In a way, it is almost perfect that the Washington Football Team does not have a real nickname entering the 2020 season. A new name signals the start of a new era, with new hope and new promises. Unfortunately, the team seems stuck between eras.
The Kirk Cousins-window is closed, and the attempt to keep the window open by bringing in Case Keenum was a failure. Now it is time to rebuild, but are the rebuilding pieces they have in place even worth building on?
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. Today, we start at the bottom.
32. The Washington Football Team
There are many non-football things going on with this franchise that have dominated their headlines over the past month. They abandoned their nickname, finally acknowledging its racist roots and doing the right thing after years of public pressure. A bombshell story dropped, alleging that many important members of the organization were taking part in the harassment of women both within the organization and reporters covering the team. And most recently, 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice was released from the team after being arrested on domestic violence charges. This all comes in the same offseason where star tackle Trent Williams was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after sitting out in 2019 due to a dispute with the medical staff.
The stream of garbage off the field seems to have overshadowed the terrible state of the team on the field. Washington is a team stuck in limbo at the moment, with no name to call themselves and no real on the field identity to build towards.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins is the main question mark. The quarterback was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. He failed to win the starting job over Case Keenum to start the year, and we learned why once he eventually did get his shot under center.
Haskins was terrible in 2019. He may have been the worst quarterback in the NFL.
The quarterback was bad in an interesting way, though. Usually, young quarterbacks struggle more with the mental aspects of the game than the physical, but the young quarterback seemed to have the opposite problem. He was making great decisions, and even looked confident in the pocket sometimes, he just could not hit any passes.
Obviously, giving up of a first-round quarterback after one poor year seems like a poor decision. But if Haskins cannot show the simple ability to hit routine checkdowns, then maybe Washington wants to look at other options, and other options do exist.
Washington traded for Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen this offseason. Allen took over for Cam Newton last season. While he had a few good games to start his young career, he quickly derailed and joined Haskins as one of the league's worst quarterbacks late in the year.
The most interesting wrinkle is the return of Alex Smith. Smith was set to be the quarterback of the future at one point in 2018, but a devastating leg injury nearly ended his career. Washington operated from that point on as if Smith was gone for good. He has now been cleared to return to action two years later, and he could really be the best quarterback on the roster.
Moving on from Haskins would kill the youngster’s confidence and maybe even end his career in the burgundy and gold. There is also a possibility that not moving on from Haskins leaves a much more capable player on the bench.
While quarterback will certainly dominate the team’s narrative this season, there are still so many other question marks on this roster entering this year.
Their offensive line is anchored in two great players in Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses, but both have struggled with health throughout their careers, and one has to wonder whether the injuries will catch up to them. Former first-round pick Jonathan Allen has disappointed thus far at defensive tackle, and if it does not click for him in 2020, then will it ever? Edge rusher Chase Young has all the hype in the world around him, but will it translate to NFL success? Can veteran linebacker Thomas Davis continue to play at a high level? Will Landon Collins finally be able to make the impact the team expected him to when they signed him to a record deal in 2019? Will Ronald Darby be able to get his career back on track in Washington?
The only sure bets on the roster right now seem to be sophomore receiver Terry McLaurin—who proved to be a stud in his debut season, and defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne. They also suffered a big loss with receiver Kelvin Harmon—who showed flashes in his rookie year last season—tearing his ACL before camp even started.
Washington’s lack of identity in their branding matches their lack of identity on the field. They are stuck in limbo in every possible sense. Everything is up in the air at the moment for this team, even the logo they will eventually be wearing on their uniforms.