Daily Press (Sunday)



Jonathan Allen, part of a dominant defensive line that has nine of Washington’s 10 sacks thus far, said after each game that it wasn’t one fans would have expected his team to win in the past.

Maybe the competitio­n hasn’t been fierce, but the vibes are far more positive this year.

“It definitely feels really good in here to be 2-0,” top receiver Terry McLaurin said. “You still don’t want to look too far ahead. We’ve got a really good Bills team coming in, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”

McLaurin acknowledg­ed “a lot of room to improve,” and Bills coach Sean McDermott feels the same way about his team. Going into his 100th NFL game — and facing Rivera, for whom he served as the defensive coordinato­r for six years with Carolina — McDermott sees the win against the Raiders as “a step in the right direction” in building a strong identity.

“Physical at the line of scrimmage, complement­ing both run and the pass game, taking the ball away on defense,” said McDermott, a former William & Mary defensive back. “It’s some of what we want to become. We’re not there yet.”

Defensive incentive

McDermott credited the media for providing his defensive front incentive to get off to a strong start. Buffalo has allowed 529 yards, fifth-best in the league, and 26 first downs, the second-fewest total.

That’s an improvemen­t after the unit was criticized for sagging after edge rusher Von Miller was sidelined by a season-ending right leg injury in November.

“I think they heard a lot about how they didn’t do X, Y and Z from you guys at the end of last season, so you can keep talking,” McDermott said. “You guys keep talking about that, and maybe that’ll motivate them even more. We’ll see.”

Miller is on the “physically unable to perform” list, which requires him to miss at least the first four games of this season.

Howell’s progress

Second-year Commanders QB Sam Howell is set to make his fourth pro start. His third went better than his second.

Much like Allen, Howell bounced back from turnovers in the opener to play a clean Week 2. He had two touchdown passes against the Broncos, and the praise he’s now earning from the Bills sounds a lot like what teammates have been espousing for months.

“He seems like he’s playing pretty confident,” Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer said. “He’s got really good arm strength, he can move around in the pocket, he can make plays with his legs sometimes. He’s going to throw the football, and he trusts his playmakers to go up and make plays.”

Howell did that with McLaurin last week, connecting on a 30-yard TD pass by throwing the ball through a tight window with defenders all around. McLaurin said that builds trust and could lead to offensive coordinato­r Eric Bieniemy dialing up similar plays as Howell gains experience.

“He’s not afraid to fit it in some tight space,” McLaurin said. “He’s seeing things quicker. He’s getting the ball out of his hands. I know he’s still going to continue to improve on that, but when we get certain looks, he knows exactly where he’s going with the ball.”

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