Although the Washington Football Team put together an impressive 2020 campaign, one that culminated in a tough loss to the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there are various holes on the team that need to be addressed for them to make a leap into a serious playoff contender. Now, it is time for Washington to focus on their off-season needs.
The trade rumors and photoshops for Washington fans illuminate undoubtedly the biggest need for Washington heading into 2021: quarterback. However, Washington had other weaknesses exposed in the 2020 season, from a lackluster performance against the run to a lack of reliable weapons after Terry McLaurin. With more than $32 million in cap space, and the ability for more by cutting Alex Smith, and an extra third-round pick, Washington has resources to address these issues. Here are the top five offseason needs for the Washington Football Team. Although it is far from certain, this scenario assumes that Washington will re-sign All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff and cornerback Ronald Darby.
Washington Football Team Top Five Offseason Needs
5. Rotational Edge Rusher
This may be the most controversial position on the list as one could argue that left tackle, cornerback, and free safety would be more pressing needs. But, Washington could easily roll with Cornelius Lucas, Saahdiq Charles, and Geron Christian at tackle with Jeremy Reaves, Kamren Curl, and Landon Collins in the mix for the two safety spots (Curl would be a lock to start). However, Washington will be very thin at the EDGE position heading into 2021.
With Ryan Kerrigan most likely leaving D.C., Washington needs a third edge rusher to spell their dynamic duo of Montez Sweat and Chase Young and prepare in case of an injury. They need to avoid a situation like the San Francisco 49ers when Nick Bosa tore his ACL. As of now, the other edge rushers on the Washington roster are Ryan Anderson and Casey Toohill. James Smith-Williams could also be in the mix, but he projects more as an interior lineman. Anderson has been solid at setting the edge in the run game, but he has yet to make a major impact in the pass rush with just six sacks in his career.
4. Running Back to Complement Antonio Gibson
When Antonio Gibson returned against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16, it was clear that he was not 100% from his turf toe injury. He still played well, rushing for 6.1 yards per carry, but he didn’t give Washington that home run ability he provided earlier in the season. While J.D. McKissic proved to be an invaluable piece for Washington, catching 80 passes, and Peyton Barber was excellent in short-yardage situations, Washington doesn’t have a three-down back behind Antonio Gibson. Lamar Miller could help with this, but he was inactive in his time with Washington.
If Gibson were to miss any time, Washington would be in trouble with a running game that isn’t spectacular even with Gibson. They were 26th in the league with just over 100 yards per game (100.7). Although they did have big games on the ground, like Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, Washington needs to be more consistent, especially with the uncertainty at quarterback. It could also be a way to keep Gibson’s touches down and keep him fresh for the latter half of the season.
In the ideal scenario, this role would go to Bryce Love. But, the former first-round pick has yet to play a snap in his first two seasons in the NFL and his future in Washington is looking bleak.
While Washington finished second in total defense and fourth in defensive scoring in 2020, the linebacker position still leaves a lot to be desired. Cole Holcomb played solid after an excellent rookie season as he had 72 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Jon Bostic racked up tackles with 118 on the year, but struggled in coverage and filling holes in the run game. 2020 free-agent signing Kevin Pierre-Louis showed flashes in 2020 and was Washington’s best coverage linebacker. However, as a whole, Washington needs an adequate off-ball coverage linebacker and a tackling machine in the run game, a London Fletcher mold. Washington finished 14th in the regular season in rush defense, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gashed them with 142 yards on the ground.
A stud at linebacker could propel Washington from a “very good” defense to the dominant and elite defense that they can be. Just like Bryce Love, a healthy Reuben Foster would do wonders for the defense, but this is far from a certainty.
2. A Number Two Wide Receiver
Heading into the season, the wide receiver position was the biggest area of concern for the Washington Football Team. Although Terry McLaurin was the unquestioned wide receiver one, there were major question marks behind him, especially after Kelvin Harmon’s injury. Dontrelle Inman did not emerge as the second wide receiver and Steven Sims Jr. battled injury and struggled this past season as well. Cam Sims emerged as a reliable target, catching 32 passes for 477 yards. He also had 104 yards in the Wild Card game. However, Sims is better suited as the third or fourth wide receiver.
A quality receiver would not only be another weapon in addition to Terry McLaurin, but also a way to alleviate the bracketed coverage that McLaurin often sees. There are receivers who fit this mold in free agency, such as Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Once again, the biggest need for Washington is the quarterback position. After the Dwayne Haskins experience and injuries to Alex Smith and Kyle Allen, the Washington Football Team needs a reliable quarterback to take advantage of this young and affordable defense. Taylor Heinicke had an unbelievable Wild Card game, but he played just five quarters last season and has injury concerns. Allen passed for 610 yards, with four touchdowns and two turnovers. He will most likely be brought back, but he doesn’t inspire much confidence as the starter. Although Alex Smith went 5-1 as the starter, he has limitations with mobility and willingness to push the ball down the field. Smith has a $24.4 million cap hit in 2021 and could be cut if he doesn’t retire. With all of these questions, it is imperative that Washington gets their quarterback for 2021 and beyond.
Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson are names to watch for Washington, although Watson seems unlikely with his potential cost. Picking 19th in the draft, Washington would most likely miss out on the top four quarterbacks, but they could have Mac Jones and Kyle Trask on the board.
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