Most of WFT's key additions are subtracting from 2021 so far originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Everything about the 2021 Washington Football Team feels off this season, and what the club did during its offseason is emerging as a major reason why.
After establishing that the campaign is only five games old and there’s still time for the “lightbulb moments” that Ron Rivera saw a year ago to happen this time around, too, the truth is that it’s difficult to identify a key signing or draft pick that is presently paying off in a momentous way.
In March, Rivera and the Burgundy and Gold made three headline-worthy moves when they acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick, William Jackson III and Curtis Samuel. So far, that trio has had a trying experience with their new franchise.
Fitzpatrick lasted all of six passing attempts before landing on injured reserve with a hip injury. Samuel, who has also already been on I.R., has just four catches to go along with a groin injury that doesn’t appear to be getting any better.
Then there’s Jackson, who’s at least played in every contest. In doing so, though, he’s provided ample examples that the fit in Jack Del Rio’s more zone-reliant scheme might not be right. In his five appearances, he’s notched one interception and five defensive penalties.
The organization’s search for starters on the market didn’t end in March, however.
In May, Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby McCain landed contracts after being let go by Chicago and Miami, respectively. Yet Leno Jr. has been uneven at left tackle — including giving up the pressure where Fitzpatrick got hurt — and McCain has lined up often in a secondary that has looked confused since the opener.
Rivera and Washington’s top selections in the draft are largely struggling to contribute as well.
Jamin Davis, the first-round linebacker whom was handpicked by one former linebacker and is suiting up under another, logged a mere 13 snaps in Week 5 against the Saints. That number bumps his overall snap share on defense down to 44 percent. Even at a weak position on the roster, Davis simply isn’t getting a ton of run.
Washington’s pair of third-rounders seem equally overwhelmed. Dyami Brown has hauled in five passes up to this point despite starting three times. On the other side of the ball, Benjamin St-Juste has been targeted at times by opposing quarterbacks, and like Davis, he was hardly a factor versus New Orleans.
Of course, not every acquisition has failed to help out to begin the year.
Smaller signings, like DeAndre Carter and Adam Humphries, have been clutch in key moments, and Carter’s special teams touchdown in Atlanta earned him league-wide recognition. Ricky Seals-Jones secured a hell of a touchdown in the Giants win, meanwhile, and will continue to fill in for a banged-up Logan Thomas. And second-round choice Sam Cosmi’s effort at right tackle has attracted positive attention by sites like PFF.
But while those decisions are certainly encouraging, they aren’t insanely impactful. Two rotational receivers, a second-string tight end and a starting right tackle are no doubt useful, but they don’t represent the offseason’s principle investments, either.
They also are the exception to what’s currently happening.
The list of main pickups, which features Fitzpatrick, Samuel, Jackson III and Davis, can only collectively be graded as disappointing, though others may choose to use other words. Plus, many secondary additions — names like Leno Jr., McCain, Brown and St-Juste — are slumping in critical roles.
It’s admittedly not entirely fair to evaluate all of these players, and especially the younger ones, in mid-October. Getting comfortable in new schemes, with new teammates and in a new level of the sport is not something that clicks instantly across the board.
That said, when diagnosing what’s behind Washington’s upsetting start to the season, the underwhelming returns on the majority of Rivera’s personnel moves do stick out. A theme coming into 2021 was that this was truly his roster now, and after five matchups, his roster isn’t performing.