The Washington Football Team will begin the second part of their schedule with plenty to consider. Not only has the bye week come and gone, but so too has the trade deadline. Many wondered would Washington be buyers or sellers at 2-5. The answer was none of the above. Washington was speculated to be shopping Dwayne Haskins, Ryan Kerrigan, Brandon Scherff, and Ryan Anderson. There were also some rumblings that Washington was in the market for a wide receiver and possibly a safety. Washington did make a practice squad offer to former Carolina safety Eric Reid, who declined the invitation. Even that offer was lukewarm with Washington's unwillingness to commit to a guaranteed roster spot for Reid.
I won't be overly critical because head coach Ron Rivera has consistently said that he wants to take this entire season to evaluate who he has on the roster before he starts making drastic changes. Rivera, however, is being very methodical in his approach, and is almost saying "I want us to learn how to win this season, but I don't care if we win this season”. Rivera wants to see who he can build around going forward. He wants to see who will show that not only they will fight for themselves, but they will fight for their teammates and coaches.
Who will play through injuries?
Who will learn multiple positions?
Who will play special teams and make an impact play?
Who will fight through the adversity of getting benched, and work their way back into good graces?
All these things will be going through Rivera's head as he coaches these last 9 games of the season and evaluates the roster.
Washington did not upgrade anywhere, but you did see some of the younger players start to emerge right before the bye. Cole Holcomb, Antonio Gibson, and Daron Payne started to find their stride. You also saw some players play themselves into reduced roles. We will need to keep an eye on some of the personnel adjustments week to week, and see how the schematics change as a result. Rivera will be looking for whether the caliber of play rises or falls with these adjustments. When Rivera assesses that, it will tell him all he needs to know about who can help this team continue to get better or not.
I was definitely surprised that Ryan Kerrigan was not traded considering how much money he has left on his contract this season, and not to mention his snaps have continued to decrease as the season has gone on. Either way, Kerrigan looks to be getting phased out in favor of some of the younger players. Keep your eye on players like rookie Kamren Curl. His play while Landon Collins is out will dictate whether he will be looked at as a building block for the future or as a player who still needs time to grow. Landon Collins is currently out with a torn achilles and there is no telling whether he will be returning next year. This is a tremendous opportunity for Curl and all eyes will be on him for the remainder of the season.
Washington should be doing all they can to make the playoffs. The next quarter of the season are all winnable games and can serve as momentum builders towards the final stretch where they have some tougher matchups. If they can find a way to put together a string of wins by getting the defense to be more consistent, and not turn the ball over on offense, they could very possibly find themselves the NFC East division winners. My guess is Rivera will be putting his foot on the gas down the stretch if Washington finds themselves still in the hunt after these next four games. If they go 3-1 in those games, you will see Washington turn the intensity up. The one caveat is they need to stay HEALTHY because with the lack of overall talent in certain position areas, they can not afford a significant injury. This would be a considerable setback and put them at a disadvantage against teams like the Seahawks and Steelers. Washington fans should be encouraged that at 2-5, they still have a legitimate chance to make some noise this season.
Never mind how poor the NFC East is this season. Somebody still has to win it. Tanking for draft position doesn't guarantee you will be a good team next season or that you will receive the player you want. If Washington wins the NFC East, then they are more of a free agent draw, and you have some momentum going into the next season.
That's how you build your culture…WINNING.
That's how you get the fanbase back…WINNING.
That's how you get the financial benefits...WINNING.
So, NOW is the time. Why not now? Why not make a run? Why not step up?
It’s time for Washington to give their fans something to cheer about, and it starts Sunday against the New York Giants. As you were...
Photo Credit: Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team