WFT season outlook and three keys to victory in Week 1


Fred Kfoury Iii

The Washington Football Team looks to follow up their stellar 2020 season with an even better 2021 campaign. (Photo credit: Fred Kfoury, Zuma Press/PA Images)

By Gibson Hirt

The NFL season is finally here, and the Washington Football Team is looking to improve on a 2020 season in which they exceeded expectations and proved that they were a legit playoff team. Along with the entirety of a top five defense returning, Washington also picked up some huge additions on offense during the offseason. This should be an exciting season to watch, and another division title run is hopefully in the works.

Despite quarterback problems plaguing Washington throughout the entirety of last season, they still won the NFC East and gave the eventual Super Bowl champion Buccaneers a run for their money in the Wild Card. Now, with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, Washington’s aerial attack should see a significant jump in production from last season. Look for more aggressive throws and overall higher passing volume — something that Washington fans haven’t seen consistently since the days of Robert Griffin III. While it may lead to a few more turnovers than last year, Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Logan Thomas, Antonio Gibson and the rest of Washington’s pass catchers should absolutely benefit from Fitzpatrick’s arrival. 

Speaking of pass catchers, rookie Dyami Brown out of UNC should be in for a big rookie season. The speedster will immediately be thrust into a starting WR3 role and should be a favorite target for Fitzpatrick, since he can use his speed to get open down-field. Everybody knows about the talent that McLaurin possesses, and with what should be quality quarterback play for the first time, he should put up the best statistical season of his career.

On defense, Washington proved to be a top-tier unit last season, and fans can expect the same from them again this year. This front seven may be the best in the league and are likely going to absolutely wreak havoc on their opponents. Chase Young and Montez Sweat both provide elite speed and agility off the edge, and the interior pass rush duo of Jon Allen and Daron Payne provide incredible run stopping ability. Young ended the 2020 season with a 87.1 PFF grade, the fourth best all-time for a rookie edge defender. This d-line is something special and is the subject of one of Washington’s three keys to victory in Week 1 versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Both edge rushers should be able to have their way and wreak havoc for second-year QB Justin Herbert. The Chargers got massive upgrades in Corey Linsley and Rashawn Slater this offseason, but LA’s o-line is still a middle-of-the-pack unit. If Young and Sweat can stay low to the ground and take advantage of their speed rushing skills, they should be able to get pressure on Herbert a majority of the time they are on the field. This means that Washington should focus on playing coverage and not sending more than a few blitzes throughout the entirety of the game. Young and Sweat should be able to create immense pressure without needing the help of extra rushers. The more blitz calls, the more opportunities Herbert will have for long touchdowns, so if those two can create pressure on non-blitz plays, Washington will be in fantastic shape.

The second key to victory for Washington is to force a receiver not named Keenan Allen to make plays for the Chargers. Allen is one of the premier receivers in the league and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons. With 1000+ receiving yards in three out of his last four seasons, Allen is in line for another elite season. If Washington can limit Allen and not allow him to create separation, Justin Herbert will be forced to look for other receivers such as Mike Williams. Williams is a big, physical receiver who has had his moments but has failed to be a consistent second receiving option. If Herbert constantly has to divert to Williams and other receivers such as Jaylen Guyton, Josh Palmer or even checking down to Austin Ekeler rather than Allen, that’ll be a win for Washington.

Last but certainly not least, the third key to victory for Washington is for the offense to minimize turnovers. Coaches constantly preach ball security, but it is critical that both Fitzpatrick and Antonio Gibson protect the ball every time they have it. Joey Bosa is one of the premier edge rushers in the league and poses a threat against Washington’s rookie offensive tackle, Sam Cosmi. Bosa has the ability to consistently generate pressure in the backfield. Throughout his career, Fitzpatrick has struggled with fumbles, including nine in 2019. If both Fitzpatrick and Gibson are able to avoid fumbling the ball, and they limit negative yardage plays, Washington should have an extremely successful game.

If Washington can win in the trenches, claim victory in the turnover battle and force LA’s secondary options to make plays, they will be in good shape to start the season off with a win. As cliché as it might sound, Sunday is just the beginning to the grueling grind of the 18-week NFL season, and it will be an all-out team effort each and every week if Washington wants to repeat as division champs. If the defense can play to the level they did last season, and the offense lives up to its improved expectations, Washington players and fans can get excited for what’s to come.