Washington Football Team: Players and coaching staff must improve in Week 2

Washington head coach Ron Rivera. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Washington head coach Ron Rivera. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

There’s plenty of blame to throw around if you are a fan of the Washington Football Team. On Sunday, the team endured a frustrating loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers. There were several problems that resurfaced in the game. Pass protection was a major issue. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game with a hip injury that will keep him sidelined for more than half the season.

The team replaced three out of five starters from last season. However, tackles Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi looked unimpressive in their first starts with the team. Per Pro Football Focus, Cosmi logged a 15.0 passing grade, allowed a sack, a quarterback hit, and six total pressures. Leno was largely responsible for the hip injury sustained by Fitzpatrick and didn’t appear to be an upgrade over Cornelius Lucas at left tackle.

Running back Antonio Gibson’s fumble inside Washington’s own five-yard line demoralized a solid outing for the second-year pro. All offseason, coaches and players spoke at length about the various upgrades at receiver. Curtis Samuel’s absence as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Terry McLaurin is proving to be a costly one literally and figuratively.

Dyami Brown was highly touted as a third-round pick. Although Brown played 93 percent of the snaps, he recorded just one reception for -2 yards on four targets. Granted, Fitzpatrick exited the game, but Adam Humphries made a minimal impact with two catches for 10 yards.

Surprisingly, 2020 contributors Cam Sims and JD McKissic did not factor into Scott Turner’s game plan. McKissic was one of the more productive third-down running backs in the NFL, particularly in the passing game recording 80 catches, 589 yards, and two touchdowns. On Sunday, McKissic only registered one carry for eight yards.

Sims was the second-most wide receiver on the team last season with 32 catches, 432 yards, and a touchdown. In the playoff loss, he recorded the second 100-yard game of his career with seven catches for 104 yards.  He also received positive reviews from Ron Rivera during the preseason and training camp. On Sunday, however, Sims was targeted only one time, recording one catch for 17 yards.

Terry McLaurin is the type of receiver that should be targeted at least 10 times per game. He’s shown the ability to make plays regardless of who is at quarterback but Antonio Gibson received more targets in the passing game. Logan Thomas was one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL in 2020, but was limited to three catches for 30 yards and scored the lone touchdown for Washington. Being that these four players were the most vital to Washington’s passing game a season ago, Scott Turner has to get this group more involved in the game plan for Thursday.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, meanwhile, failed to make any adjustments to Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense, as evidenced by their efficiency on third down. LA moved the ball at will against Washington’s defense, as they converted 14-of-18 third downs! Rivera’s decision to punt on 4th-and-7 late in the game ultimately backfired. First, there were penalties by Cameron Chessman and Troy Apke that impacted the ensuing punt in favor of the Chargers.

The soft mixture of coverages that Washington played ultimately was the downfall of the team. Keenan Allen torched the defense with nine catches for 100 yards, including a 17-yard catch on 3rd-and-16 late in the game from the Chargers’ own 12-yard line. Too often, Del Rio relied on just the front four to apply pressure, and as a result, Los Angeles was able to dictate the game largely due to their offensive line.

The Washington Football Team is looking at a potential 0-2 start

Jack Del Rio must conjure up a game plan that makes life difficult for quarterback Daniel Jones. The beleaguered quarterback is 8-20 in his career but is 4-0 versus the Football Team. In those games, Jones has completed 68.2 percent of his passes, thrown for 901 yards, and eight touchdowns compared to only three interceptions. Throughout his career, Jones has had an 84.3 career passer rating. Against Washington, that number jumps a 100.0 rating.

During his weekly press conference, Giants head coach Joe Judge provided the Washington Football Team with some insight regarding New York’s offensive game plan. Ron Rivera and coordinators Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner must do a better job coaching if Washington is to earn their first win of the season.

To be frank, it starts with limiting Daniel Jones. Players also have to do the little things. Rivera was worried about the maturity level of his team and it showed on Sunday in the first loss of the season. Players were out of position on numerous occasions and it lead to sustained drives for the Chargers offense.

Despite all of the negatives, Washington only lost 20-16 to an improved Chargers team that features one of the best quarterbacks in all of football. The team did create two turnovers and was able to generate offense on the ground.

However, the New York Giants have owned Washington as they have won five straight games against them. If the Football Team is to avoid the dreaded 0-2 start, and a six-game losing streak to New York, the onus will be on the players and coaches to perform better on Thursday night.