This preview article should be about a game that is shaping up to be a throwback to 20th century football, with two teams devoted to the run trying to make the ground game go against two defenses built to stop it.
But that’s not what this article is about.
Instead, this brief game “preview” is no genuine preview at all; it is a short editorial that revolves around a healthy and rested Eagles team at home against an injured team depleted by the NFL’s COVID protocols.
I’ve been at the forefront of those proclaiming the merits of Washington’s depth this season, and how valuable that depth is in November, December and January, but there is a limit to how much a team can withstand, and it looks like Washington has reached the tipping point.
Every NFL team is going through this, but it is crazy to look back at Washington's Week 1 depth chart and see how many key players currently sidelined by injuries/health issues ... pic.twitter.com/aBgCoYrfvo— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) December 14, 2021
Washington went into last Sunday’s game against the Cowboys with the 4th-string Center starting the game (he was carted off the field) and a collection of 3rd string players and practice squadders lining up at DE in place of Montez Sweat and last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Chase Young.
Since that time, we’ve had daily announcements of Washington players being added to the COVID reserve list.
I— John Keim (@john_keim) December 14, 2021
It's a brutal covid list for Washington; half would start Sunday:
DT Jon Allen
DT Tim Settle
CB Kendall Fuller
DE Casey Toohill
DE James Smith-Williams
DE Montez Sweat (IR/jaw)
LB Khaleke Hudson (IR)
LB David Mayo
DE William Bradley-King (PS)
TE Temarrick Hemingway (PS)
Update: Within hours of this article being published, the number of Washington players on the COVID reserve list had reached 18. There is every reason to expect more issues as the week progresses, though the league is now discussing potential changes to the rules that might see players able to return to play more immediately.
ICYMI: The list of Washington's 18 players on the covid list: pic.twitter.com/MxhIcH3ms3— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) December 16, 2021
Players lost to COVID protocols this week include two interior defensive linemen, headlined by Washington’s defensive captain, leading pro bowl candidate and Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, Jonathan Allen.
The loss of starting cornerback Kendall Fuller and four (count ‘em, 4!) defensive ends cut deep into the defensive roster.
When you add Terry McLaurin, who is in the concussion protocol, from the offensive side of the ball (and the uncertainty of whether or not JD McKissic will clear the protocol for this week’s game), it’s hard to see how the Football Team can remain competitive.
I know the focus has been mostly on the defense, but Washington's special teams is getting decimated too with the recent covid outbreak.— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) December 15, 2021
Eight of their top 12 players in special teams snaps are on the list: pic.twitter.com/NniCfG0Qp5
While I normally spend hours each week analyzing season-long and more recent trends on offense and defense in order to predict the kind of game planning that will be effective, that seems to be an exercise in futility in Week 15, especially where the Washington defense is concerned. It won’t be the same team on the field; instead, this will be some version of The Replacements on defense, with Daron Payne, Cole Holcomb, Landon Collins, Kam Curl and William Jackson trying to play 5 on 11 football versus a largely healthy and rested Philadelphia offense. The Eagles have only WR Quez Watkins (and practice squad member Jason Huntley) on the COVID reserve list at the moment.
From Bleeding Green Nation:
The roster issues appear to be so one-sided that there really is no other story in this divisional game.
I can’t tell anyone else how to treat this game, but I’m basically ready to write it off as the equivalent of a forfeit. Sure, the boys in burgundy & gold will go out and play their hearts out trying to win, but the Eagles are actually a pretty good football team. Sunday’s huge NFC East contest with its critical playoff consequences is likely to look like the third quarter of a preseason game where the team on defense is playing the rookies and third stringers, while the other coach has left his starters in.
I will root for Washington’s defensive backups and cheer their successes, but I imagine they’ll be outgunned. I don’t begrudge the Eagles coaches doing all in their power to score as many points as possible. This is professional sports, and nobody feels sorry for you.
However, mentally, I’m already thinking ahead to the Week 16 game in Dallas, and assuming that Washington will be able to get to that game fairly healthy and with a relatively intact roster, ready to begin a string of 3 absolutely must-win games in a push toward the postseason.
I’m inwardly prepared for the bad (COVID) news to keep rolling in over the next day or two, and for the WFT to put forth a brave but doomed effort in Philly. I’ll watch the game at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday, but for one of the few times in my life, I’ll begin the game with no real hope, and will simply sit in mute acceptance of each stinging insult that comes in the form of success for the Eagles against Washington’s reserve players.
And then I’m ready to see the Football Team head to Dallas with a full roster and cut through the Cowboys in Week 16.
A week later, I expect a motivated group of Washington starters to take out some frustration on the visiting Eagles.
In other words, I expect delayed gratification, not total surrender.