The 2020 Washington Football Team’s offense was in the bottom tier of NFL offenses by many metrics. This lack in firepower (335 total points – 25th in the league) was directly correlated to the subpar quarterback play Washington had all season. Washington was ninth-worst in the league in passing yards, sixth to last in TDs, and third to last in yards per attempt. Ron Rivera elected to sign journeyman gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal to try to provide a spark down the field – something Washington was missing desperately in 2020.
Looking ahead to the 2021 season, Washington took steps to improve their offense skill positions outside of quarterback. WFT inked Curtis Samuel to a three-year deal and also used one of their third-round picks on UNC wide receiver Dyami Brown. Both of these additions should instantly improve Washington’s ability to push the ball down the field – Samuel totes sub 4.5 speed and Brown lead the NCAA in YPC during the 2020 season. OC Scott Turner, who I was critical of last season, now has more toys to play with to create big plays down the field.
Outside of the skills position, Washington will also be dealing with some uncertainty along their offensive line. After waiving long time starting RT Morgan Moses, WFT used their second-round pick on T Sam Cosmi from Texas to sure up the right side next to All-Pro Brandon Scherff. On the left side, Washington signed long-term Bears starter Charles Leno to fill the void left by the Trent Williams trade in the 2020 off-season. Let’s take a reflective look at Washington’s offensive units last season while also analyzing the current roster prior to the beginning of training camp.
Washington Football Team Offensive Preview – Quarterbacks
Throughout fans and media members alike, there are a lot of questions and discussions about who should be taking snaps during Week One against the Chargers. Currently, WFT’s quarterback room consists of Fitzpatrick, unsigned college student turned playoff star Taylor Heinicke and former backup Kyle Allen. While all three quarterbacks have their fair share of pros and cons, Washington likely will not make a splash trade prior to camp and one of these QB’s will emerge as the starter.
While I believe Fitzpatrick is the obvious answer at starter – he was brought in on a one-year deal for a reason – Heinicke’s performance in the Wild Card Round vs Tampa Bay is still fresh in the minds of fans. Furthermore, when Rivera and Allen were in Carolina, Allen took over as the starter for an injured Cam Newton and lead the Panthers to a 5-7 record while he was under center. The familiarity of OC Scott Turner’s system bodes well for Heinicke and Allen, but it is not like Fitzpatrick is a rookie. I expect the Harvard grad to swiftly pick up the offense and lead Washington in the direction of another division title in 2021.
When analyzing these three QBs and the competition among them, I think it’s very important to note how they can push the ball down the field while limiting turnovers. For whoever is under center, their main goal will be to not throw away games. Washington’s defense is poised to be a top unit in the league and WFT can win off that strength alone. However, just defensive prowess will not be enough and Washington will need more production from whoever is under center. I expect Fitzpatrick to take first-team reps at training camp and emerge as the starter when camp and pre-season are all said and done.
Washington Football Team Offensive Preview – Wide Recievers
Aside from Terry McLaurin, an absolute superstar, Washington was devoid of another reliable pass-catching option at WR during the 2020 season. To combat this issue, Rivera brought in his former player Curtis Samuel, spent a third round pick on WR Dyami Brown, and signed veteran slot receiver Adam Humphries. Brown, Samuel, and Humphries now join a crowded WR room that consists of younger players such as Cam Sims, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, and Isaiah Wright. Washington also added WR Dax Milne from BYU with a 7th round selection.
When considering where Washington is at with WRs for the 2021 season, it is important to reflect on the group of pass-catchers that were in town over the past two seasons. Steven Sims showed flashed in 2019 but had an injury and drop plagued 2020. Gandy Golden, a 2020 fourth-round pick, only recorded two catches as he nursed an injury for the entire season. Cam Sims came on late last season as an option and Isiah Wright showed flashes of athleticism, but none of these players should have any form of guarantees about being on the roster post-camp.
Looking forward to training camp, Washington will have a ton of competition for snaps among young players, which is only a good thing for Washington. Besides for McLaurin and Samuel as expected starters, depth will be very important for this unit and the offense as a whole. I expect Brown and Humphries to carve out roles on offense, but some of these young receivers will be the odd men out and may be sent to the practice squad. Either way, Washington’s group of pass catchers is now much more experience and should be a more stable unit for whoever is under center.
Washington Football Team Offensive Preview – Running Backs
Since Washington was incapable of throwing the ball down the field, Washington relied heavily on their run game to create chunk plays and control the time of possession to give their defense rest. Headlined by 2020 third-round pick Antonio Gibson paired with veteran JD McKissic, Washington should continue to have success with this unit as runners and pass catchers. Gibson racked up 1,000 scrimmage yards in 2020 and McKissic had the second most catches for a running back in the league.
While I hope McKissic and Gibson catch the ball less close to the line of scrimmage because Washington can move the ball deeper, it is very important that these two players have the diversity to be pass-catching options and make big plays. Building off of these two players, Washington also has Lamar Miller, Peyton Barber, and 2021 UDFA Jaret Patterson on the roster. While Miller and Barber offer experience, I expect Patterson to push for snaps in training camp. Patterson was one of my favorite backs in college football and I anticipate that he not only makes the roster but takes over snaps from Miller or Barber later in the season.
Washington Football Team Offensive Preview – Tight Ends
Logan Thomas’s emergence last season was welcome for the Football Team – Thomas posted 72 catches for 670 yards and led all NFL tight ends in routes run. Besides Thomas, Washington is weak at the TE spot. Washington signed veteran Ricky Seals-Jones and I expect him to carve out a role opposite Thomas. Washington added fourth-round TE John Bates and signed international athlete Sammis Reyes. While I have high hopes for Bates and Reyes, I find it hard to believe they will be prominent players on offense in 2021. Heading into camp, there is not much competition for starting snaps, but these young players will benefit from competition and may both end up on the practice squad.
Washington Football Team Offensive Preview – Offensive Line
Besides the obvious questions at quarterback, Washington’s offensive line poses the biggest questions and challenges for Coach Rivera in his second season at the helm. During the 2020 season, Washington’s offensive line played well at times but often was overwhelmed by teams with elite defensive lines. The strength of their offensive line was the run game, but, especially in the NFL in 2021, protecting the quarterback is more paramount.
Washington released long-term starter Morgan Mosses and expects to replace him with 2021 second-round pick Samuel Cosmi. Moses, a better run blocker than pass protector, was a key cog in Washington’s success running the football – Washington ran the ball off the right end 57 times last season. Cosmi is a big, strong player, but expecting him to immediately be able to handle NFL rushers is a tall order. Though there is competition in camp for Cosmi, I expect him to win the starting right tackle spot and I anticipate growing pains throughout the season – especially with the strong defensive lines in the NFC East.
Moving over to the left side, Washington elected to sign Charles Leno Jr., the long-term starter for the Bears. While I believe Leno is an upgrade over Cornelius Lucas and now released Geron Christian, Leno has always been an average player. Lucas, Leno, and 2020 fourth-round pick Shadiiq Charles will be competing for left tackle snaps in camp, but Leno is the front runner to win the starting job. I expect Washington to continue to check in on the LT market throughout camp, and while their offensive line is solid, it is far from elite.
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