WFT end-of-season report card

By Gibson Hirt

“The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” — John Madden

Anybody who has ever played a competitive sport knows that winning doesn’t come easy. It takes determination, grit, perseverance and many other characteristics to succeed at the highest level. The Washington Football Team might not have their season end the way they were hoping, but nobody ever said it would be easy. The problem, however, is that this has started to become a trend for the organization in recent years.

For the fourth time in five seasons, Washington won’t be playing postseason football. FedEx Field will remain dormant of burgundy and gold until August, when Washington will take the field for preseason donning a new name and uniform that will be revealed on February 2.

At the beginning of the season, Washington was a common pick to win the NFC East for the second consecutive year. They filled holes on defense that instilled a belief that they would be a top-five unit in football. They added Curtis Samuel to be a dynamic second pass-catching option to accompany Terry McLaurin on the Washington receiving corps. With the Giants and Eagles likely stinking and the Cowboys’ defense looking absolutely horrendous on paper, a second straight division title was within reach.

Well, almost everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong. Injuries, COVID-19 and off-the-field issues riddled the team, and the external problems clearly affected the team’s performance. Although they played well coming out of the Week 9 bye week, the WFT lost four of their last five games to end the season at 7–10.

Here are the B&W’s grades for each Washington position group after the conclusion of the 2021-22 NFL season:


Quarterback — Grade: C

At the midseason mark, Washington was 2–6, and Taylor Heinicke was one more poor performance away from getting benched. He wasn’t playing like a starting-caliber quarterback and thus received a grade of D+ in our midseason report card column. He was leaving throws behind and too high for open receivers, and tried to force the ball into contested coverage far too often. Luckily for Heinicke, he was able to flip the script and came out of the bye playing much better. Washington won four straight games, getting back to .500 and putting themselves right back in the playoff race. Heinicke threw for 881 yards and seven touchdowns during the winning streak and played his best stretch of football all season. Unfortunately, the winning streak quickly turned into a losing streak, as Washington dropped four of their five games of the season. During that stretch, Heinicke looked worse than Baker Mayfield, accounting for just two touchdown passes and four interceptions. Heinicke had his moments, that’s for sure, but at the end of the day, he was an average starting quarterback, thus earning his grade of a C.

Running Back — Grade: B+

Washington’s backfield was one of their only strong suits we gave a good grade to on our midseason report card. After nine more games, the ground game has improved even more. Antonio Gibson has been the featured halfback all year long but struggled with a lingering shin injury for the first half of the season. Coming out of the bye, Gibson looked rejuvenated, rushing for 600 yards in the final nine games. After JD McKissic suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 12, Gibson was given an even larger share of the backfield touches. Gibson didn’t look great during either game against Dallas, but he absolutely dominated the Giants in Week 18, putting up 146 yards and a touchdown. During his breakout in East Rutherford, Gibson crossed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground this season, an impressive total for a second-year back. Overall, it was an up and down season for Gibson, but he continued to show he is the future of Washington’s backfield. The sky’s the limit for Gibson and he deservingly earned his grade of a B+.

Wide Receiver — Grade: B-

Since making his NFL debut in 2019, Terry McLaurin has led Washington in receiving yards every season, and 2021 was no different. Although he was more inconsistent than in previous years, McLaurin still achieved his second straight 1,000-yard receiving season. Although he took a step back in the touchdown department from 2020, McLaurin continued to dominate Washington’s receiver room. The only reason for a lower grade for the receiving core is the lack of depth. After McLaurin, JD McKissic — a running back who missed the final six games of the season — had the second-most receiving yards on the team with 397. After McKissic, Adam Humphries was the next leading wideout with 383 yards. Cam Sims, Dyami Brown and Deandre Carter had their moments, but none of them proved to be consistently reliable pass-catching options at any point in the season. During this past offseason, Washington signed Curtis Samuel to a three-year, $34 million contract, hoping he would emerge as a quality second option after McLaurin. Unfortunately, Samuel played limited snaps in just five games and ended the year with a mere six catches for 27 yards. As a result, McLaurin was the only consistent option Heinicke could trust day in and day out. At this point, it’s obvious how talented McLaurin is, and Washington needs to do everything in their power to sign him to a long-term contract, but with the absence of depth, the receiving core deservingly earned a B-.

Tight End — Grade: B

The tight end position was devastated by injuries all year long, with Logan Thomas and Ricky Seals-Jones combining to miss 15 games this season. Even with those two out, rookie tight end John Bates stepped in and filled the starting tight end role admirably. He made only eight starts but appeared in all 17 games this season. Bates seemed to make a couple of important catches each week, whether they were fourth-down conversions or chunk yardage plays. When Thomas and Seals-Jones were actually healthy, they provided great production and were both quality red zone targets that Heinicke could look for after McLaurin. Bates’ ability to fill in for the missing starters showed coaches that he deserves a long-term role on the team and also earned this unit a grade of a B.

O-Line — Grade: A

Washington’s offense should’ve had a much better season than they did given how well the offensive line performed. The big men in the trenches finished the year as the sixth-best o-line according to PFF. There was no weak link on the unit, neither in pass protection nor run blocking. Even those who replaced injured starters played well; Washington went through four centers throughout the season, making the steady play even more impressive. While the pass protection was certainly exceptional, it was the run blocking that pushed this unit over the top. Sam Cosmi, Wes Schweitzer and Chase Roullier earned the three best PFF run-blocking grades in the entire league. All three of them missed significant times with injuries, and although their backups were slightly better at pass protection, it is still a testament to how well the unit performed all year long. The big men were the only consistency for Washington on offense all year long, thus earning a very deserving A.


D-Line — Grade: A

In our midseason report card, we gave the defensive line a B-, simply because they weren’t living up to lofty preseason expectations. Although Montez Sweat and Chase Young missed almost the entire second half of the season, the d-line’s play tremendously improved over the final stretch of the season. Jonathan Allen finished with nine sacks, received a starting Pro Bowl nod and was in consideration for second-team All-Pro. Daron Payne finished off the season hot, picking up a sack and two TFLs in the final two games of the season. Some sideline drama put Washington’s d-line in the national media hot seat, but they bounced back and ended the season with a dominant performance against the Giants. Overall, the big men on both sides of the ball were the most impressive and consistent units for Washington, thus earning both the offensive and defensive lines a well deserved A.

Linebackers — Grade: B-

The linebacker position was one of the weirdest position groups for Washington in 2021. Although it wasn’t as bad as some may say, Jamin Davis certainly didn’t exceed expectations in his rookie season. For the first half of the season, the linebackers were one of Washington’s weaker groups, but after some midseason changes, they started to perform better. Cole Holcomb had a tremendous final stretch of games to end the year, finishing with the team lead in tackles by almost 50. He even had a game-changing pick-six against the Cowboys, which gave the team a chance to win a game in which they were out of for most of regulation. Landon Collins struggled at the beginning of the season, but after the coaching staff finally moved him to a box safety role, he began to flourish. He missed the final four games of the year, but still finished with an impressive two interceptions, one forced fumble and seven TFLs. He still hasn’t quite lived up to the $84 million contract Washington gave him back in 2019, but he is heading in the right direction. Davis, Holcomb and Collins did more than enough all year long to earn the linebacker group a B-.

 Secondary — Grade: C+

Washington’s major defensive acquisition during the offseason was former Bengals star cornerback William Jackson III. At the time, the 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 like a more than viable replacement. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out as well as the organization was hoping. Jackson got off to a very slow start, and it felt like he was getting burnt deep over the top at least once a game. After the bye week, however, he started to perform better before COVID-19 forced him to miss the last three games of the season. Kendall Fuller also started off the year slow, but by the final stretch of divisional matchups, he was playing quality defense. Rookie Benjamin St-Juste had been Washington’s most productive cornerback during the early portion of the season but missed the final six games due to injury. Kam Curl continued to improve his play as the season progressed and once again showed fans how much of a steal he was in the seventh round just a year ago. The secondary was definitely the most disappointing defensive unit for Washington, but they weren’t horrible by any means. After the shaky start to the season, almost every defensive back improved their play and earned the secondary a C+.

Special Teams:

Kicker — Grade: B+

Considering where the team was at when Chris Blewitt was drilling his own blockers in the back, a B+ grade seems almost unfathomable. Now, the kicker position has been a problem for Washington for many years, and this past season was not much different. Dustin Hopkins started the season off inconsistent as usual, but then Washington made their worst roster decision of the season. They signed the aforementioned Blewitt to the starting kicking role, who proceeded to have three of his five field goal attempts blocked in just two games with the team. Luckily, Washington decided to make a much smarter decision and signed veteran Joey Slye to be their kicker for the remainder of the year. In six games with the team, Slye was a perfect 12/12 on field goals and had just one extra point blocked. When Slye got injured in Week 12, Washington brought local product Brian Johnson in, who went 2/2 on field goals in his short stint and even hit the game-winner against the Raiders. If not for the disastrous situation during the first half of the season, Slye and Johnson certainly would have earned the kicker position an A+, but instead, a B+ will suffice.

Punter — Grade: A+

Tress Way is the best player on the team, and even if he had an off-year, he would still deserve an A+. Well, he didn’t have an off-year, and he was still one of the best punters in the league, so he will still earn his well deserved A+.

Kickoff/Punt Return — Grade: B

Deandre Carter started off the year hot, as he had an explosive return seemingly every week, including a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown against the Falcons in Week 4. After that, Carter slowed down as a returner but stepped up big-time as a receiver. He still provided bursts of energy for the special teams unit and gave Washington great field position on several occasions, earning himself a quality B.

Heading into the offseason, Washington has a multitude of questions they need to address. The obvious: finding a franchise quarterback. After nearly a full season of play, it’s obvious that Heinicke isn’t the long-term answer for this organization, and the coaching staff needs to do everything in their power to find their guy this offseason. With free agency set to begin on March 16 and the NFL draft just a few weeks later, look for Washington to make several big-time moves that will hopefully turn this struggling franchise into a playoff contender. And we’ll be calling them something else come February 2; how about that. It obviously wasn’t the season anyone was hoping for, but Washington still has a bright future in front of them.