Welcome back to our weekly look behind-the-numbers regarding the Washington Football Team’s latest foray on the field.
You might ask why we’re starting up in the preseason, but just like Head Coach Ron Rivera’s players need three weeks to get into gear for the regular season I find that I need threee weeks to work the offzeason kinksout of my system. I’ll be in Setpembe5 shape before you know it, even though I usually hold my first-string snarky remarks out of the final tuneup.
As you can see, my typing skills are a bit rusty. It must be my preseason.
The 10 years that spanned the Jay Gruden/Mike Shanahan eras were not awesome for Washington, but if there’s one thing they did do, it was win in August. From 2010-2019, the team that went 62-97-1 in the regular season sported a 25-15 Preseason mark that included 2013 when they went 4-0 before going 3-13 when the games began to count.
So, it’s with a bit of reluctance to say that despite the 22-13 loss at New England, the Burgundy & Gold are still in the driver’s seat for the best August in the NFC East as Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants also fell last weekend. Shades of last fall’s regular season race/crawl.
Put a hold on the bumper stickers: None of the three quarterbacks who played did anything major to move up or down in the pecking order. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 5-8 passes for 58 yards and led the team into field goal range on his second and final drive of the night. Taylor Heinicke completed 9-15 passes for 86 yards over three possessions that included a touchdown drive (64 yards on 12 plays) to wrap up the first half. Steven Montez completed 17-24 passes for 108 yards plus a touchdown and an interception while playing the entire second half. Kyle Allen is back in practice this week to add to the intrigue.
Running into shape: Last year, Washington ranked No. 26 in the NFL at running the football, so it was encouraging that their tally of 122 yards on 31 tries was 21 yards more than their 2020 average. Peyton Barber (six carries for 20 yards and a TD), Antonio Golden (5-15), Lamar Miller (3-14) and Jonathan Williams (4-13) each had their turn, but it was an undrafted rookie who stole the stage.
From Buffalo to the Babe? Jaret Patterson led the team in rushing and receiving, gaining 40 yards on 10 carries while catching four passes for 30 yards. The Laurel, Maryland, native was lightly recruited out of high school, but shined at MAC school Buffalo, taking the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award last fall. Add the 5-foot-8 sparkplug to the roster bubble.
Pass catch fever: Patterson wasn’t the only back to produce in the passing game — Williams had four catches, Miller added three (including a touchdown reception) and Golden grabbed a pair. No non-running back had more than two catches, but in the preseason where everyone plays that’s almost expected. Those who provided quality instead of quantity include wide receiver Terry McLaurin’s two grabs for 25 yards (long of 22) and tight end Logan Thomas (1-24) and Sammis Reyes (2-25).
Third and awesome: The offense converted on 12-20 money downs with the team passing on 18 of those plays. Fitzpatrick completed 2-3 passes for two conversions, Heinicke was 3-5 with three conversions plus a scramble that moved the chains, Montez went 4-7 for four conversions while tossing an interception that set up the Patriots’ first touchdown of the night. The top target? Rookie wide receiver Dyami Brown (three with one catch that was a conversion). Yardage Breakdown: 7-9 on short-yardage, 2-5 on medium yardage (four to six yards needed) and 3-6 on long-yardage.
D earns a B: The D was equally as sharp on third down, holding the Patriots short of the marker on eight of 12 attempts. Justin Phillips led the team with five tackles while rookie middle linebacker Jamin Davis tallied four stops. They held New England to field goals in the first half, and Chase Young almost recorded a strip-sack fumble on the Patriots’ first possession of the night (ruled an incomplete pass).
Special situations: Dustin Hopkins missed field goal attempts from 40 and 50 yards, sparking a little August anxiety for the faithful that saw him post a career-low 79.4% conversion rate. Tress Way averaged 44.8 yards per punt with a long of 52. On the return front Steven Sims Jr. ran a kickoff back 32 yards while DeAndre Carter posted punt returns of 18 and 20 yards. Coverage teams held the Patriots to a long punt return of 10 yards but did allow a 29-yard kickoff return.
Flying flags: ONLY THREE PENALTIES FOR 21 YARDS!?!?!? I’ll take that. Given the laundry list of infractions that I’ve had to pore through over the years and determine which was the most costly on a weekly basis, this has the feel of “no homework this weekend.” If only it were that easy for the Burgundy & Gold.