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Cowboys at Commanders: Losing on Sunday actually better for Washington

It’s time for Washington to look ahead to the offseason,

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders Fanbase Faces An Emotional Conflict Before Their Rivalry Game Against The Dallas Cowboys In Week 18 - Trevor Hall, Last Word on Sports

Keeping their drat position seems to be the concern for Washington.

With New England’s win over Denver in Week 16 and Arizona’s comeback win against Philadelphia last week, the Washington Commanders have leapfrogged into the driver’s seat for the second overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. The three teams share the same record but Washington’s lower strength of schedule (.515) gives them a slight advantage over the Patriots (.518) and Cardinals (.562). Washington also has the most difficult Week 18 matchup of the three 4-12 teams. The Patriots host the 6-10 Jets and the Cardinals host the 8-8 Seattle Seahawks, and either team could shoot itself in the foot with a win. Another important nugget: the strength of schedule calculation is a fluid organism. Commanders fans should also be Saints fans this weekend.

What’s At Stake

The second overall pick might be the most important selection in the entire draft. It grants the power of leverage. It provides the flexibility to trade up to #1 at little cost, to trade down for a haul, or to sit tight and select one of the two franchise-altering quarterback prospects available. Until the recent stretch of games, it appeared that the Commanders already had their franchise quarterback in Sam Howell. Over the last seven games, though, Howell produced a 6:10 TD:INT ratio and the team lost all seven games.

After nearly fumbling away a top-5 pick in Week 16, the Washington Commanders have lucked their way into a position that seemed impossible even one month ago. All they have to do is lose one more game, a task that they’re well-equipped to do. It’s their specialty. Unfortunately, the team’s short-term and long-term goals are diametrically opposed. It is against any sports fan’s nature to want to lose, but it is borderline treasonous to root for a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Josh Harris brings measured approach to Commanders ownership - John Keim, ESPN

The Commanders’ new owner is set to begin his first full offseason at the helm.

When Josh Harris purchased the Washington Commanders for $6.05 billion last summer, he said he would take the season to evaluate the football operation.

With the season ending Sunday, the time to make defining decisions is now.

After Washington’s finale against the Dallas Cowboys (4:25 p.m. ET, Fox), Harris is expected to make sweeping changes with coach Ron Rivera and his staff as well as the front office.

According to multiple team sources, the changes have been anticipated.

The team is 4-12 and hasn’t posted a winning season since 2016. But now the onus is on Harris to begin shaping a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2005 season and last won 11 regular-season games in 1991.

Harris, who also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, said in 2015, “Your most important hire as an owner is your general manager and then your coach.”

One league source said there’s a sense Harris wants to think “outside the box”, bringing an approach used in the NBA and/or the NHL to the NFL.

Some who have dealt with Harris said he can be “socially awkward” at times, though those who know him say it could be about staying out of the public eye. Others call the former collegiate wrestler an intense competitor — which can sometimes rub others the wrong way.

Regardless, Harris will be judged by his football decisions in the days and weeks following Sunday’s game. While he’s new to the NFL, he’s not new to hiring. He’s hired four general managers and three coaches with the 76ers. With New Jersey, he’s hired three full-time coaches.

“I don’t think these things happen overnight,” Harris said in September about turning a franchise into a winner.

Washington Commanders Roster Moves: Three cornerbacks placed on injured reserve - Scott Jennings, Hogs Haven

Washington’s secondary is in disarray.

The Washington Commanders have placed three cornerbacks on injured reserve. All three of them had been ruled out of Sunday’s home season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Kendall Fuller(knee) missed last week’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and miss what could potentially be his last game with Washington. Fuller is a free agent, and could leave with a new coaching staff likely coming in soon. This was his second stint with Washington. He was drafted by the Redskins in 2016 in the 3rd round, but he was traded away the following year as part of the Alex Smith trade. He returned in free agency in 2020, Ron Rivera’s first year in charge of the team.

Christian Holmes was finally getting some playing time due to injuries in the secondary last week. He suffered a scary concussion and didn’t clear the protocol in time to be active vs the Cowboys. Tariq Castro-Fields was also getting some playing time on defense vs the 49ers, but suffered a shoulder injury that will end his season early.

Practice notes | Commanders want to help McLaurin get fourth 1,000-yard season - Zach Selby, Commanders.com

The season may be lost, but Washington still has at least one goal to accomplish.

Terry McLaurin is on the cusp of achieving a personal and franchise milestone, and his teammates are determined to help him get there.

McLaurin (946) needs just 54 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday to get 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season. Mclaurin, who was drafted by the team in 2019, has already cemented himself as one of the best wideouts in franchise history — he needs just seven yards to move past Hugh Taylor for eighth in all-time receiving yards — but getting another 1,000-yard season would put him in a class of his own. No Washington receiver has ever recorded four straight in the team’s 91 years of existence.

You won’t hear McLaurin boasting about accolades, especially in a losing season, but the team wants to see him do it.

“When guys have certain goals like that and certain things they can accomplish, you want to help them do that,” said quarterback **Sam Howell.** ”Terry’s...a tremendous player, but he’s an even better person. Such a great teammate, been so good to me throughout my career here.”

“I think that’s the biggest thing is just shows his reliability,” head coach Ron Rivera said when asked about the possibility of McLaurin getting 1,000 yards. ”Just the fact that he’s always there. He’s always present and he is a guy that works at it. So, it is a good earmark for him if we can get that done.”

Howell’s connection with McLaurin on the field has been a work in progress, but the young quarterback knows how valuable a player like McLaurin can be for him. He prides himself on running crisp routes, and he pairs that with being one of the best contested catchers since he joined the NFL.

“I think when you’re good at all those things, it sets you up for success,” Howell said. “He works so hard, he’s one of the hardest working guys we have on this team, and it shows out there on the field.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Commanders are going to look McLaurin’s way more often than usual. As Howell said, “the game’s going to go how it’s going to go,” so if the game dictates that the ball needs to go away from McLaurin, that’s what they’ll do to win.

Still, the team is aware of how close McLaurin is to hitting 1,000 yards, and Eric Bieniemy had a message for him this week.

“Hey man, listen, we’re 54 yards away,” Bieniemy told McLaurin. “You got to make it happen.”

Here are the final injury reports for the Week 18 regular season finale between the Cowboys and Commanders.

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