Washington Football Team 2021 Season Recapby Mike Fanelli January 11, 2022 0 comments
The Washington Football Team won the NFC East division in 2020 with a 7-9 record. After a close defeat by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many believed Washington would be a playoff team in 2021. However, things didn’t go according to plan this season. Despite Taylor Heinicke playing in 16 games, Washington had only five more touchdown passes this season than in 2020 despite the extra game. Furthermore, the offense and defense had high expectations after the 2020 season. Unfortunately, neither unit lived up to the offseason hype. In the end, Washington finished the year with a 7-10 record. They missed the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years.
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What Went Right
Despite all the injuries on both sides of the ball, Washington barely missed out on the playoffs. They finished two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles for second place in the division and the final Wild Card spot. Yet, Washington had impressive wins this season, including over playoff teams like the Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders. On offense, second-year running back Antonio Gibson turned into a star. He finished the year with over 1,000 rushing yards and a career-high 42 catches on 52 targets. Despite the inconsistent quarterback play, Terry McLaurin had over 1,000 receiving yards this season for the second year in a row. On defense, William Jackson was a solid offseason addition. The veteran cornerback finished with two interceptions, a career-high, despite playing a career-low 12 games this season.
What Went Wrong
Unfortunately, plenty went wrong for Washington this season. After winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Chase Young had Defensive Player of the Year expectations for 2021. Unfortunately, Young tore his ACL in Week 9 and missed the rest of the season. Even before the injury, Young struggled. He had only four quarterback hits and 1.5 sacks this season. By comparison, he finished with 12 quarterback hits and 7.5 sacks in 2020. On offense, Washington spent $34.5 million signing Curtis Samuel in the offseason. The big free-agent addition played only five games this season, finishing with 10 total touches for 38 scrimmage yards and zero touchdowns. After getting almost no contribution from Samuel, Washington had to lean on Adam Humphries and DeAndre Carter opposite McLaurin.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Antonio Gibson
The second-year running back turned from part-time player to featured back this season. When J.D. McKissic suffered a season-ending concussion in Week 12, Gibson shined. In the five games without McKissic, Gibson averaged 18.2 touches for 85.2 scrimmage yards per game. He also scored four of 10 touchdowns this season in those games, including one in three straight games to close out the year. Not only did Gibson have his first season with over 1,000 rushing yards this year, but he finished fifth on the team in receiving yards with 294. More impressively, Gibson finished sixth in the NFL with 1,037 rushing yards, more than several superstar running backs, including Ezekiel Elliott. With McKissic heading towards free agency, Gibson is poised to breakout in 2022.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Jaret Patterson
Despite using four draft picks on offense, Washington got little production from most of them. However, they find a gem after the draft in Patterson. The former Buffalo Bull product finished his college career with over 4,100 scrimmage yards and 53 total touchdowns. After a strong showing in training camp and the preseason, Patterson made the final roster as the third-string running back. However, he delivered up when his number was called. In Week 16, Patterson kept Washington in the game against the Eagles. He finished that game with 98 scrimmage yards on 17 touches and the only touchdown of the day for Washington. After an impressive finish to his rookie year, Patterson should be the favorite to earn the No. 2 running back role next season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Jamin Davis
While many weren’t happy when Washington used their first-round pick on Davis, the rookie had a productive season. He finished fifth on the team in total tackles with 76. Furthermore, he was only six tackles away from third on the team despite missing the Week 16 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately, Washington didn’t get consistent play from Davis this season. He struggled in the passing game, giving up a quarterback rating of 108 when targeted. Davis missed 11 tackles this season also had a 12.6 percent miss tackle rate. Furthermore, despite being the first-round pick, Davis played only 56 percent of the snaps this season. He will need a big sophomore season to avoid getting labeled a draft bust.
Biggest Surprise – Bobby McCain
When Washington signed McCain in May, many thought he wouldn’t make the final roster. Instead, he was only one of three defensive starters to play in all 17 games. He finished the year first on the team with four interceptions, twice as many as any other player on the roster. McCain also finished the season with a pick-six against the New York Giants in Week 18. His nine passes defended this season were a career-high. He also missed only 11.3 percent of his tackles this season, a career-low. McCain also gave up only a 76.3 quarterback rating when targeted this season. After signing a one-year contract in May, McCain is a free agent this offseason. However, given his play this season, Washington should re-sign the veteran defensive back.
Biggest Disappointment – Curtis Samuel
The flashy offseason move was signing Samuel to a three-year deal worth $34.5 million. Unfortunately, Samuel played in only five games this season. In those games, he had a total of 10 touches for 38 scrimmage yards and failed to score a touchdown. Samuel’s struggles forced Washington to look elsewhere at wide receiver. McLaurin finished first on the team in every receiving category. McKissic and Gibson finished second and third on the team in catches. Even seventh-round rookie Dax Milne had more catches and receiving yards than Samuel this season. Even practice squad running back Jonathan Williams had more receiving yards than the pricey free-agent addition. Unfortunately for Washington, they can’t get out of Samuel’s contract until after the 2022 season.
One Burning Question
What’s the Plan at Quarterback?
A year ago, Washington recently released 2019 first-round pick, Dwayne Haskins. Instead of pursuing a trade for Matthew Stafford, Washington signed Ryan Fitzpatrick. They then didn’t trade up during the 2021 NFL Draft to select Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Even if Fitzpatrick returns in 2022, Washington doesn’t have their long-term answer at quarterback on the roster. Unfortunately, the 2022 NFL Draft lacks a potential superstar quarterback. While fans would love to see Washington make a blockbuster trade for Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, that isn’t likely to happen. If the Las Vegas Raiders decide to move on from Derek Carr, Washington should be their first call. In the end, Washington’s best option might be to re-sign Fitzpatrick and have a quarterback competition between him and Heinicke for next season.
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