Schedule: PHI, @ARI, @CLE, BAL, LAR, @NYG, DAL, BYE, NYG, @DET, CIN, @DAL, @PIT, @SF, SEA, CAR, @PHI
Additions: CB Kendall Fuller (FA), CB Ronald Darby (FA), RB Peyton Barber (FA), TE Logan Thomas (FA), RB J.D. McKissic (FA), LB Thomas Davis (FA), OL Wes Schweitzer (FA), WR Dontrelle Inman (FA), EDGE Chase Young (Draft), RB Antonio Gibson (Draft)
Losses: OL Ereck Flowers (FA), QB Case Keenum (FA), RB Chris Thompson (FA), CB Quinton Dunbar (Trade), RB Adrian Peterson (Cut), WR Kelvin Harmon (Injury), LB Reuben Foster (Injury)
What a stupid, stupid name. It doesn’t even feel like I’m talking about a real team. Here’s to hoping I don’t slip up and use the old name.
With that being said, there’s still a lot to like about Washington. For starters, how can you not be happy Alex Smith is back? Even if he never plays, it’s great just to see him healthy again.
As a whole, I really like this team. You don’t know how tempted I was to pick them for double-digit wins. But, just as I did last year with the 49ers, I chickened out. Yeah, the same Niners who went 13-3 and were a fourth-quarter collapse from winning the Super Bowl. After hyping them up as a sleeper all offseason, I cowardly predicted a 7-9 record.
The main reason for my belief in San Francisco was an unbelievable pass rush on paper that ended up being even better on the field. Washington’s group has that kind of special potential. Chase Young, the annual “generational” edge rusher in the draft, will headline a rotation featuring 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat and the underrated Ryan Kerrigan. On the inside, Washington is just as stacked, with Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, and Tim Settle all poised for sizable roles. If you don’t know all those names now, you will by year’s end. This front is capable of winning games single-handedly and should announce itself before long.
An elite pass rush makes life way easier for the rest of the defense. Resilient and ageless, Thomas Davis is reunited with his old Panthers coach. Along with Jon Bostic and Kevin Pierre-Louis, he should provide serviceable play for the Football Team. While the linebackers don’t have the highest ceiling, the secondary is intriguing. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Fabian Moreau have solid potential on the outside. The return of Kendall Fuller gives DC Jack Del Rio a versatile piece who can be used all over the field when he’s not manning the slot. Landon Collins disappointed in the first year of his huge contract, but he could return to form with more talent around him. Starting at the other safety spot, Troy Apke is really fast for a white guy.
The defense is brimming with potential, but the offense is what keeps me from going all-in on Washington. Most importantly, there’s no Kyle Shanahan. That guy could make anyone look like a Pro Bowler. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner might give a passable Shanahan impression, though. There was definitely some nepotism to get him there, but Turner served on some Carolina offenses full of interesting wrinkles.
His quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, didn’t have the best rookie year. On the bright side, he seemed to get better every week. He was a first-rounder for a reason, so 2020 could bring out the pinpoint passer we saw at Ohio State. If Haskins struggles again, that’ll open the door for Smith to see his first playing time in two years.
No matter who’s at quarterback, his support will be underwhelming. After releasing Adrian Peterson, Washington is putting all their eggs in receiver-turned-running back Antonio Gibson’s basket. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t. Having so much faith in a third-round rookie is certainly risky, though.
At receiver, Terry McLaurin displayed the same chemistry he had with Haskins in college as a rookie. While Scary Terry has star potential, the group behind him is terrible. Haskins will have to rely a lot on Gibson and tight ends Jeremy Sprinkle and Logan Thomas. Washington seems to love the TE duo, but it’s hard to find a less inspiring group of weapons in the league.
Playing on the franchise tag, Brandon Scherff is one of the better guards in the league. With him, great play at right guard is a lock. Center and right tackle look solid as well, with returning starters at both. The left side of line is where it gets scary. Geron Christian Sr. and Wes Martin won the battles at tackle and guard, respectively. If Haskins gets dropped instantly, there’s a good chance one of those two was at fault. They do have potential, though, and Washington’s offensive line could return to being a quiet strength of the team, as it’s been for years.
As far as 6-10 teams go, this was probably the most positive breakdown you’ll see. That’s because I really believe in the potential of this team, especially with two-time Coach of the Year Ron Rivera taking over. There’s just way too much uncertainty for me to go out on a limb here. Defensive line is the only surefire unit on the team. Questions surround every other group. Even Riverboat Ron comes with risk. Besides the fact that he just got fired, his health situation could force him to step down midseason. Even having said all that, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if Washington wins its weak division.
What’s your record prediction for the Football Team? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.