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The Washington Commanders kicked off their inaugural season yesterday with a 23-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers. NFL pre-season games mean less and less each year it seems, but what good and bad things can be drawn from the Commanders’ first game?

Positives

Brian Robinson Jr.

Running back Brian Robinson Jr. looks to be a great find with this year’s third round draft pick. The rookie out of Alabama came in to spell Antonio Gibson early on (see negatives), and fared very well in his debut.

There is no hesitation in the young back. He makes a decision and takes the ball straight down field. Early comparisons might be to Stephen Davis who had a very healthy career in Washington.

Robinson finished up with 26 yards on 6 carries, and also managed to score the first touchdown in Washington Commanders history on a one-yard run.

Sam Howell

Sam Howell also had a noteworthy debut. The young gunslinger may have been facing off against second and third stringers but still looked very good in his first action.

He ran for two touchdowns to get Washington back into the meaningless game, and looked athletic doing so. He finished 9 of 16 for 145 yards.

He did enough that the short-sighted, happy clappers are already screaming that there’s a quarterback controversy with Howell and Carson Wentz.

There isn’t.

But Howell looked very good for a rookie making his first appearance.

Offensive Line

The offensive line also looked pretty good in game one. And all the way through the line-up.

It didn’t matter whether it was the starters, or later stringers, Washington quarterbacks had plenty of time in the pocket. That only happens when the offensive line are doing their job well.

Kudos to Andrew Norwell and Trai Turner who stepped in, and so far showed no signs of being a drop off from last year’s starters – which included perennial Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff.

Injuries

There were none. Thank god.

With all of that playing time for actual starters – there was a long period of held breath.

It worked out okay and Washington suffered no significant injuries.

Other honorable mentions: Phidarian Mathis, and Alex Erickson

Negatives

What didn’t go well?

Antonio Gibson

As mentioned earlier, Robinson spelled Gibson early. Why? Because Gibson fumbled the ball. That might not seem all that significant in a preseason game one scenario, except that Gibson struggled to hold on to the ball last season. His six fumbles were a pretty considerable concern coming into 2022.

So putting the ball on the ground on the second drive of the season is not only a problem, but something to keep an eye on. If he carries on in the same vein, he may lose the starting job to Robinson or at least some touches.

The Uniforms

The white-on-white uniforms just don’t do it for me. Whether it’s the slightly “lighter” burgundy color, or just the lack of contrast in the new look, I don’t know.

I hoped they’d look better on TV and with a full squad wearing them, but they didn’t. Obviously it’s a personal choice, and I am sure many people DID like them – but I don’t.

They look too much like the Cardinals or Falcons to me, and I’m not “feeling” the gradient, mesh number scheme.

They definitely don’t give me any vintage vibes. It’s hard to be the burgundy and gold, with hardly any gold in the look.

The New Fight Song

Trash.

It doesn’t sound good. It’s way too slow. It doesn’t make any sense. And it doesn’t resonate with anybody.

If that’s the best the team can come up with, then just dump it and start fresh.

The Crowd

I know, I know, it’s only the pre-season. But the first Fed Ex appearance of 2022 just looked… sparse. Not only were there not a lot of people there, there was a lot of Carolina flavor in the stands.

What attendance was supposed to be, and what it actually appeared to be – seemed vastly different. For the entire offseason, Washington staff have been bragging about how many season tickets have been sold, so where were they all?

Obviously it’s possible that there were a lot of fans that just didn’t bother attending a meaningless pre-season game, but it remains to be seen if that was the case, or if 2022 will see attendance numbers continue to plummet.

It was an auspicious beginning for the Commanders – who surely would have liked to see a better crowd showing in their very first NFL appearance.

Especially when the owner just boasted that he was sure that numbers would be up for 2022.

Conclusions

Overall, no conclusions can be drawn. It’s pre-season, it means absolutely nothing. Good teams have lousy pre-seasons and vice versa. Not as a rule, but all the time.

Don’t make mountains out of mole hills and take it all with a drop of restraint.

There were signs to be happy – there were signs to be frustrated.

At least football is back.

Keep a level head and hope for improvements next week against the Chiefs.

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