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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
The quarterback situation is set and has been for much of the preseason. Ryan Fitzpatrick will start and had a fairly typical summer full of ups and downs. That’s what you get with a veteran about to start for an NFL record ninth franchise. He’s always been good enough to earn starting jobs but bad enough for teams to move on from. Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke are both likely to make the 53-man roster, and Heinicke deserves the No. 2 role based on their relative merits during training camp.
Antonio Gibson will have every opportunity to become a workhorse, a stunning evolution for a player who many viewed as a wide receiver prospect coming out of Memphis. J.D. McKissic remains the third-down back, although the coaches insist Gibson will play in obvious passing downs more than he did in 2020. Rookie Jaret Patterson is the more exciting prospect as the No. 3 over incumbent Peyton Barber, whose run with the team ended on Tuesday.
Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, and Adam Humphries are roster locks, and the quartet will command the majority of the targets. Washington could keep up to seven receivers once the roster is finalized, but those other spots are driven more by special-teams value than offensive roles. McLaurin was the standout of camp, as he should be. He’s built an immediate rapport with Fitzpatrick and should have a big season. Curtis Samuel missed the entire summer and is still only doing individual drills currently. But the coaches aren’t ruling out a Week 1 return. He may need a few weeks to ramp, but his position as the No. 2 target over the entire season remains intact. Adam Humphries handles the slot, but he could be fifth on the target pecking order behind McLaurin, Samuel, tight end Logan Thomas, and running back Antonio Gibson.
There’s no mystery on who’s atop the depth chart – Logan Thomas had an excellent camp and appears set to build off last year’s breakout. Thomas worked on his route-running and blocking, which means he should be on the field even more in 2021. The other spots are up for grabs. Beat writers had Sammis Reyes, John Bates, and Ricky Seals-Jones in the No. 2 spot, depending on the week.
By now, the entire league knows this defense is championship caliber, and the preseason reinforced lofty expectations. Chase Young and Montez Sweat are the best young pass-rushing duo in the league, and they’re joined by dominant tackles Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen. Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis could start at tackle for quite a few teams, and will rotate in regularly to spell the starters. The linebacking corps is thin, but rookie first-rounder Jamin Davis took the reins immediately and should be a disruptive force. William Jackson III and Kendall Fuller are as good as it gets at cornerback. If rookie Benjamin St-Juste can carry his preseason form into the regular season, he’ll be one of the NFC’s better nickel corners.
Returners: Washington waived returner Steven Sims Jr., leaving both punt and kickoff return jobs uncertain. DeAndre Carter has probably played the best through August, but the team reportedly likes the long-term potential of rookie Dax Milne. Meanwhile, Adam Humphries can give Washington a reliable veteran on punt returns.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
Ryan Fitzpatrick played 23 snaps against the Bengals and had an up-and-down evening. He overthrew his receivers twice in the end zone; they would have been easy touchdowns. His receivers also dropped a few catchable balls. “Fitzy was a little fired up” and uncharacteristically “overshot throws that he has been making,” Rivera said. “We’re going to have to really dive into it and watch the tape and assess those things, see where we missed opportunities.” Taylor Heinicke went 11-for-13 against Cincinnati and kept plays alive with his mobility. Since returning to the practice field, Kyle Allen hasn’t forced a competition for the No. 2 role.
Preseason stats can be misleading, particularly if veterans are used sparingly to keep them healthy for the regular season. So rookie Jaret Patterson’s 96 yards from scrimmage against the Bengals isn’t nearly as important as how well he’s played and practiced all summer and when he got his snaps. Patterson played six snaps (out of 23) with the starters against Cincinnati, spelling Antonion Gibson. Whether this was just a chance for coaches to get a look at the rookie or a signal he’s pushing Peyton Barber for the No. 2 job remains to be seen. J.D. McKissic remains the third-down back, but it’s unclear if he’ll have the same snap share in 2021, given the coaches' stated preference for using Gibson in a “Christian McCaffrey” role. Speaking of Gibson, it’s hard to buy into the young tailback becoming an all-around workhorse like McCaffrey when he can’t convert short-yardage situations. Coach Rivera intentionally kept Gibson in during short-yardage situations against the Bengals, and it didn’t go well. He only converted one 1-yard conversion in three tries. After the game, Rivera said, “Gibson needs to learn not to hesitate, but to identify where he thinks the hole is going to be and then run at that spot expecting it to be there.”