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Washington Football Team 2021 Season - Studs and Duds

NFL: Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season didn’t quite turn out as planned for coach Ron Rivera and The Washington Football Team. The momentum from a 2020 NFC East title and playoff appearance fizzled when veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured early in the first game of the season, and things seemed to spiral downhill quickly.

There were some high and lows - just like there is every season, but as we’ve become accustomed to seeing with this football team, the lows, yet again, outweighed the highs.

Without any semblance of real quarterback play, and a defense who looked just as bad as the stagnant offense for the first half of the season, Washington quickly fell into a hole, and despite a mid-season, four-game winning streak, the deficiencies, injuries and COVID issues were just too much for this team to overcome.

Below are my Studs (Honorable Mention included), Duds and some notes for the 2021 season.


Studs:

Terry McLaurin - Without Terry on it, the 2021 offense would have been nearly unwatchable. Through 17 games, he led the team in receptions (77) and yards (1,053), and was second to Antonio Gibson in touchdowns with five. With competent quarterback play, he easily should have been a 100 reception, 1,200+ yard guy.

Antonio Gibson - In year two as an NFL running back, Gibson cracked the 1,000 yard barrier for the first time, reaching 1,037 on 258 attempts while scoring seven touchdowns. He chipped in 294 receiving yards on 42 catches, reaching the endzone three times.

Amazingly, Gibson did this while playing the majority of the season at less than 100 percent, dealing with a stress fracture in his shin and a toe issues that came up later in the season.

Charles Leno - Leno was signed to a one-year deal in the offseason to be the team’s left tackle. After a shaky first game in Burgundy and Gold, he settled down to play very well for the remaining 16 games - going on to earn a new three year, $37M dollar deal.

Jonathan Allen - In what SHOULD have been an All-Pro 2021 season, Allen showed out as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. He led the team with nine sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and an astounding 30 quarterback hits (a full 15 more than his closest counterpart Daron Payne). He made his first Pro Bowl.

Kam Curl - In 16 games played with 14 starts, Curl was second on the team with 99 total tackles from his safety position. He finally settled in there after the staff decided to move Landon Collins to a hybrid linebacker role down in the box, and the second year player did not disappoint. He chipped in a sack, fumble recovery and defended five passes. He should be a solid piece of this defense for years.

Kendall Fuller - Fuller’s season started a bit rough, as he was seeing plenty of snaps from the slot, but when the staff finally moved him back outside, his play began to flourish. He was second on the team in solo tackles with 64, and led the defense with 16 passes defended. He also had one interception and a sack.

Honorable Mention:

J.D. McKissic - McKissic played in just 11.5 games, but had 609 total yards from scrimmage in those contests, and found the endzone four times. It’s a fair assumption that if he had played in all 17 games, he’d have went over the 1,000 yard mark on the season.

Ereck Flowers - Flowers performed admirably in his second stint with Washington, after being acquired via a trade with Miami in the offseason. There were times when he was simply dominant in the run game, paving the way for whoever was running behind him. Most important was his availability, as he missed just one game this past year.

Wes Schweitzer - Before landing on injured reserve, Schweitzer was a rock filling in at both guard and center for Washington. If Brandon Scherff leaves as a free agent this offseason, Schweitzer should be able to plug right in at right guard.

Cole Holcomb - On paper, Holcomb had a strong 2021 campaign calling the defense. He led the team in tackles with 142 total, and picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown. He forced two fumbles, had a fumble recovery and collected a sack. His play wasn’t flawless, but his effort was there all season, and he played in (and started) 16 of the team’s 17 games.

Landon Collins - Once the team found a home for him, Landon played very well at his hybrid linebacker position before going on IR later in the season. He was third on the team in tackles with 81 and second in tackles for a loss with seven. He recorded three sacks, two interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles. He needs to be a mainstay at the position going forward.

DeAndre Carter - As a kick returner, Carter had 36 returns for 904 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 25 yards per return. He was used sparingly as a receiver, catching 24 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

Joey Slye - Slye was only with us for six games, but he went 12 for 12 with a long of 56 yards on his field goal attempts, and was 9 of 10 on extra points. He needs a contract extension.

Tress Way - How could we go through an entire season without mentioning Tress Way in some positive light? Way averaged 48.4 yards per punt on 60 attempts. He’s as rock-solid as they come.


Duds:

Taylor Heinicke - I’m not going to sit here and belabor the obvious, but it needs to be said - Heinicke severely limited this offense with his weak arm, poor mechanics, bad accuracy and questionable decision making. What’s worse, is that he regressed as the season went on.

Now, it’s not his fault he was thrust into a starting role - I put that squarely on the shoulders of Ron Rivera.

Dyami Brown - It’s hard to call a rookie receiver a dud; especially when said player is known for his deep-ball ability, and Washington didn’t have a quarterback capable of going deep. That said, on a team starving for ANYONE to step up opposite Terry McLaurin, Brown was unable to provide much of anything. He caught just 12 passes for 165 yards on the season, despite playing in 15 games with six starts.

Jamin Davis - Again, it’s tough to blame a rookie, who in my opinion, was played out of position all season. That said, Davis looked WAY too hesitant in his run reads, which caused him to be a step behind when the ball was snapped. He did however flash at times, and actually showed well in his limited coverage opportunities. Move him to WILL, and he will flourish in this defense.

Cornelius Lucas - In the seven starts he made, Lucas was horrendous. Actually, a street cone would have been equally effective. He showed slow feet, the same waist-bending tendencies he’s had through his entire career, and to top things off, he was running his mouth last offseason about people not putting respect on his name. Well, the only respect people will now put on his name will go to the defenders who regularly beat him.

William Jackson III - WJ3 had a rough start to the season, but I almost feel it’s a bit unfair to put him on the Duds list, as he wasn’t being used to his strengths, and he had new and revolving pieces on the back end that take time to gel with. That being said, he was beaten deep and on intermediate routes far too often for my liking, and his tackling early in the season was sub-par. I expect a big rebound year for him in 2022.


Notes:

- It took Bobby McCain some time to come into his own, but he did play at a much higher level in the second half of the season, and also led the team with four interceptions. I’m not sure if he should be re-signed, but as a depth piece on a decent contract, he might be worth the gamble.

- Before he went down with the fractured lower leg, Chase Roullier was playing at a very high level. I feel confident in saying he was our best lineman.

- I really liked what I saw from Sam Cosmi before he got dinged up. I think we may have someone special at right tackle.

- We need a tight end to complement Logan Thomas, and even step in if he’s not 100 percent to start the season.