As the opening kickoff of the 2020 NFL Season fast approaches, it is worth having one last quick look at what is going on around the Division outside of Philadelphia, especially since the NFC East Teams do not take the field until Sunday. Let’s start with the Washington Football Team.
(Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)
The tumultuous situation behind the scenes has been well documented over the last few weeks. One of the first questions that needs to be asked is whether the behind the scenes offseason drama will impact the team on the field negatively, or if it will bring the players together and galvanize them to achieve things far beyond anyone’s expectations? We will not know the answer to this until Sunday, however there are a number of things we do know for certain.
· New to Washington, Ron Rivera, is a no-nonsense, well respected Head Coach who has a HC record of 76-63-1 and who was NFL Coach of the Year twice in 2013 and 2015 as well as leading the Panthers to Super Bowl 50. Rivera, not only has to steer his team through a season full of internal and external controversial obstacles, but also has to do this without a normal offseason and whilst having to personally deal with cancer treatment.
· Dwayne Haskins may have got the nod to start at Quarterback but, the story that has received most attention in recent weeks is Alex Smith being cleared to return to football following a long rehab battle since the horrific injury he sustained in 2018.
· The cupboard seems largely bare when it comes to the offensive skill positions. There appear to be two exceptions to this: The first one is second year speedy receiver Terry McLaurin who made a huge impression in his rookie season (58 Rec, 919 Yds, 7 TDs) and looks to build on his success in 2020. The other is newly drafted Running Back Antonio Gibson, whom the coaching staff believe in so much, that they released future Hall of Fame RB Adrian Peterson in order to make the first year player the starter.
· Losing Trent Williams has been a huge blow to the future of this Offensive Line despite him not playing in 2019. Especially as the trade to San Fransisco only netted Washington a 2020 5th Round Pick and a 2021 3rd Round Selection. Three time Pro Bowl Right Guard Brandon Scherff, veteran Right Tackle Morgan Moses and fourth year Center Chase Roullier are all returning as starters. Geron Christian Sr. and Wes Martin are projected starters at Left Tackle and Left Guard respectively but both have limited NFL experience starting. Going into the season PFF has the Washington Offensive Line ranked 29th overall.
· The strength of the team is undoubtedly the defensive line that on paper looks downright scary. Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat are all starters backed by solid, productive players like Ryan Kerrigan and Matt Ioannidis. This D Line rotation boasts no less than 5 former 1st round picks. The Eagles will Offensive Line will have their hands full on Sunday.
· Reuben Foster came into the NFL an anticipated superstar but his career will have to be put on hold for yet another season as Washington recently placed him on IR, effectively ending his 2020 campaign before it even started. This leaves Shaun Dion Hamilton, Jon Bostic and Kevin-Pierre Lewis as the projected starters of a line backing corps that is surrounded by questions and is rated by 24th amongst teams by PFF.
· After trading Quinton Dunbar to the Seahawks, the Washington Football Team will be looking very different at Defensive Back. They did sign Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby to start at outside corner, however Fuller according to PFF is better suited playing the slot and Darby as any Eagles fan knows is not by any stretch the high caliber Cornerback Philadelphia thought they were getting when they traded to get him from Buffalo. Landon Collins at Safety is the cornerstone of this secondary and will be joined in the middle of the secondary by Troy Apke who only has 2 career starts to date.
Overall, Washington is in “rebuild mode” and is extremely unlikely to contend for a Division Title but is capable of winning some games and causing trouble for Philadelphia. The Eagles should approach Sunday’s game with caution.