What has been the biggest surprise of Washington's season thus far? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
With just three weeks remaining in the 2020 NFL season, it’s safe to say the Washington Football Team has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations.
Washington has won four straight games, including back-to-back wins over the previously undefeated Steelers and reigning NFC champion 49ers. The Football Team stands at 6-7 and in first place in the NFC East, controlling their own destiny the rest of the way.
With six wins (and counting), Washington has already doubled their win total from last season. Players are buying into what head coach Ron Rivera is preaching, and the results show it. After everything the head coach — and this organization — has been through this season, Rivera should be on the shortlist for NFL Coach of the Year.
Washington’s success hasn’t come without a few pleasant surprises, though. NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay and Brian Mitchell joined Jordan Giorgio to discuss the biggest surprise of the season thus far on the latest edition of The Huddle (Watch below).
Here are a few of the topics they covered:
Alex Smith’s success in his return to football
As recent as training camp, it was uncertain whether Alex Smith would ever take another NFL snap. The 36-year-old had been through 17 surgeries on his right leg over the past two years and nearly lost his leg in the process.
But, there’s one thing everyone has learned in 2020: Don’t bet against Alex Smith.
On Oct. 11, Smith took his first NFL snap in two years, replacing an injured Kyle Allen. While Smith didn’t necessarily play well in his return to football — the torrential downpour had plenty to do with it — he proved he was capable of taking a hit, and lots of them.
Nearly a month later, Smith came on in relief once again for Allen after the young QB suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Smith excelled, throwing for over 300 yards in three-quarters of action.
Smith has been Washington’s starter ever since, and he’s excelled in that role. Washington has won four of five since Smith became the starting quarterback, and the veteran has been able to command the offense in a way no other signal-caller has been able to do so.
“I don’t think many people, even the coach — even Alex Smith — thought he could be back playing the way he’s been playing,” Mitchell said. “I think when you look once he gets into the game, he was such a common influence for this offense.”
If Washington hopes to make a deep postseason run, they’ll need Smith to do so. Imagine saying that as recently as three months ago.
Kamren Curl’s emergence
When Pro Bowl safety and team captain Landon Collins went down with an Achilles tear in Week 7, Washington appeared to have a big hole at the position.
Enter seventh-round rookie Kamren Curl, who has not only stepped up and filled Collins’ shoes, but has arguably been better than his predecessor, too.
In 13 games (eight starts), Curl has totaled 69 tackles, good for the second-most on the team behind Jon Bostic. Curl’s four tackles for loss and five quarterback hits are the most of any defensive back on the team.
In Washington’s 23-15 victory over the 49ers this past Sunday, Curl hauled in his first career interception, then raced 75 yards down the left sideline for a pick-six.
“Seventh-rounders rarely even make the 53, let alone make the 53 and end up starting in the second half of the season,” Finlay said. “He’s putting together the kind of year where he’s going to make those All-Rookie squads.”
Morgan Moses’ impressive play
Since the 2014 season, Morgan Moses has been one of Washington’s most durable players. He’s played in every game since, despite dealing with multiple injuries along the way.
However, in 2019, Moses struggled. He was penalized often, and questions about his future in Washington started to begin.
In 2020, though, Moses has been a completely different player for Washington. The offensive lineman has stepped up massively this season and was even asked to move over to left tackle for a few games due to injuries on that side of the line.
Anything Moses has been asked to do this season, he’s done it. And quite well.
“A tough 2019 season, he’s been great for Washington in 2020,” Finlay said. “Big year for Big Mo’.”
Moses, a team captain, has been one of the leaders on this team for years. In 2020, his play has more than backed it up, too.