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Commanders consider offensive line changes after giving up six more sacks vs. Giants

If Week 7 wasn't ugly enough for Washington fans, Week 8 has the potential to set a new benchmark for unappetizing play on the offensive side of the ball.

Typically, a rematch between two teams that combined for 65 points and needed overtime to decide their most recent contest would be highly anticipated for its offensive potential. That could still be the case for the Commanders as they get set to host the Eagles on Sunday, but not without some vast improvements from an offensive line that gave up six sacks to the Giants last week and has allowed Sam Howell to be sacked a league-high 40 times through seven weeks.

Yes, Howell is going down at a rate that is nearing David Carr's record-setting 2002 season (76 in 16 games). This has to change quickly for the Commanders (3-4), meaning lineup adjustments could be ahead.

"We're looking at a lot of things right now and things that we want to do as far as going forward with the offensive line," Commanders coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday, via The Associated Press. "I don't think I'm going to take anything off the table."

The most glaring issue from Washington's Week 7 loss was its inability to counter whatever Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale drew up for his front seven. When facing even the most basic of Giants stunts up front, the Commanders' starting offensive line performed as if they'd never played a down together, much less six prior games.

Passing off twisting and angling rushers to fellow blockers -- an ability that can elevate an offensive line as a pass-protecting unit toward higher status, but should also be a minimum expectation -- just didn't happen against the Giants, leaving Howell vulnerable to the rush. Everybody grabbed himself a piece of the QB sack pie Sunday, and it became clear the Commanders were going to have an incredibly difficult time trying to pull off a comeback.

Tackle Charles Leno Jr. has seen plenty in his 10 NFL seasons and isn't going to simply blame the offensive line for the entire problem. He acknowledged, though, that they need to be better.

"When you have a 1-on-1 matchup, 1-on-1 with someone in the National Football League, you've got to win that," Leno said. "And that's 1-on-1 with us as an offensive line, running backs, tight ends and quarterback. When you've got a hot route, you've got to get the ball out. That's everyone. Everyone's included."

At 3-4, Washington doesn't have much time to figure it out before it's too late. The Commanders also have quite a challenge ahead of them in their rematch with Philadelphia, a team featuring five players with 2.5 or more sacks in 2023, and ranks in the top three in sacks (24), QB hits (51) and QB pressures (118).

Howell is the worst in the NFL in those same three categories, plus interceptions thrown under pressure (six), a product of a stark contrast in performance under pressure versus playing free from it.

The last time the Eagles and Commanders faced off, Howell tied his own league-high mark for pressures in a single game (27). That stat isn't solely on him, of course, but he can help himself out a bit by getting the ball out quicker at almost any cost.

It's easy to see why the protection will be paramount in this one.

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