Hi I’m Robby Fletcher and welcome to the first edition of Robservations, a new weekly blog where I’ll be talking about the Washington Football Team’s 2020-21 season.
In this inaugural entry, we’ll be breaking down the team’s epic 17-point comeback victory against the Philadelphia Eagles to start off Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach. The win was the team’s first Week 1 home victory since 2011 and its first NFC East win since Week 8 of 2018. So, let’s talk a bit about some of the game’s biggest headlines.
The Defensive Line proved its worth
The highly-anticipated group headlined by five first-round selections, including this year’s second overall pick Chase Young, ended up being the team’s saving grace as they racked up an insane eight sacks on the day, the most in a single game since 2014.
It’s hard to single out just one standout because it seemed like everyone showed up. Even when the team was down 17-0, they still had five sacks. It’s hard not to point out Chase Young’s dominance however. Recording 1.5 sacks and a crucial forced fumble (although I’d argue he should’ve been credited with another), Young was just as advertised in his debut. I think what really impressed me was his ability to force pressure through double teams. His first career sack which resulted in a fumble was arguably the best example of this, but he did it consistently throughout the day, including this split through the double team to halt a run up the middle at the line of scrimmage. Despite looking a bit too jumpy on certain plays, including going offsides on an early third-and-5 Eagles drive, I’d say it was a fantastic way to start his WFT career.
As a whole though, the entire unit showed out. When we got to Wentz, everyone got to him. They did an excellent job collapsing his pocket and forcing him into taking the sack. Just look at this push on the line before Jon Allen came through to finish the play:
Yeah that guy isn’t going anywhere on that one.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Ryan Kerrigan’s name in this post. The seasoned vet had a vintage two-sack performance despite playing just 22 snaps on the day as a situational rusher. The two sacks put him ahead of the legendary Dexter Manley for most sacks in franchise history with 92 which is pretty miraculous. Kerrigan has been through it all with this team and it’s incredibly awesome to see him get proper recognition for it. You couldn’t ask for a more respectable team-first player to be atop the leaderboards so that’s a pretty nice way to start the season.
Dwayne Haskins is still very much a work in progress
I think what’s important to remember in regards to expectations for Dwayne Haskins this season is that this really is a sort of reboot rookie season for the former first-round pick. Sure he’s posted tons of promising offseason workout videos and sure he was named a team captain to start the year, but he’s still a very much an in-development signal-caller and that was very evident in this opener.
Haskins was all over the place in his ball placement in this game, failing to really connect on anything deep and also throwing a surprising number of the balls into the ground despite having a window to throw into. His 45.5 QBR rating leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s hard to pin it all on him when the line really didn’t hold up well enough to give him much time nor give him an established rushing attack.
There were positives though, particularly in his success running a red zone offense. It’s actually refreshing to see this team finish drives inside the 20, something we saw very little of last year. When the defense gave them a short field, they delivered in a very admirable fashion. It’s hard to knock Haskins and Co. too much when they were able to put points on the board when they needed to, but next week I need to see this team extend drives on their own because when given a full field to work with, they really struggled.
The secondary came in clutch when we needed them too
This was a huge surprise to me. One of the bigger questions I had going into this season was if this secondary could hold up despite not really having a lockdown No. 1 cornerback or a true deep safety capable of helping on the deep ball.
We did see CB1 Ronald Darby get truly burnt on a third-and-22 deep ball to rookie Jalen Reagor, but other than that we didn’t hear much from him which I suppose is a pretty good thing. Still, giving up the big play on a third-and-long is truly a Greg Manusky specialty. I thought we were behind those days? We’ve got a real test in DeAndre Hopkins next week, so I’m curious to see if something like this is a true issue or just a one-game fluke.
Other than that big play and a terrible start defending tight end Dallas Goedert, I’d say I’m quite pleased with how this group showed out without Kendall Fuller. True the pass rush helped out big time, but the interceptions from Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland were 100% on them. Those were phenomenal plays that saw both young cornerbacks read, react and jump on Wentz’ throw as soon as the ball left his hands. This game is not a win without those two turnovers. We’ve been waiting to see something from The People’s Corner and we ended up getting exactly what was advertised when we drafted him out of JMU.
The RivERA is going to turn this organization into a competent football team
I’ve been saying this for a while, but man it’s crazy what happens when you have a real football coach leading the way. You give this exact roster to the previous coaching staff and put them in a 17-0 hole against a division rival and I’d guarantee you they’d fold like lawn chairs. These guys fought to get back into this thing and that’s pretty much all I could ask of them.
My expectations are not that high as far as wins and losses for this group; they’re incredibly young and still figuring things out as they go, but if they fight and claw themselves into games against teams that are better on paper, I’m pretty much satisfied. They did exactly that and it turned into a complete second-half blowout. That’s the type of tenacity and effort Rivera got out of his Carolina teams and that’s the kind of effort I expect out of these teams. Eagles fans might point out the plethora of injuries this team was riddled with, but you can only rely on that excuse to an extent. They were up 17-0 with those backups playing, and they blew that lead with those backups playing. The WFT deserves credit for winning this game just as the Eagles deserve credit for losing it.
That’s all I have for you this week. There are definitely still questions that remain unanswered with this team (See: Troy Apke, Geron Christian, the RB committee), but I won’t dwell on those too much. This was about as promising a start to this season as you could ask for. I’m curious to see how they come out against a Cardinals team that certainly made a statement of their own with a win against the 49ers yesterday and have what looks to be a truly dynamic offense. But for now, we celebrate.