Washington Football Team 2020 NFL Season Preview

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In this take of “Elite Football Previews”, I will be giving an in-depth preview of The Washington Football Team’s 2020 NFL season.  You will be reading about the 2019 season recap, off-season reviews, roster grades, and last but not least the outlook of the 2020 Season and where can the Washington Football Team go.

Off-Season Review:

2019 Record: 3-13
Notable Departures and Injuries:
  • DB Quentin Dunbar (Trade to Seattle Seahawks)
  • LG Ereck Flowers (Signed by Dolphins)
  • LT Trent Williams (Signed by 49ers)
  • TE Jordan Reed (Signed by 49ers)
  • WR Kelvin Harmon (ACL tear out for season)
Notable Draft Picks, Top 3 Picks:
  • EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State (Round 1, 2nd Pick)
  • RB Antonio Gibson, Memphis (Round 3, Pick 66)
  • OT Saahdiq Charles, LSU (Round 4, Pick 108)
Notable Additions:
  • CB Kendall Fuller (Chiefs)
  • LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (Bears)
  • S Sean Davis (Steelers)
  • OG Wes Schweitzer (Falcons)
  • RB J.D. McKissic (Lions)
  • OT Cornelius Lucas (Bears
  • TE Logan Thomas (Lions)
  • RB Peyton Barber (Buccaneers)
  • TE Richard Rodgers (Eagles)
  • CB Ronald Darby (Eagles)
  • WR Cody Latimer (Giants)
  • WR Dontrelle Inman (Colts)
Current Opt-Outs:
  • DL Caleb Brantley
  • LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (slight impact)

Let’s dive into it….

The Washington Football Team has started the 2020 off-season off the rails. From front office woes, to name changes, to off-the-field player incidents, it was just a big mess. However, There was some good to come out of this current off-season with the Washington Football Team.  Much of Washington’s fanbase viewed ownership’s decision to fire GM Bruce Allen and other front-office personnel as a good start, they needed to keep the ball rolling. Within days they made a big-time hire with HC Ron Rivera, a leader of men and a catalyst for positive change.

There is one word the Washington Football Team is focused on, and that is the “CULTURE.” Rivera hired DC Jack Del-Rio and OC Scott Turner to change the culture there in Washington. With other key additions to the coaching staff, Rivera was given the lead-way to operate the team. Meaning, owner Dan Snyder has to not interfere with how Rivera is operating the team. Fear not, things can get better if they keep up with how things are moving in Washington. This is just the beginning, so sit tight and enjoy this roller coaster here in D.C.

Draft Class Review

This year’s draft class has players who all can become a part of the team with a specific role. Chase Young adds more aggressiveness rushing off the edge. He has speed, power, and aggressiveness off the edge. He will be causing heavy disruption to a lot of offenses this season. You can read more about Chase Young here. 

Fans are hopeful Saahdiq Charles can fill the void of former OL Trent Williams with proper guidance and improvements on skills. Antonio Gibson is a dynamic player who can open up the field a bit with his versatility at RB and WR. Keith Ismael can be an important addition on the offensive line as he will battle the trenches at the guard position. Kamren Curl is another player who serves versatility on the field as well. With skills at DB and Safety and some snaps in college at LB, Curl can be dynamic on the field as a fill-in for one of the starters. 

 

So what went right for Washington in 2019?

The first thing that went right was the firing of Jay Gruden because it was long overdue. He had no type of control or handle on the locker room. There was not enough trust from his players, and it showed that on the field. There were a handful of things that went right for Washington in 2019.

  • Dwayne Haskins started to show signs he can be the lead man for the 2020 season after giving a glimpse of what he can bring to the offense. He ended his rookie season with 1365 YDs, 7 TDs, and 7 INTs. He started to show serious improvement over his last 6 games.
  • Veteran RB Adrian Peterson has shown us that age, for him, is just a number. He still runs with speed and power at the age of 35. He finished the 2019 season with 212 rushes, 898 rushing yards, and 5 rushing tds.
  • Washington has managed to put together a young and energized receiving core with Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, and Kelvin Harmon. What makes it better is that they were all rookies.
  • The secondary was not bad, but they weren’t good as well. They were able to get the most out of the young guys. Former Washington DB Quentin Dunbar led the team with 4 INTs, with young DB Fabian Moreau behind him with 3 INTs.
  • The front seven was good but could improve. Despite the lack of adjustments made by former DC Greg Manusky, the front seven was very aggressive and was able to stop some tough offenses. DEs Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen were very disruptive. Ioannidis led the team with sacks coming short just .5 sacks behind 49’ers DE Nick Bosa.

What went wrong for Washington in 2019?

There were many positives in 2019; however, there were just as many or more negatives. However, this 2020 season, Washington has gotten rid of almost half of that dead weight, if you must say. The culture was just bad there. And you can tell by the demeanor of the players on the field and the lack of leadership.

  • Bruce Allen being GM, affected the team as a whole. Washington had a winning percentage of .387 since Allen’s arrival in 2010.
  • Former LT Trent Williams sat out for the entire season due to an off-field medical issue, but also personnel concerns.
  • Jay Gruden lost control of the locker room and allowed it to affect how the team performed.  There wasn’t enough faith from the coach for the young QB Dwayne Haskins. That can affect a young player and how he can perform as a leader on the field. 
  • There was no depth on the offensive line after injuries repeatedly happened.
  • The medical staff wasn’t as capable as it should’ve been. TEs Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis were out most of the season due to injury.
  • Fan attendance dropped mid-season because of the team’s outcome and how they performed.

Washington Football Team 2020 Preview: An outlook on the roster

Rivera made it known that changing the culture in Washington means changing everything that was wrong, how they interact as a team, how they interact in practice and team meetings, how they practice, etc. Rivera stated that every player would have to earn their spot on the roster, and that if you apply yourself and do as you are required, there should not be any issues.

Washington has the tools to change their franchise around, but can they do it? Washington fans see that the team can potentially go 10-6 or 9-7, which is better than how their last few seasons have been. Here are a few key things that can change the usual outcome of Washington’s season.

Quarterbacks

With Haskins and newly acquired QB Kyle Allen (Panthers), it shows Rivera is setting the tone for the young talent. With Alex smith cleared to practice with the team entirely, will Rivera include him in the battle, or will Smith be there as a veteran where he can help Allen and Haskins grow? Sometimes having a vet like Alex Smith on the team can help a young QB. Dwayne Haskins stepped up into the captain role this off-season and gave Ron Rivera 110% and nothing less. In his recent press conference, he spoke about becoming a leader and showing more leadership this off-season. He also has shed some weight this off-season to become a bit more mobile on the field to open the field more. You can read more about Haskins in the off-season here.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson needs help carrying the load at RB.  With Guice recently released due to off-field incidents, it gives Peyton Barber a bump in the RB battle. Looking at the rest of their depth chart, Bryce Love hasn’t played a snap yet in Washington and will be competing with JD McKissick and Antonio Gibson for additional carries.

Wide Receivers

Terry McLaurin and the company of young WRs are a good look considering how they produced in 2019. Steven Sims is becoming a prominent slot receiver as he shows he can catch and run routes. Gandy-Golden and newly signed WR Dontrelle Inman are the big bodies Rivera will need for red-zone purposes. Not to mention Antonio Gibson, who will also play a role in the receiving position.

Offensive Line

The offensive line is young, but there are some functional changes made where Rivera will make sure they are ready to play week 1 and protect the young star QB, Dwayne Haskins. Young OL Saahdiq Charles is ready to battle for the starter position. He is one of the favorable starters due to his size and versatility to be able to play Guard or Tackle. He needs time to develop more skills though. Cornelius Lucas hasn’t had starting time until last season with a total of 9 games. With him battling age and time, he needs to step and show he can be the front runner at the tackle position. He is another favorable winner in the LT position- battle. 

Secondary

The defense is fascinating. With Jack Del Rio as DC and switching to the 4-3, it opens up roster spots just a bit. Rivera is giving the secondary a much-needed upgrade with the signings of DBs Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby. The safety position has been an issue with Landon Collins not getting a lot of help on the other side of the field. With the signing of Sean Davis, I think this secondary can achieve great things.

Linebackers

The linebacker core is just a sight to see. LBs Ryan Anderson, Kelvin Pierre-Louis, Cole Holcomb, Reuben Foster, Montez Sweat, veteran Thomas Davis and Ryan Kerrigan are ready to add pressure to the other side of the ball. Reuben Foster has not played a season with Washington since being signed due to injuries. This offseason, he is seemingly focused and ready to step up and show Ron Rivera he deserves to be here in Washington. 

Defensive Line

Washington is loaded on the defensive line with Daron Payne, Matthew Ioannidis, Jonathan Allen, and now Chase Young. All of these guys cause nothing but problems when the ball is snapped. Each player knows how to get to the QB and stop the rushing offense when needed. 

Offensive Roster Grade: C+

I graded the unit a C+ because of the status of the uncertainty at OL and TE. Those two positions play a significant role inside the offense. As a result, most of the players in the two areas are players who we have either not seen play in a while or have not had the field time yet. However there are still major improvements needed in both areas, but Ron Rivera will bring the best out of the players he has to work with.  

Defensive Roster Grade: B

The major improvements Washington has made with their defense over the last few years has only gotten better. With young talent with a few veterans to give guidance and leadership, this defense is on the verge of being good enough to compete for the top spot in the NFL. With off-season additions of DBs Ronald Darby and Kendall fuller, it upgrades their secondary. Drafting arguably the top prospect in this year’s NFL Draft Chase Young has brought significant improvement to the pass and run defense.

In addition, Washington also has hired DC Jack Del Rio, who is known for building good defenses as we witnessed in Jacksonville and Oakland. Del Rio also knows how to get the best out of the players he has as well. Steady improvements and high expectations are what lingers in Washington. 

2020 Outlook and Projection

Above all, Washington has the tools to change their franchise around. Some fans are looking for the team to make a big change with a possible 11-5 record. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, Washington is far from becoming a playoff contender. They can become a winning team, and this year is the year to do so, but there will be nothing major, in my opinion. 

As a result, I will say that Washington can quickly become 8-8 or 9-7. I just want the season to end on a good note, which is better than what it has been in the last few seasons. Some fans just want to see improvement. For instance, Ron Rivera is adamant about setting the tone and changing the culture in Washington. So far, there have been significant changes in how they practice and interact with each other. Rivera has gotten their attention, and I am sure they have his as well. 

Whether the offense is led by an evolving Dwayne Haskins (or veteran Alex Smith), Terry McLaurin is expected to have a big year. That is only if Haskins has the time to throw the ball, meaning that the offensive line is the primary factor. Be on the lookout of Steven Sims as well in the slot and rookie WR Antonio Gandy-Golden, possibly at the WR2 spot. 

The tight end(s) have to block and catch the ball in certain play situations when needed. The offense will need to make sure the defense stays off that field long enough to catch their breath and manage the game’s time. Having role players like TEs Caleb Wilson and Richard Rodgers should spread the passing game open more with the ability to catch the ball in the middle of the field.

Let’s not forget that Washington is also in one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL, the NFC EAST. All four teams have made significant improvements. Washington has won the division in 2012 and 2015, with former QBs RGIII and Kirk Cousins. In the end, it is possible that Washington can win the division, but that’s a long shot.