) and linebackers Bobby Okereke (hip) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (concussion). Limited participants were offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (knee), cornerback Deonte Banks (ankle), safeties Xavier McKinney (rib) and Jason Pinnock (thumb/ankle), RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) and DeVito (left shoulder).

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to pass against the Washington Commanders during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Myers’ fifth FG gives Seahawks win over Lions

Jason Myers kicked five field goals, the last a 43-yarder as time expired, as the Seattle Seahawks outlasted the visiting Washington Commanders 29-26 Sunday afternoon.

Geno Smith completed 31 of 47 passes for 369 yards and two TDs as the Seahawks (6-3) remained in a tie with San Francisco atop the NFC West. Kenneth Walker III rushed for 63 yards and scored on a 64-yard reception.

Sam Howell was 29-of-44 passing for 312 yards and three scores for the Commanders (4-6). Brian Robinson Jr. rushed for 38 yards and caught six passes for 119 yards and a TD.
Myers’ kick capped a wild fourth quarter.

Howell threw a 19-yard scoring strike to Antonio Gibson to tie the score with eight minutes remaining.

Smith responded with a 5-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett to restore Seattle’s lead with 3:47 left.

Howell wasn’t done, hitting Dyami Brown on a 35-yard crossing route to tie it with 52 seconds to go.

The Seahawks took their first lead at 16-12 on a 64-yard pass from Smith to Walker with 9:43 left in the third quarter.

Myers booted a 45-yard field goal with 12:14 remaining to extend the lead to 19-12.

The Commanders scored on the game’s opening drive on a broken play. Howell scrambled and looked ready to pull the ball down and run before spotting an open Robinson, who sprinted 51 yards down the left sideline for Washington’s longest touchdown of the season. Joey Slye’s extra-point attempt hit the left upright, leaving the Commanders with a 6-0 lead.

The rest of the half turned into a field-goal contest.

Myers connected from 45 yards before Slye made a 49-yarder to put the Commanders up 9-3. Myers closed the half with 43- and 33-yarders to tie it at 9 at the intermission.

Two of Seattle’s field goals came after the Seahawks were called for penalties after lining up to go for it on fourth-and-1.

The Seahawks were back in field-goal range late in the half, but Smith was called for intentional grounding on second-and-11 at Washington’s 34-yard line with seven seconds to go. Since Seattle was out of timeouts, the penalty included a 10-second runoff that ended the half.

After forcing a three-and-out on Seattle’s opening drive of the second half, the Commanders got a 47-yard field goal from Slye to take a 12-9 advantage. The key play on the drive was a 48-yard swing pass to Robinson along the left sideline, just like the TD pass in the first half.

–Field Level Media

Aug 16, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, United States;  Jacksonville Jaguars corner back D.J. Hayden (25) walks down the field  during training camp drills at the Dream Finders Homes training facility. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL CB D.J. Hayden among 6 dead in car accident

Former NFL cornerback D.J. Hayden was among six people killed in Houston early Saturday morning after a car sped through a red light and caused a collision with another vehicle. He was 33.

Per Houston police, four people were pronounced dead at the scene and two more perished after being taken to a local hospital. Police noted that five males — including former University of Houston cornerback Zach McMillian, Hayden’s teammate — and one female were among the fatalities.

A two-time All-Conference USA honoree with Houston, Hayden made national headlines after a collision in practice caused a tear in his heart. He was discharged from the hospital a week later and was selected by the then-Oakland Raiders with the 12th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Hayden recorded 328 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions and four forced fumbles in 92 career games (41 starts) with the Raiders (2013-16), Detroit Lions (2017), Jacksonville Jaguars (2018-20) and Washington Commanders (2021).

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) passes against the Baltimore Ravens during the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks aim to get back on track in clash vs. Commanders

A week ago, the Seattle Seahawks were flying high.

They were in sole possession of first place in the NFC West and made a trade with the New York Giants to bolster their defensive line with Leonard Williams.

Then came the crash, a 37-3 loss at Baltimore.

The Seahawks (5-3) will try to regroup Sunday when they host the Washington Commanders (4-5).

“I would like that this game was maybe a marker that this is where things shifted, and we came right back and got back on track, and we see us come back to who we are,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll see. This is a big deal.”

How bad was it?

The Seahawks, who had won five of their previous six games, gave up 515 yards of total offense, including 298 rushing.

Seattle managed just six first downs, had 28 yards on the ground and quarterback Geno Smith completed just 13-of-28 passes for 157 yards and was sacked four times.

That left Carroll answering questions about whether Smith was just a one-year wonder when he set the franchise record for passing yards last season.

“I don’t think this is about Geno at all. Our football team did not answer the bell here. We couldn’t get it done,” Carroll said. “We came in here to slug it out and they did a better job than we did.”

The Commanders seemed to be in rebuilding mode when they traded their two former first-round edge rushers last week, sending Montez Sweat to Chicago and Chase Young to San Francisco for draft picks.

Instead, they responded with a 20-17 victory at New England, sealed by rookie Jartavius Martin’s late interception, to snap a two-game skid.

“You’re starting to see the growth and development,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “Those young guys are coming along pretty well. If these young guys play and grow and develop, things bode well as we go further down the line.”

Second-year quarterback Sam Howell had his consecutive 300-yard game to help beat the Patriots. Howell leads the NFC with 2,471 yards passing.

“Sam Howell is our leader,” Commanders defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “We found our next quarterback for five, 10 years. … I’ve seen a lot of great quarterbacks in my time, played against a lot of them. He has the potential to be one of them.”

Which would be welcome in the Beltway, as the team has gone through 12 starting quarterbacks since Kirk Cousins left after the 2017 season.

“We feel we have a quarterback,” Rivera said. “This franchise has been looking for quite some time and for the first time in awhile, I think that guy might be here.”

The Commanders are healthy coming into Sunday’s game, with players missing practice this week only due to rest or personal issues. Wide receiver Curtis Samuel (toe) was a limited participant.

For the Seahawks, seven players missed practice time on Wednesday. They were running backs Kenneth Walker III (chest) and DeeJay Dallas (shoulder), tight end Colby Parkinson (bicep), wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (hip), nose tackle Jarran Reed (tooth), linebacker Jordyn Brooks (hamstring) and safety Jamal Adams (rest/knee).

–Field Level Media