2020 was a crazy year for the Washington football team. The omens for the start of the season were particularly unfavorable. They had to say goodbye to their team name the Redskins, were caught in the eye of a storm over a toxic work culture and their new head coach Ron Rivera had to deal with cancer. Despite all those obstacles, the Washington Football Team – because that’s how they’ve gone through life since 2020 – still managed to win the lame NFC East; with a losing record of course! That end-of-season boost has given Football Team fans hope. Hope that the way forward has been set in Washington and that hope is justified.
The big man in Washington listens to the name Ron Rivera. Not only is he a more than competent head coach, Ron Rivera has shaped the entire organization to his will. Rivera has brought about a cultural change and the atmosphere around WFT can actually be called positive. The fact that he did not miss a single game in 2020 despite his battle with cancer has undoubtedly contributed to the optimism that can now be felt in the capital. His mid-season trades have also contributed to that positive atmosphere. In free agency, for example, the deplorable offense has been dealt with firmly.
First and foremost, Washington got a new quarterback. After the retirement of cult hero Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick was hired as a replacement. As always, things can go either way with the veteran – are we getting FitzMagic or FitzTragic? – yet he’s an upgrade from last season’s revolving door quarterbacks. The Football Team also brought in two wide receivers to add depth to that position in the team. Adam Humphries and especially Curtis Samuel need to make the Washington attack a lot more versatile.
Defensively, changes were also made. Cornerback Ronald Darby left for Denver and was replaced by William Jackson III. Jackson signed a three-season contract worth $40.5 million. The O-line also got a new face with tackle Charles Leno who came over from the Chicago Bears and guard Ereck Flowers who made the switch from the Miami Dolphins via a trade.
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Before the draft, there were rumors that WFT would go all-in for a quarterback and trade up. That didn’t happen, however, and Ron Rivera just sat quietly in nineteenth place. There he chose Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis. That choice was criticized, because the Football Team could have filled larger needs in that position. Take, for example, the O-line with Christian Darrisaw or the wide-outs with receiver Rashod Bateman. In addition, Davis does not have a lot of experience and so it remains to be seen how quickly he will be able to adapt to the NFL.
The gaps in the team were addressed in the later rounds. In the second round, the choice fell on versatile offensive tackle Samuel Cosmi from Texas. In the third round, Rivera chose a cornerback with Benjamin St-Juste and a talented wide receiver with North Carolina’s Dyami Brown. Washington made another notable pick in the sixth round. There they actually went with the 225th pick for a longsnapper from Michigan, Camaron Cheeseman.
WFT’s offense was dramatic in 2020 and then we might still be friendly. According to ESPN, the Football Team had the third-worst offense last year. They scored just over 20 points per game. That has to be improved in 2021 and in principle the staff is there for that. As said there is a new man under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick, however, is an enigma. The chances of him doing worse than Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith and Tyler Heinicke are virtually non-existent. Heinicke and Allen may still be in DC, but they will have to settle for a backup role.
Fitzpatrick himself may have seen 38 Springs, but his primary weapons are young and bursting with talent. Antonio Gibson had a stellar rookie season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 rushing touchdowns. Behind an improved O-line, he could be looking for 1,000 rushing yards this year. On wide receiver we find Scary Terry Mclaurin. McLaurin was the clear number one in Washington last year with 1,118 receiving yards. He will be able to count on more help besides him this season, as with Curtis Samuel in the slot and Adam Humphries in third man, the focus of the opponent will not be able to go solely to Scary Terry.
Also on tight end a man walks around who can catch a ball. Logan Thomas gets better year after year, racking up more than 600 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Playing with mediocre quarterbacks, that’s quite an achievement. Finally, the O-line looks strengthened, but especially deepened towards 2020 and that is good news for Washington. According to PFF, the line was the sixth best in the National Football League (NFL). The star of the O-line is First-Team All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff. With new names Charles Leno and Ereck Flowers alongside him, as well as center Chase Roullier and rookie Samuel Cosmi, this is a front line to be reckoned with. Especially when last year’s starters like Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer can now be used as backups.
The defense is strong, ironclad; elite even. According to ESPN, only one defense outperformed last season, that of the LA Rams. This year may be even better as the youth rule in Washington. The D-line is one of the strongest in the competition. Chase Young returns as an edge rusher after a phenomenal rookie season that saw him make it straight to the Pro Bowl. Young recorded 7.5 sacks and 40 QB pressures last year. On the other side is Montez Sweat who recorded 47 QB pressures. DT Josh Allen took eight sacks last year and 15 QB hits. He was rightly given a four-year contract extension worth $72 million. All top notch, not to mention Daron Payne, the former first round pick from 2018.
Behind the D-line we find even more youthful talent. Rookie Jamin Davis will almost certainly start as a middle linebacker, while Cole Holcomb is also only 25 years old. At 30, Jon Bostic is the senior dean of the linebackers group. Finally, the secondary is reinforced on paper. Kendall Fuller returns at cornerback and gets a new partner alongside him with William Jackson III. Three-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins hopes to recover from his ruptured Achilles tendon. The very young Kamren Curl, who replaced Collins last year on strong safety, will be used as free safety this season.
Last year, the Washington Football Team stumbled into the playoffs, so to speak. They were lucky to be part of the worst division in the NFL. With the stability and competence that Ron Rivera has brought to the capital, the playoffs should once again be the target. This year, however, it will not be by luck, but by skill that WFT will force the final round. The NFC East still doesn’t look very strong, so a narrow winning record is enough to extend the division title.