Rick's Report Card - WFT at 2-5
Just 2-5 is probably where many expected the Washington Football Team to be entering the Nov. 1 bye. But, they could have been 4-3 if not giving away wins at Cleveland and New York.
The team has a few weeks to stay in the NFC East race, but the bottom line is Washington can’t beat good opponents. We’ve all seen the lopsided scores. December threatens to be cruel when the schedule stiffens, but then the division is so bad Washington may hang in there.
For now, here’s how the near midseason review looks.
Split the grade. Kyle Allen gets a C+ while Dwayne Haskins earns a D. Allen’s turnovers cost a win over New York, but his steady play versus Dallas was encouraging. He’s a game-manager at best and a decent stopgap until 2021. Haskins still has much learning to do. The question is whether it’s in Washington or elsewhere. The bet is elsewhere.
RUNNING BACKS: C+
Antonio Gibson is making steady strides as a runner, averaging a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. Washington’s victory over Dallas showed it can run effectively against bad teams, but is limited by the line versus good defenses. The backfield is the best pass option after receiver Terry McLaurin, and frankly that’s not good. Can only fool defenses so much. Overall, Washington may look for a prime runner next offseason.
Terry McLaurin is a Pro Bowler. Should be an All-Pro, but a team’s losing usually penalizes postseason honors. Washington essentially has one receiver – McLaurin. How defenses don’t shut him down more is surprising. But, he’s on a near-100 catch pace for the season. His after-catch speed is impressive. He may be the team’s best receiver since the Super Bowl days. After McLaurin, though, it’s a lot of nothing.
TIGHT ENDS: C
We’re really talking about Logan Thomas here, a few plays by Jeremy Sprinkle aside. Thomas was asked to do more than should be expected, but there are games when he looks good enough. And, there are days when it’s 50/50 he catches the ball. For now, he’s doing OK.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D
There are days when I want to give them an F. Allowing 26 sacks and virtually no running room has doomed them in several games. But, they’re playing with a lot of limitations. Right tackle Morgan Moses is one sore bag of bones. Guard Brandon Scherff hasn’t been as good as his first few seasons. The team needs to upgrade at left tackle and guard plus center. Some days they’re halfway decent, but that’s the high-water mark.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B
Basically, three good games and four bad ones. It’s hard to believe Washington allowed 30 or more points in four straight games with this line. The ends are emerging in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. They could be the best tandem since the Super Bowl days of Dexter Manley and Charles Mann. Young looks like a rookie sometimes, not sure where the ball is, but that’s rare. He’s consistently in the backfield and everything the team expected when drafting him second overall. Sweat has been playing well since the second half of last season. Inside play of Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen has been uneven, but Payne can really shut down the middle when playing well.
It has been a consistently good unit despite problems covering tight ends. Jon Bostic has been the big hitter who can also blitz, his dumb helmet hit to Dallas’ Andy Dalton aside. Cole Holcomb looks like a breakout player. Kevin Pierre-Louis has several good games. Bostic and Pierre-Louis are 1-2 respectively in tackles.
When the pass rush disappears, so does pass coverage. Still too many ghosts of Josh Norman past with players pointing to each other after allowing touchdowns, but it’s getting better. Losing safety Landon Collins for the season with a torn Achilles leaves a hole. Cornerback Kendall Fuller is versatile and with four interceptions has proven his worth as the team’s big free agent signing.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Kicker Dustin Hopkins’ future is getting murky. Missing field goals in four games this season will test a new coach’s patience. There may be a lot of close games in coming weeks and Washington can’t afford to throw away three points. He’s on the clock. Punter Tress Way and deep snapper Nick Sundberg remain solid. Coverage units have been good, but there’s still room to improve return units.
What can you say about a head coaching who has undergone cancer treatments throughout the past seven weeks? Ron Rivera’s courage alone rates an A. We’ll see a different Rivera when the team returns from the Nov. 1 bye. A stronger version emerging from treatments ready to lead a potential playoff run as silly as 2-5 suggests. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner is starting to get his play-calling legs. I’ve been surprised defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio hasn’t been more aggressive in the pass rush.
Rick Snider is an award-winning sports writer who has covered Washington sports since 1978. He first wrote about the Washington football team in 1983 before becoming a beat writer in 1993. Snider currently writes for several national and international publications and is a Washington tour guide. Follow Rick on Twitter at @Snide_Remarks