The Washington Football Team is looking to become the first repeat champion in the NFC East since 2004. The expectations are high and the road will be difficult.
Washington will have to play a tough schedule this season that includes what should be an improved division. Dak Prescott will be back under center for the Dallas Cowboys while the New York Giants added pieces on both sides of the ball, such as Kenny Golladay and Adoree Jackson.
The WFT will feature a new face under center, an elite defense, and an improved group of skill position players. Will that be enough to clinch their second-straight appearance in the postseason? These five players will have plenty to do with it.
5. Charles Leno Jr.
The WFT has been plugging in replacement left tackles since trading Trent Williams to the San Francisco 49ers during the 2020 NFL Draft. Geron Christian and Cornelius Lucas manned the position in 2020. Well, Christian is now in Houston and Lucas will compete for the right tackle position.
This leaves Leno as the favorite to play left tackle.
If the quarterback is the most important position on the field, then left tackle might be a close second. Leno will have the job of protecting Fitzpatrick's blindside and keeping him upright. The offensive line in Washington was surprisingly good last season and that will have to continue. Leno will be the main cog in this equation.
Leno was a staple at left tackle for the Chicago Bears for many years. He wanted a chance to continue to play the position and he will have that in Washington.
4. Chase Young
Young has turned into a complete star in Washington. Since being drafted second overall in 2020, Young has been touted as a big-time player and he showed that during his Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign.
In year two, Young has to continue to improve. He finished with 7.5 sacks as a rookie, which is a bit lower than expected. Young faced many double teams and chip blocks during his rookie season. This allowed Montez Sweat to have a breakout season. This will only continue to intensify as the years go on. Young is an incredible talent with great speed, instincts, and awareness. Just going through the film, there are many plays that can be picked out that should not be made by a defensive end -- and Young was able to make them.
In 2021, Young will return as a captain on the defensive side of the ball and arguably the best player. He has quickly turned into a voice on and off the field and will lead Washington moving forward.
3. Antonio Gibson
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Gibson found himself as one of the most important players in 2020 during his rookie year. Heading into 2021, the role of Gibson is only going to grow.
During his career at Memphis, Gibson finished with more receptions (44) than carries (33). Washington decided to use him primarily as a ball carrier -- and it worked. He rushed 170 times for 795 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games. Gibson missed two games with a turf toe injury but that will not be a problem heading into the season.
In year two, Washington could want to use Gibson as more of a pass catcher. This would bring a new dynamic to the offense. J.D. McKissic thrived in this role out of the backfield last season and it would open up the playbook to have two options.
If Gibson is able to stay healthy, the WFT will have an option to lean on in the backfield. This will take pressure off Fitzpatrick immediately.
2. Ron Rivera
Rivera might not have been the most attractive choice for head coach. During a time where NFL teams are leaning toward younger head coaches with fast-paced schemes, the WFT decided to go with an old-school veteran and you know what -- it worked.
There was a clear change of culture on the sideline with Rivera. He took over decisions right away and turned Washington into a winner. Despite a 7-9 record in 2020, they were able to win the NFC East and will have a chance to repeat. Not to mention, Rivera did all of this while battling cancer, which he was able to beat.
The WFT has an elite defense and Rivera is the right man for the job. Washington seems to have finally found the head coach that came take them to that next level.
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick
The quarterback is the most important position on the field and it is only right that Fitzpatrick comes in at the top of this list. The WFT signed Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal in free agency to be a bridge until they can find their next franchise quarterback.
How long is this bridge? No one knows. What we do know is that Fitzpatrick has had some good times and some bad times in the league.
Fitzpatrick is 59-86-1 as a starter in his career. He has not turned in a full 16-game season since 2015 with the New York Jets. For Washington to reach its full potential, Fitzpatrick will have to come in and perform from Week 1. He is a big personality and has a chance to be a leader on and off the field.
Washington will enter the season with high expectations. To repeat as division champs, they will need Fitzmagic to make an appearance.
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