Washington football is back, and with that comes weeks of predicting and projecting who will end up on the final 53-man roster. Over the last two weeks, Washington has battled and fought against each other, but they’ve also bonded and built chemistry as teammates. Now, it is time to show up and compete against another team in the New England Patriots on Thursday. Ron Rivera stated Monday that he wanted to play with a sense of urgency, and plenty of players need to heed those words.
“I suppose a bit more than anything else is we’re playing against somebody else. So, we don’t want to go there and get our butts kicked. We want to go out there and we want to play hard. We want to play right and we’re going to play to win, so we want to practice that way. We want to make sure the guys understand the sense of urgency, the importance, how things are changing and you’re right, we were ramped up a little bit today. I thought we started slow and I wasn’t very happy about that. So, we threw the offense off and started with the defense and we picked up our tempo from that point on, so I was happy about that. But, that’s what we’re looking for when you start getting ready and there was no second chances once you get started, you got to roll.” - Ron Rivera’s full quote on if he senses the coaches and players are more amped up for a game week.
With that being said, let’s get into it, which three players can significantly boost their stock Thursday night against the New England Patriots?
I think it is safe to say quarterback Talyor Heinicke’s performance to this point has been consistently inconsistent. Most beat reporters who have watched the action daily, including some who were high on Heinicke before camp, made observations that Ryan Fitzpatrick is miles ahead of him to this point. So, assessing what has been said and sporadic performances by Heinicke, there is no such thing as a quarterback competition as it currently stands.
Head Coach Ron Rivera gave reasons for some of his camp struggles, stating that most of his time spent in practice is inside the pocket, whereas Heinicke usually thrives as a playmaker outside of the pocket. However, Heinicke can’t afford to wait until a game to show off his skillset to coaches. How can a coach trust a player, a quarterback at that, who cannot show them daily that they can handle a critical role on the team? Whether that critical role is the starting quarterback or serving as the number two.
This is a reminder that Heinicke was only guaranteed $1.5 million under his new contract extension, so if quarterback Kyle Allen were to miraculously become healthy and challenge him for second-string, there would have been nothing getting in the way of Rivera and staff from cutting Heinicke. Expect to see plenty of Heinicke on Thursday, but he has to jump out of the gate as one of the standouts for Washington.
Steven Sims Jr.
Third-year wideout Steven Sims Jr. has become a hot topic for Washington fans on social media, mainly because his 2020 season was bad, and that is not hyperbole. Sims Jr. was a liability on special teams and could not establish himself as a playmaker offensively with several drops when targeted by the 40 quarterbacks that Washington used last season. Okay, it wasn’t exactly 40 quarterbacks, but you get the point, Sims Jr. clearly regressed from his impressive rookie season back in 2019. Curtis Samuel is on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and won’t see the field for the first pre-season game. Dax Milne, DeAndre Carter, Kelvin Harmon, and Isaiah Wright are behind Sims on the depth chart, and they all can threaten him for one of the last two WR spots. He has an opportunity to change the narrative immediately, and the good thing is that Sims Jr. has been really good at camp. Now, he needs to carry that momentum into gameday.
Rookie cornerback Benjamin St-Juste has a ton of people in his corner right now, not only because he’s one of the fan favorites, but because his play-style alongside his height and physicality makes him an ideal fit to play on the boundary opposite cornerback William Jackson III. It will be hard to see how good he actually is in the first preseason game with the naked eye. If he can make an impact during his first outing with the team and coaches, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio may be able to identify pretty quickly his value to the team. More importantly, if he presents excellent value, that should kick Kendal Fuller to the slot, something most reporters and fans alike have been anticipating if St-Juste shines early and often.
What do you all think? Who are your three players who can boost their stock Thursday against New England?