The Washington Football Team came into this season like a brand-new race car. The auto parts were fresh, the driver was amped up and expectations were high.
Eight weeks in, however, a tire exploded, the transmission failed, there’s a dent in the driver door and the car desperately needs an oil change.
With Week 8 in the rearview mirror, Washington heads into their bye week sitting at 2–6 and tied for dead last in the NFC East. Their only two victories have come against the Giants and Falcons, who are a combined 5–10. To say that the first half of this season was disappointing would be a massive understatement.
Through the first few weeks of the season, the defense looked miserable, and the offense kept Washington competitive. However, since week five against New Orleans, the roles have completely reversed. The defense has stepped up and reminded fans of why they were facing such high expectations at the beginning of the season; the offense, unfortunately, has been downright appalling the last few games.
Here are the B&W’s grades for each Washington position group after eight weeks of play:
Quarterback — Grade: D+
We were expecting to grade Ryan Fitzpatrick at the halfway mark, but after a hip injury forced Fitzpatrick on IR in Week 1, Taylor Heinicke has taken command of the offense. Heincke didn’t expect to be the starting quarterback this early in the season, making it unfair to claim that he hasn’t lived up to expectations. Still, the offense has been completely stagnant recently, due primarily to Heinicke’s lack of experience. Coming into the year, Heinicke had just one career start under his belt, albeit a strong one, but that still means he hasn’t had the practice and experience most NFL quarterbacks have. Several costly turnovers late in games can be attributed to Heinicke’s lack of reps making decisions under pressure. The offense actually performed well during the initial games with Heinicke as the signal caller, which is the only reason his grade is at a D+ instead of an F.
Running Back — Grade: B
Antonio Gibson has paced the Washington backfield so far and, considering the circumstances, has performed well overall. The team has trailed in nearly every game, drastically decreasing the number of carries Gibson has been able to receive. Add in his lingering shin injury, and it’s impressive that Gibson has even been able to play in every game, much less produce at an above average level. However, the most critical reason that the running back position receives a B is backfield pass-catching god JD McKissic. McKissic is Washington’s second leading receiver in terms of receptions and receiving yards, and he’s managed to complete all of his impressive feats out of the backfield. He’s also averaging over four yards per carry and has gotten into the end zone twice — one of those instances being a wild game-winner against Atlanta. Without McKissic, a grade around a C+ would have been fair, but thanks to his stellar play, the backfield deserves a B.
Wide Receiver — Grade: C
If Terry McLaurin wasn’t around, Washington’s receiving core would be one of, if not the worst units in the league. McLaurin leads Washington wideouts with 573 receiving yards and four touchdowns, putting him on track to total over 1,200 yards and almost nine scores by the end of the season. Without fail, McLaurin finds ways to haul in balls that seem uncatchable, including a jaw-dropper against the Chargers. Washington’s problem has been the lack of production outside of McLaurin. Curtis Samuel, Washington’s premier offensive signing of this offseason, hasn’t stayed healthy. Samuel has missed six games and only caught four passes. His return is still up in the air, leaving Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown and Deandre Carter as Washington’s other receivers. Humphries has done his job, although it hasn’t been particularly challenging. Brown has also dealt with injuries, and Carter has made his presence felt on special teams, not on offense. For a core that was supposed to have dramatically improved over the offseason, they’ve been a complete letdown outside of McLaurin, who’s the only reason the unit got a C and not an F.
Tight End — Grade: B
The tight end position has been one of the stronger parts of Washington’s offense at the midway mark. Even without Logan Thomas, who was superb during the first three weeks of the season, the team has seen quality production from Ricky Seals-Jones in Thomas’ absence. He has the third most receptions on the team, and is responsible for the most exciting offensive play of the year — a brilliant 19-yard toe tap touchdown against the Giants that left fans in awe. Seals-Jones has played 100% of offensive snaps each game he has been the starter and will continue to provide a reliable receiving option from the tight end spot, even when Thomas returns. Thomas’ previous production and Seals-Jones’ quality as the replacement demonstrate why this unit deserves a B.
O-Line — Grade: B+
Injuries, injuries, injuries. Washington’s o-line has been riddled with health concerns all season long, and it seems like everything only continues to get worse. They’ve been without three of their five Week 1 starters for the past several weeks and just lost another in Chase Roullier, potentially for the season. However, these injuries have actually helped the o-line perform the best out of any offensive position group. Despite all of the o-line’s injury woes, they’ve allowed just 15 sacks, landing them inside the top 15 in the league. Brandon Scherff has missed the previous four games, yet the o-line has still continued their impressive pass protection. Their run blocking hasn’t been a killer either; they’ve allowed Antonio Gibson to amass an above-average four YPC. This unit has been battle-tested week after week against injuries and talented defenses, and they’ve more than held their ground, earning them a solid grade of a B+.
D-Line — Grade: B-
If we were grading the d-line against preseason expectations, they would almost certainly receive an F, but although they haven’t quite lived up to the hype, they’ve still played decent football. The first four weeks were forgettable, but since Week 5 against Kansas City, the defense has put up a quality performance each week. While Chase Young and Montez Sweat have disappointed off the edge, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne have picked up the slack on the interior. The edge rushers only have a combined 5.5 sacks, but Allen has six on his own — the most of any defensive tackle in the league— and Daron Payne has tacked on an additional pair. Unfortunately, Montez Sweat was placed on IR last week and is expected to miss four to six weeks with a fractured jaw. Chase Young will have to prove why Washington selected him second overall during this last half of the season if the team wants any chance of a turnaround. Even after a rough stretch of opening games, the d-line has gotten back into form and played up to their abilities earning them a solid grade of a B-.
Linebackers — Grade: C
The linebackers were the position group that struggled the most last year, but they thoroughly addressed their shortcomings over the offseason. Washington took Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis 19th overall, hoping he would fix their struggles at the position. Davis has played quality football so far, but only with a smidgen of snaps. For some reason, Jon Bostic was getting a large portion of the playing time before he went down with a season-ending pectoral injury. Since then, Davis has filled Bostic’s role successfully, demonstrating impressive tackling skills as well as quality run stopping support. The same can be said for Cole Holcomb, who’s done everything the coaching staff has asked of him. He’s struggled a bit in coverage, but he still leads the team in tackles by nearly 20. Landon Collins also recently made the switch from SS to LB, and boy, has it paid off. Against the Broncos, Collins put up an impressive eight tackles, including two TFLs and his first sack of the season. While he may not be a fan of his new role, the transition has and will continue to benefit the team. Before Collins’ switch, the linebackers were playing poorly, but now that Collins will almost certainly play in the box for the rest of the year, a grade of a C is more than fair.
Secondary — Grade: D-
Washington’s major defensive acquisition during the offseason was William Jackson III. At the time, the Jackson addition seemed like a great signing for a defense looking to take their talents to the next level. The secondary had just lost Ronald Darby to free agency, and their signing of Jackson felt promising. So far, however, Jackson has been a complete liability. He’s been unable to consistently stick with his receivers in man coverage, and constantly been beat on deep routes, more often than not resulting in a score for the opponent. Kendall Fuller has also struggled mightily in man coverage. Rookie Benjamin St-Juste has been the only somewhat productive cornerback so far; every opposing quarterback seems to pick on him, but the Minnesota product has been physical and performed well. The safety play hasn’t been much better, though. Kam Curl has played decently, but he hasn’t made any of the jaw-dropping plays fans became accustomed to last year. Fellow safety Bobby McCain has been downright dreadful in both coverage and tackling, and it’s impossible to forget his dropped interception against Denver that would have given Washington a short field and an excellent chance to score an early touchdown. If Landon Collins hadn’t made the switch to a linebacker role, Washington’s secondary almost certainly would have received a grade of a F — perhaps even a G if such a grade existed. Still, since Collins is no longer part of the secondary, they get a D-.
Kicker — Grade: F
Talk about a unit that deserves a grade lower than an F. It’s difficult to imagine a team with an uglier kicking situation than this year’s WFT. Dustin Hopkins was inconsistent at best, missing four kicks through six games. He made fans nervous on a weekly basis, especially in Week 2 during a wild ending to TNF. After Week 6, the coaching staff finally released him, and proceeded to sign UDFA rookie Chris Blewitt. The newbie didn’t exactly turn the situation around. In just two games, Blewitt has had three of his five field goal attempts blocked, making Washington’s kicking situation even worse than it was with Hopkins. There’s no unit on this team that deserves a grade of an F more than the kickers.
Punter — Grade: A+
Tress Way has been Washington’s punter for eight years, and he even made a trip to the pro bowl back in 2019. Despite being a dismal 2–6, Washington has only sent out the punting unit 22 times, the fourth fewest in all of football this year. As a result, it’s tough to assign Way a grade because he’s barely seen the field. However, we thought it was fair that the best player on the team should receive the best grade. Plus, Way has a higher career QBR than Tom Brady, and everyone knows that numbers don’t lie.
Kickoff/Punt Return — Grade: A
When the most impressive aspect of a team is their kickoff and punt return unit, you know it’s been a rough season. That’s been exactly the case with Washington through eight games. Deandre Carter seems to have an explosive return every week, including a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown in Week 4 against Atlanta for his first career touchdown. His energy as a returner and as a receiver has helped Washington exponentially, earning the unit a solid A.
Washington hasn’t met any expectations whatsoever, and it would take a miraculous turnaround for them to save their season. Their next game comes a week from Sunday on November 14, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the WFT wants to make a second half comeback like they did last year, players need to return from injury, and the offense needs to flip the switch.