There are obvious similarities between this year’s Washington Football Team and last.
Both versions started slow, collecting just two wins before the bye week with 2021’s version having six losses at the time compared to five the year before. After the bye, this year’s squad followed the previous team’s path and put together a winning streak before the calendar turned to December, the most important month of the NFL season.
This year’s group is taking it up a notch though, going undefeated in November and riding a three-game winning streak into this month.
Upon closer inspection, however, this year’s WFT is different than the 2020 team that improved from 2-6 to win the NFC East.
“I think we have better players in position and part of the reason they’re better because they’re a year older,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “You look at what the playmakers are doing with the wide receiving group, how the tight ends are developing, coming along, what we’re getting from the running backs…these guys have gotten a better feel for each other.”
It’s true, some of the names are the same, but in large doses, the performance has increased.
Wide receiver Terry McLaurin is on pace to set career highs across the board.
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke is obviously improving in his first extended opportunity as a starter, but also now has zero interceptions in two of his last three outings after accomplishing the same feat in just two of the first eight this season.
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In just his second season, running back Antonio Gibson is on pace to surpass all of his rookie marks.
Gibson’s toughness and resilience to battle through a shin injury all season long, and bounce back from being benched after fumbling issues, has him just 83 rushing yards from matching last season’s total, two full games faster.
Playing more meaningful snaps than anyone could have expected, wide receiver DeAndre Carter is turning into a weekly weapon for Heinicke.
After starting the season with just nine catches and one touchdown before the bye, Carter has 10 receptions and two more touchdowns in the past three games alone.
And that’s just on offense.
While there are areas to improve on still, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has his unit running better than we saw before the break. A lot of which has to do with the improved play of safety/linebacker, Landon Collins, and linebacker Cole Holcomb.
Stars are stepping up their game, veterans are adapting to new roles, and the quarterback who looked lost at times early, appears more comfortable with every win.
The story of the 2020 Washington Football Team and this year’s version bring about deja vu for sure. But the details show an improved team in 2021. One with an exciting future ahead of it.