As the aftermath of the 2021 NFL Draft winds down and OTAs begin, it’s starting to feel a whole lot like football season. OTAs give us fans the ability to take a sneak peek into some positional arrangements for teams, especially involving younger players.
For the first time in a long time, Washington (WFT), has a solid majority of their starting 22 in place. However, there are a few WFT position battles still to settle, especially with their starting offensive line and secondary. Besides the competition for starting snaps at LT, RT, and FS, the team will be evaluating depth pieces and backup snaps.
Despite the huge need to determine who the starting LT and RT are, the next most exciting battle in Washington is backup QB. Kyle Allen and last year’s playoff breakout Taylor Heinicke both have had their relative successes in OC Scott Turner’s offense but having a solid emergency plan in place can be the difference for Washington down the stretch. Let’s take a deeper dive into Washington’s key position battles.
WFT Position Battles: Offense
LT | Charles Leno Jr. vs Shadiq Charles
Washington released 2018 3rd round pick Geron Christian who was their starting tackle in Week One of 2020. In the 2020 NFL Draft, Washington went back to the LT well in the fourth round and drafted LSU standout Shaadiq Charles. Charles was sidelined for the entire 2020 campaign from an injury sustained at training camp – he logged just two snaps on offense.
The Football Team shopped on the value rack for an LT in free agency and felt comfortable inking long-time Bears starter Charles Leno Jr. to a 1 year $5 million salary. Leno, a good but not great pro, is in the driver’s seat for starting snaps – Leno started all 16 games for Chicago from 2016-2020.
Unless Charles earns Rivera, Turner, and Fitzpatrick’s trust in training camp, I anticipate Leno protecting Fitzpatrick’s blind side Week One vs LAC. Charles may not even end up working with the tackles – he was viewed as a hybrid with the potential to play LG or RT coming out of LSU. Washington also has 2021 second-round pick Sam Cosmi, but after the Morgan Moses news, it looks clear that he will be in the race for right tackle snaps. This may not be the sexiest choice but could be the most important of all of the WFT position battles.
RT | Samuel Cosmi vs Cornelius Lucas
The decision to release Morgan Mosses was polarizing to Football Team fans, but at the end of the day, the NFL is a business. Washington, who spent their 2021 2nd round pick on T Sam Cosmi, opted to let Mosses go and save themselves $7.5 against the cap.
Lucas, a seven-year veteran, has never played over 50% of snaps in his NFL career, so there are concerns if he wins the position. Unlike on the left side of their line, Washington is more likely to bet on the unknown Cosmi as their starter instead of the vet.
Ideally for Washington, Sam Comsi’s transition from the left to the right side and the Big12 to NFL is seamless and he starts at RT for the foreseeable future. However, that is a lot to ask of a rookie, and I would not be surprised if Cosmi has his share of growing pains.
Backup QB | Kyle Allen vs Taylor Heinicke
While it’s well known that finding a franchise quarterback is the optimal way to bring a franchise forward, the quality of a team’s backup can also make and break their success. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played 165 games in his career and has been sacked 299 times. Tackle is not necessarily a strength for Washington and while the team has improved at skill positions, its defense will still be carrying the team to success. Washington needs a plan B if it wants to make a run.
While Kyle Allen was QB2 last year and Heinicke was not even on the roster, it is tough to overlook the poise and toughness Heinicke played with during the playoff game. Heinicke’s valiant effort to take down the vicious Bucs’ D fell short and hurt his shoulder in the process. Allen himself dislocated his ankle and will be limited come training camp.
Since Washington did not add a rookie passer with any of their 2021 draft picks, the stage is set for competition between these two passers. The Football Team will certainly roster both of these players given all of their QBs ages, but if Fitzpatrick were to miss snaps, I see Heinicke’s number being called before Allen’s. Neither of these QBs should be in Washington’s long-term plans.
WFT Position Battles: Defense
SS | Kamren Curl vs Landon Collins
Washington opened up the 2019 NFL Free Agency period by signing S Landon Collins to a 6-year $84 million contract. Flash forward to the 2021 offseason and this investment is aging poorly. After a slow start in DC plagued by missed tackles and assignments in coverage, Collins tore his Achilles against the Cowboys in October. He is expected to be ready to start the 2021 season.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Washington found an absolute diamond in 2020 7th round safety Kamren Curl. Curl seamlessly transitioned into Landon’s role in the box as well as impressing in coverage – totaling 88 tackles and three interceptions. The Football Team used their 5th round pick on S Darrick Forrest and I expect him to be like Curl – so disruptive in practice that he forces himself into games. That makes this one of the most exciting of all of the WFT position battles.
While Collins still shows flashes of his Pro Bowl days with the Giants, there is also a glaring opportunity to allow a budding Kam Curl to blossom. With the signing of William Jackson, Washington now can play more zone coverage, opening up an avenue to get both Curl and Collins at the field at the same time. All things considered; it seems as if Collins will retain his spot as the starter, but he better look out because Curl is on his heels.
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June 2, 2021 at 8:44 pm
Couldn’t agree more. This guy definitely knows football.
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