While there were a few hiccups along the way, no one will complain about the result of the first official game of the Washington Commanders era. A Week 1 victory is always a reason for celebration, especially for both coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Carson Wentz, two people who have experienced many ups and downs in their unique careers.
On Sunday, the crew is back at it, taking on a Detroit Lions team that’s eager to prove their 3-13-1 record in 2021 was merely a fluke. Instead, coach Dan Campbell and his quarterback Jared Goff have their own burdens to put in the past. Which, unlike the Commanders, they didn’t get to do last week by losing 38-35 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
We have a team on the rise, meeting another team who hopes to make that same climb. Only one can emerge as the winner. Looking at the game from Washington’s perspective, here are three keys to victory in Week 2.
Carson Wentz strikes early and often vs Lions
Looking to establish himself as not only the present, but potentially also the future solution at QB for the Commanders, he can take another step in that direction with a win on Sunday. In doing so, Wentz can help lead Washington to their first 2-0 start since 2011 (don’t look it up, it was a bad year).
To do so, Wentz, the former No. 2 pick from the 2016 NFL Draft, will be facing off with Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick from that same year. What fun this will be. Both players have since been spit out of their original organization, only it’s happened to Wentz twice now. There has to be some sort of bragging rights on the line here, even if neither QB would admit it for a Week 2 matchup six years later.
Wentz can show he’s clearly the better quarterback and should have no issue doing so, thanks to being in a better situation. Rookie Jahan Dotson flashed his ability to create separation in Week 1 and can continue to thrive against an unproven secondary unit. Aside from Dotson, Wentz has Scary Terry McLaurin, who’s always a threat downfield if the QB can find him, and Curtis Samuel, who led the team with 11 targets a week ago. Look for Wentz to light it up this week too.
Related: Carson Wentz era with Washington Commanders opens up in grand fashion
Washington Commanders front seven feasts in Detroit
While Chase Young still won’t be making his return to the lineup, the Commanders still have a front seven that can cause plenty of damage. Especially against a beat-up Lions offensive line that just added another player to the injury pile in guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
If the Commanders want to set the tone early on, aside from Wentz, it will come down to how the defensive line controls the trenches. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen both notched a sack against Jacksonville, and we’re expecting Montez Sweat to join the fray in Week 2 as well. To do so, he’ll have to get the best of Lions right tackle Penei Sewell, who’s quickly developed into an elite option after being the seventh overall pick in 2021.
Related: 2022 NFL defense rankings: Chargers bolt up, Eagles crash down into Week 2
Commanders’ offensive line vs Aidan Hutchinson
Just like the Lions have a former top pick on the offensive line, they also added one to the defensive line this past offseason. Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick, you may have heard of him? If not, you will soon.
Hutchinson only managed one tackle in his NFL debut as the Eagles ran the ball 39 times compared to 32 passes. That won’t be the case when Washington comes to town this week. Until Brian Robinson gets back to 100%, coach Rivera is likely to keep relying on Antonio Gibson, who he doesn’t seem to trust when it comes to ball security. That means we’ll see lots of passes, as we did in Week 1, with Wentz airing it out 41 times, compared to just 28 rushing attempts as a team. Hutchinson will get plenty of chances to pin his ears back.
The Commanders’ offensive line allowed just one sack a week ago, we’ll see how Wentz maneuvers the pocket at Ford Field with Hutchinson breathing down his neck.