Vikings

3 Things the Commanders Do Well

Photo Credit: Robert Scheer via USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have been fans of what the Washington Commanders have been doing recently. Washington has beaten the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, increasing Minnesota’s lead in the NFC North. But now the Commanders welcome the Vikings to FedEx Field, fresh off a three-game win streak.

The 4-4 Commanders have had a lot of success recently. Let’s look at three big reasons why.

Taylor Heinicke

In addition to this being the first game Kirk Cousins will play in Washington against his former team, it will also be the first time Heinicke will play against his. The Vikings released him in 2017 after he was injured kicking in a door. (It wasn’t quite on the level of Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche falling out a hotel window or Jacksonville Jaguars punter Chris Hanson accidentally chopping into his own leg with an axe in the locker room, but, still, not a good look.)

Heinecke has started the last two games for the Commanders and won both. Heinicke has averaged 240 pass yards per game, along with four touchdowns. These are mediocre stats, but he plays with a lot of heart and has somewhat of a clutch gene.

He demonstrated that last week against the Indianapolis Colts, bringing them back from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Heinicke thrives in playing outside the structure of the offense.

While the Vikings defense has improved their communication issues coming out of the bye, they are still prone to coverage mistakes. Heinicke is more than capable of capitalizing on those if Minnesota isn’t careful.

Pass Rush

Despite not having No. 1-overall pick Chase Young back from an ACL tear last season, the Washington pass rush has been fantastic this season. They are tied for 10th in sacks (21), the same as the Vikings. However, they have a much higher pressure rate, ranking fourth in the NFL at 26.0%.

Young might return to action against the Vikings; he practiced for the first time this week. But the rest of the team has stepped up in a big way in his absence. Five different players on the Commanders have three or more sacks.

Perhaps the most impressive of this group has been DT Jonathan Allen, who has 4.5 sacks and an interception on the season. The Commanders have generated this pressure without blitzing very much, ranking 19th in blitz rate (24.3%).

Washington’s front four will be an exciting matchup for the Vikings. While Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill have been excellent in pass protection, the interior of the offensive line has been less than stellar. Since Washington is so good at generating pressure from any spot on the defensive formation, Cousins might find himself being pressured from the interior more often than he is used to.

Turnovers

The Commanders struggle with turnovers. They are tied for the fifth-worst turnover differential at minus-four, and the Vikings are tied for second-best at plus-six.

Despite their pass rush, Washington hasn’t had much success forcing interceptions. They only have two on the year. The Commanders also only have six total takeaways on the season, which is the second-fewest in the NFL. They didn’t address this at the trade deadline and may have worsened the problem by trading CB William Jackson III to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Meanwhile, the Vikings’ offense has been relatively good at protecting the ball. They’ve committed seven turnovers, tied for third-best in the NFL. That should mean a clean game for the Vikings’ offense, especially if they can fend off the Washington pass rush. Minnesota should feel free to take responsible risks and push the ball downfield when given the opportunity.

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