There have been many regrettable contracts in the history of the NFL. Washington has had their fair share, including quite possibly the worst of all time in Albert Haynesworth. After Sunday’s game against the Saints, it’s safe to say that Washington’s signing of Landon Collins during the 2019 offseason has become one of these embarrassments. Collins was given a six-year, $84,000,000 contract as well as a $15,000,000 signing bonus, yet all he has done in a Washington uniform is miss over half of his games and fail to live up to his hefty price tag. Pick any fan, and if they could cut Collins for his awful play, they would. Unfortunately, the coaching staff still seems to believe that Collins is a talented football player, and they continue to give him more snaps than Kam Curl.
Bobby McCain also struggled on Sunday; several missed tackles allowed New Orleans to extend drives and pick up first downs when Washington should have been able to get off the field. Dustin Hopkins once again found a way to hurt Washington — and he actually made all of his kicks. Hopkins was so inconsistent and mediocre during the previous four games that Ron Rivera elected to go for it on fourth and ten in the second quarter instead of attempting a 52–yard field goal. The kick would have given Washington a three-point lead late in the second half, but a fourth down incompletion gave the ball back to the Saints.
It was a sloppy game all-around. Here are three takeaways from the WFT’s laughable afternoon:
The front seven finally stepped up, but the secondary was abysmal
Up until this week, the entire defense had not been playing up to expectations, but against the Saints, the defensive line actually stepped up and created turnovers for the first time this season. Chase Young picked up his first sack of the season after bullying Ryan Ramczyk, and Daron Payne recovered the fumble. The brunt of the blame, however, can be put on the secondary, whose performance can only be described as downright horrendous. Landon Collins got lost in coverage on several occasions, most notably when he allowed a 72–yard touchdown to Deonte Harris on third and long. There were plenty of defensive lowlights, the peak of which came with Marquez Callaway’s hail mary catch at the end of the first half.
Taylor Heinicke crashed back to Earth
After a phenomenal performance against the Falcons last Sunday, Taylor Heinicke played terribly against the Saints and missed his chance to give Washington substantial opportunities to succeed. He threw for 248 yards, but Heinicke was inefficient (20/41), didn’t account for any scores and had two costly interceptions tied to his name. Washington was inside the redzone looking to retake the lead late in the first half when Heinicke forced a throw to a tightly-covered Curtis Samuel and got picked off by Paulson Adebo. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Heinicke once again made a poor decision, trying to hit Deandre Carter in double coverage, only for PJ Williams to intercept him. The Saints got the ball at the Washington 25-yard line, where Callaway scored his second touchdown of the game. Besides the two interceptions, lots of Heinicke’s throws were behind his intended receivers, and there were a few plays when he missed open receivers downfield.
The pass-catching core lacks depth
NFL fans are very aware of the talent that Terry McLaurin possesses. McLaurin’s skill leads to a touch matchup each week, forcing him to line up across the opponent’s number one cornerback. Against the Saints, he was shadowed by Marshon Lattimore for most of the afternoon, and for the most part, Lattimore locked McLaurin up. McLaurin brought in only four catches for 46 yards, forcing Heinicke to look for secondary receivers. A healthy Curtis Samuel would have been a solid second option, but a lingering groin injury caused him to leave the game early. Cam Sims, Dyami Brown and Logan Thomas also missed the game due to injuries, diminishing the receiving core even more. Heinicke’s next best option was veteran Adam Humphries, who ended up leading the team in receiving yards, but having Adam Humphries as the leading receiver in 2021 isn’t exactly where anyone wants to be. Whether it be Humphries, Carter or Ricky Seals-Jones, Washington needs another pass-catcher to step up and serve as a consistent secondary target so that opposing defenses have somebody to worry about besides McLaurin.
Washington still sits in second place in the division, but the Cowboys are playing incredible football at the moment and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Washington’s schedule is immensely difficult going forward, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for them to get back in the playoff race. Next week, they face the Chiefs, who haven’t looked like themselves to start the season but still sport one of the most potent offenses in the league. It will be a tall task for Washington, but if they want to sustain consistent victories, they need to find a way to fix up the loose screws that became exposed against the Saints.