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Detroit Lions Week 10 scouting guide: Washington’s got a defense, still looking for offense

A closer look at the Lions’ Week 10 opponent.

NFL: NOV 08 Giants at Washington Football Team Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Football Team has gone through just about every single change possible this offseason. New head coach/general manager, new team president, new team name and new logo. The only thing that really remains from last year are the team colors and the often-maligned owner Dan Snyder.

They’ve gone through several controversies both on the field and off, and through it all, they’ve managed to... well, stay pretty terrible.

Washington has sported a team with 10 or more wins just twice since the year 2000, and it’s almost mathematically impossible for them to make it three this year. The franchise is going through a complete overhaul, and it’s hard to make any real judgments this early in the process. But one thing is for sure, they aren’t very good right now.

Washington Football Team

Last season:

3-13 record (4th in NFC East)
32nd in points scored, 27th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 30th (30th on offense, 27th on defense)

Last year was an utter disaster for Washington. They didn’t do anything right, and their one source of supposed hope—first-round pick Dwayne Haskins—proved to be a dud as a rookie quarterback.

To be fair, though, he didn’t have any help around him. Washington couldn't run the ball (26th in DVOA). They couldn’t stop the run (24th). They couldn’t stop the pass (27th). This team literally couldn’t do anything well, and that’s why they understandably showed head coach Jay Gruden the door after an 0-5 start to the season.

Interim coach Bill Callahan went 3-8 the rest of the way, then was shown the door, too.

2020 offseason

Coaching changes:

  • New head coach: Ron Rivera
  • Offensive coordinator: Scott Turner
  • Defensive coordinator: Jack Del Rio

Only significant coaching holdovers:

  • Special teams coordinator: Nate Kaczor
  • Running backs coach: Randy Jordan

Key free agent additions: QB Kyle Allen, RB Peyton Barber, RB J.D. McKissic, CB Ronald Darby, CB Kendall Fuller, S Sean Davis, LB Thomas Davis

Key losses: TE Vernon Davis, TE Jordan Reed G Ereck Flowers, CB Quinton Dunbar, CB Josh Norman, RB Adrian Peterson

2020 NFL draft picks:

Round 1: DE Chase Young
Round 3: RB Antonio Gibson
Round 4: OT Saahdiq Charles
Round 4: WR Antonio Gandy-Golden
Round 5: C Keith Ismael
Round 5: LB Khaleke Hudson
Round 7: S Kamren Curl
Round 7: DE James Smith-Williams

As one does during a regime change, Washington saw a significant shakeup in personnel, too. Gone were key players on defense like Quinton Dunbar and Josh Norman. In came fresh faces in Ronald Darby, Thomas Davis and a quarterback to challenge the throne of Haskins.

Without a ton of draft resources, Washington was forced to make a splash with their first-round pick, and they did with Chase Young. Most of the offseason appeared to be surrounding improving the defense, while leaving the offense to more changes down the road. Understandable for a defensive-minded head coach.

2020 season thus far (2-6)

Week 1: Defeated Eagles, 27-17
Week 2: Lost to Cardinals, 15-30
Week 3: Lost to Browns, 20-34
Week 4: Lost to Ravens, 17-31
Week 5: Lost to Rams, 10-30
Week 6: Lost to Giants, 19-20
Week 7: Defeated Cowboys, 25-3
Week 9: Loss to Giants, 20-23

Stats:

  • 30th in points scored, 11th in points allowed
  • 24th in DVOA: 31st on offense, 6th on defense, 24th on special teams

Much to Ron Rivera’s credit, the defense has seen a pretty drastic turnaround already. Let’s look at some comparisions between last year’s team and this year’s team:

2019: 27.2 point per game allowed, 385.1 yards per game, 4.7 yards per carry, 102.5 passer rating
2020: 23.5 points per game allowed, 314.3 yards per game, 4.3 yards per carry, 87.0 passer rating

The key is Washington’s impressive defensive line. With Chase Young added to line that includes first-round pick Montez Sweat, first-round pick Jonathan Allen, and first-round pick Daron Payne... well, you do the math. Right now, the Football Team ranks eighth in PFF’s pass rush grade and they’re fourth in sacks (27).

But the offense remains aboard the struggle bus. They’ve started three different quarterbacks already this year, but with Dwayne Haskins in the doghouse and Kyle Allen out with a serious injury, it’s Alex Smith’s team once again. And while Smith is a wonderful story, he hasn’t exactly been explosive in his two game appearances. In his first game against the Rams, he went 9-for-17 for 37 yards and was sacked six times. Last week, he managed to put up 325 yards, but he also threw three interceptions. This will be the first start he makes in 2020, though, as both previous performances were mid-game injury replacements.

Washington’s offense doesn’t have a ton of big weapons. Terry McLaurin is a legit No. 1 in his young career, but there cupboard is pretty bare beyond that. Two former Lions round out their leading receivers in running back J.D. McKissic and tight end Logan Thomas.

Key injuries:

IR: S Landon Collins, LB Reuben Foster,
Current injuries: LT Geron Christian Sr., QB Kyle Allen, WR Dontrelle Inman

The biggest injury for Washington is the one to quarterback Kyle Allen, who had been the starter for most of 2020. His injury is considered quite serious, so there is no chance of him playing. Left tackle Geron Christian has missed the past two games, but was replaced with former Lion Cornelius Lucas, who has played fairly well. Inman has missed the past couple games, but only has 17 catches on the season.

Biggest strength: Defensive line

Literally four first-round picks. What else do I need to say?

Biggest weakness: Passing the ball

None of the components of Washington’s passing game are working right now. They’re getting bad quarterback play (team passer rating of 84.4). They don’t have a ton of receiving options to fear. And they can’t protect the quarterback particularly well (tied for second most).

Vegas line for Sunday: Lions by 3.5