Preseason - 2021 Washington Football Team Outlook
Washington Football Team Outlook
Washington brought in Ron Rivera to run the franchise in 2020 after a solid run over eight seasons with the Panthers (76-63-1), which included four playoff appearances. His highlight year came in 2015 (15-1 with a loss to Denver in the Super Bowl). Washington won the NFC East in his first season despite a 7-9 record while showing improvement on both sides of the ball.
In addition, Rivera worked as a defensive coordinator over six seasons for the Bears and the Chargers while having 24 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Scott Turner returns for a second season as Washington's offensive coordinator. His offense finished 25th in points scored (335), 71 more points than in 2019 (266). Washington only moved up one notch to 30th in yards allowed. Turner held the same position over five seasons with the Panthers and Vikings.
After sitting out two years after losing the head coaching job for the Raiders, Jack Del Rio ran Washington's defense in 2020. They moved from the bottom of the league rankings to second in yards allowed and fourth in points given up (329 – 106 fewer than 2019).
Over 12 seasons as a head coach, Del Rio went 93-94 with three playoff appearances. His best success came in 2005 (12-4), 2007 (11-5), and 2016 (12-4). In 2000, he helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl as the linebacker coach for the Ravens. Del Rio has 21 years of experience coaching in the NFL.
Washington's top two signings in the offseason were CB William Jackson and WR Curtis Samuel.
Jackson has been up and down over the past three seasons. When at his best, he held wide receivers to short yards per catch while making some mistakes over the long field.
Ron Rivera drafted Samuel in the second round in 2017. His play and production improved each season in the league, highlighted by the 24th wide receiver ranking (212.10 fantasy points) in PPR leagues last year. Samuel adds value as well as a change of pace option out of the backfield.
The quarterback position remains an area of need, leading to Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as a bridge player. He made the most of his opportunities off the bench over the past three seasons in Tampa and Miami, leading to some impressive games and improved accuracy.
The defense lost CB Ronald Darby, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, and DE Ryan Kerrigan.
Darby had an entire season of starts for Washington for the first time in his career. He continues to have risk in big plays and touchdowns allowed, but his play did improve in completion rate against.
Kerrigan gave Washington eight impressive seasons rushing the quarterback. His best play against the run came from 2016 to 2018. His playing time slipped over the last two years, leading to his move to Philadelphia.
Pierre-Louis saw the most playing time of his career in 2020 as a rotational player on passing downs. He'll help defense kick returns while having a low ceiling in coverage (five touchdowns allowed last year).
The only other player of value added to the roster was WR Adam Humphries. After three productive seasons with Tampa as a possession receiver, his game faded in Tennessee over the past two seasons while battling some injuries. Humphries won't score that often, but he will help move the chains on third downs.
In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Washington focused on their defense with the addition of LB Jamin Davis. His experience and success are limited, but he brings an excellent feel and understanding of his role in a defense. His flow to the ball is top-notch, with the talent to defend in the passing game. Davis can struggle with the big bodies in traffic, which requires him to get stronger.
Washington invested in T Sam Cosmi in the second round. His game projects well on the move in the run game, and his foundation skill set puts him in the correct position to handle his assignments. His thinking style loses a tick after the snap. To push higher, Cosmi needs to fire off the ball with more fight and better reaction time. His base looks to be trailing at this point of his career.
With two selections in the third round, Washington drafted CB Benjamin St-Juste and WR Dyami Brown.
St-Juste looks the part of an upside press corner with the talent to support the run. His challenge comes from his technique and reads vs. pass routes. St-Juste creates wins in jump ball situations while almost also being able to drop back in coverage. His movements translate much better moving forward or in chase mode in bump and run coverage.
Brown gives Washington an explosive deep threat option, who will have limited value over the short areas of the field. Any value close to the line of scrimmage comes from scripted plays when his speed can create winning seams. Brown battles in hands in tight coverage, leading to fewer chances.
Washington took a chance on TE John Bates in the fourth round. Unfortunately, his quickness doesn't create too many wins over the short areas of the field, leading to minimal separation. However, when given a free run, he does have the speed to win deep in the secondary. His hands project well while needing to get stronger to handle his blocking responsibilities.
Washington shifted back to the defense with three of their next four draft picks – S Darrick Forrest, LS Camaron Cheeseman, DE Will Bradley-King, and DE Shaka Toney.
Forest wants to fire in the run game. His aggressiveness can lead to him being out of position and a step away from making a winning tackle at times. Quarterback will take advantage of his gambling mentality to abuse him in coverage due to questionable change of direction speed and missteps. Forest gets buried when crossing into the danger zone where offensive linemen make their livings.
Washington brought in Cheeseman to compete for the long-snapping job. His game projects better on field goals than punts at this point in his career.
Bradley-King brings a pass-rushing skill set to Washington. He won't create an edge with his speed or quickness off the snaps, but his movements and understanding in the pass rush lead to success in sacks. Bradley-King shows up for every play. His next step is creating wins against tougher competition.
Toney projects as an edge pass rusher with the most value attacking on the perimeter. His game takes a hit when facing the big bodies on the interior of the defensive line. To reach a higher level, he needs to get stronger and add gas to his motor. His run defense may surprise, with more upside expected when adding power to his game.
The final draft dart for Washington went to WR Dax Milne. He rode the development of Zach Wilson at BYU to the NFL. His route running led to his success, but Milne won't gain an edge with his speed or strength. His quickness out of pass patterns will take a step back at the next level against more prominent, faster defenders.
The Redskins fell to 26th in rushing yards (1,611), but they scored 18 times on the ground. Their runners gained over 20 yards on seven plays while gaining 4.0 yards per rush.
Washington pushed to 24th in passing yards (3,796) with 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Their offensive line allowed 50 sacks for the second straight season.
LT Samuel Cosmi
Based on Washington's option at left tackle, Cosmi should jump to the depth chart over the summer. However, his game needs work, pointing to him learning on the fly in 2021. I don't expect him to be an asset in his rookie season.
LG Wes Schweitzer
In mid-March in 2020, Washington signed Schweitzer to a three-year deal for $13.5 million. Over 17 games last year, he allowed too many sacks, but his overall play did show growth in pass protection. Schweitzer has a ceiling of a league-average player in run blocking.
C Chase Roullier
Despite a sixth-round draft value in 2017, Roullier continues to play well in pass blocking. He showed growth in all areas in 2020 while starting all 17 games (including the playoffs).
RG Brandon Scherff
Scherff has been an asset in each of his years in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2015. Over the last four seasons, he has missed some time each season with an injury. His run blocking was the best of his career in 2020 over 14 starts. He did allow pressure on the quarterback, but his pass blocking overall fell in line with his career path.
RT Cornelius Lucas
After wandering his way through the NFL as a bench player over six seasons, Lucas gave Washington nine good starts at left tackle in 2020. He did allow more pressure as the season moved on while failing to create holes in the run game. He should move to right tackle this year, but Lucas only has a placeholder feel heading into training camp.
If Samuel Cosmi can hold his own in his rookie season, Washington should have an edge on their offensive line at three positions. They need to find a younger player with upside to seize the right tackle job, and Schweitzer isn't a difference-maker at left guard. Overall, this offensive line as a unit ranks below the league average in mid-June.
The structure of Washington's team points to a ball-control offense with a focus on the run game. Their developing defense will keep them in games. Last year, they ran the ball 40 percent of the time with better than expected passing chances (601).
QB Taylor Heinicke, WAS - Dynasty Only
Heinicke made only eight appearances over three different seasons in his NFL career. Washington had to play him in the playoffs last year due to injuries. He delivered 352 combined yards with two touchdowns.
In his best season at Old Dominion in 2012, Heinicke passed for 5,076 yards with 44 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also added 470 yards and 11 scores on the ground on 126 carries.
Fantasy Outlook: Only a wild card to earn starting snaps for Washington. There is talent here, but his opportunity to start looks minimal.
Other Options: Kyle Allen, Steven Montez
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, --- - Bye Week Fill-in
When the regular season starts in 2021, Fitzpatrick will be 38. He has a career 59-86-1 record over 16 years while playing for eight other franchises. Over the past three seasons with Tampa and Miami, he went 11-16 with 7,986 passing yards, 50 passing touchdowns, and 33 interceptions. His completion rate (64.8) and yards per pass attempt (7.9) were well above Fitzpatrick's career stats (60.7 and 6.9). Over this stretch, he had 120 rushing attempts for 546 yards and eight touchdowns.Fantasy Outlook: Washington didn't add another quarterback in this year's draft, suggesting Fitzpatrick will have the first chance to run their offense. They only need a game manager who minimizes the turnovers to stay in games. For now, he looks to be on a path for league average stats at quarterback while being the 24th option drafted in mid-June.
RB Antonio Gibson, WAS - Solid/Safe Pick
Washington had a tight range of rushing yards (1,415, 1,456, and 1,514) over the past three seasons. They turned to their running back in the passing game (120/848/2) to help move the chains while seeing a bump in scoring on the ground (17 touchdowns).
From Week 2 to Week 12, Gibson gained 834 combined yards with 11 touchdowns and 30 catches on 16 touches per game. He averaged 17.9 fantasy points over this stretch. A toe injury that didn't require surgery after the season cost him almost all of Week 13, 14, and 15. Over his final three games, Gibson lost his explosiveness (3.9 yards per rush – 4.7 over his previous 10 contests), leading to 185 combined yards and six catches (8.2 FPPG).
He finished 13th in running back scoring (204.20 fantasy points) in PPR leagues despite leaving some stats on the table due to missed snaps. Gibson had one impact game (136 combined yards with two touchdowns and five catches).
In his only season with starting snaps for Memphis, Gibson worked in a split role at running back (33/369/4) and wide receiver (38/735/8). He scored a touchdown on 16.9 percent of his touches (plus two scores on kick and fumble returns) while gaining massive yards per rush (11.2) and yards per catch (19.3).
Gibson checks in at 6'0" and 228 lbs., with an impressive showing in the 40-yard dash (4.39) at the NFL combine in 2020. His vision grades well while showing the ability to break tackles.
Fantasy Outlook: In early June, his toe issue remains a concern, which may signify that surgery is still needed. Gibson checks all the three-down boxes, with growth expected this year in the passing game. His ADP (20) in mid-June priced him as the 14th running back drafted. He looks to be on a path for 275 combined touches for 1,400 yards with 12 dozen touchdowns and 50 catches with a healthy season.
RB J.D. McKissic, WAS - Quality Backup
Washington gave McKissic a high-volume pass-catching opportunity in 2020, leading to 80 catches for 589 yards and two scores. He had five catches or more in nine games. McKissic gained only 7.4 yards per catch, with three contests resulting in more than 60 yards receiving.
When given two starts with Antonio Gibson injured, he produced two steady games on early downs (11/68 and 13/51). McKissic only has two career rushing touchdowns on his 173 carries.Fantasy Outlook: McKissic finished 17th in running scoring (192.40), but his role/success doesn't look repeatable based on his career resume in the NFL. If Antonio Gibson can't suit up for multiple games, Washington should turn to another runner on early downs.
RB Jaret Patterson, WAS - Dynasty Only
Washington signed Patterson as an undrafted free agent after this year's draft. He gained over 1,000 yards in all three seasons at Buffalo, leading to 4,155 combined yards with 52 touchdowns and 20 catches. Patterson will compete for early touches in 2021.
Other Options: Lamar Miller, Jonathan Williams
RB Peyton Barber, --- - Low Potential
When both Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic are active, Barber rarely plays more than a handful of snaps in a change-of-pace and short-yardage role. Barber averaged a meager 2.7 yards per tote figure in 2020 and only saw seven targets all season. His only fantasy value now is as a potential goal-line vulture, making him little more than an emergency stash in super deep leagues.
Fantasy Outlook: Baber's usage has declined in each of the past three seasons and he has very little fantasy value unless the Football Team were to be hit by injuries.