After winning the NFC East in 2020, the Washington Football Team won’t be playing postseason football this time around. It was a season full of ups and downs. Despite never holding a winning record at any time during the year, Washington reeled off four straight wins late in the season to reenter the playoff race. However, four straight losses ended those postseason dreams.
This will be a big offseason for Washington. Not only because the entire franchise is rebranding, but because it’s hoping to turn over a new leaf on the field as well. Below, we will break down three areas where Washington will need to improve this offseason. Unfortunately, the 2022 version of “how to fix Washington” is eerily similar to last year’s. I believe Ron Rivera is a good coach, but if we reconvene at this time next year and we are still talking about the same issues, then “hiring a head coach” could be included in this list.
1. Find QB1
Taylor Heinicke is a player I want on my roster. He’s a gritty fighter, a hard worker and is very good for a practice squad kid from Old Dominion. However, I don’t want Heinicke as my starter. The quarterback position is the most important in football, and it’s something many teams who were sent home early will be looking at. This offseason is going to be unpredictable when it comes to quarterback movement. We could see a ton, or we could be underwhelmed a bit. Additionally, when it comes to the draft, this quarterback class is not as highly-touted as ones in years past.
CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Ryan Wilson has just three signal-callers going in the first round in his latest mock draft, with the first going at No. 9 overall to the Denver Broncos in Matt Corral from Ole Miss. Washington at No. 11 takes Kenny Pickett out of Pittsburgh, which is an intriguing selection, but Washington could also look to sign someone in free agency, or even trade for a new starting quarterback.
There aren’t too many intriguing names in free agency, but signing Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky could excite some. However, trading for a star like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks or Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers would obviously be a home run. Would Wilson waive his no-trade clause for Washington? And is Rodgers legitimately interested in leaving Green Bay? The other facet of this potential move is how much would these two great quarterbacks cost? NFL Insider John Clayton recently said Rodgers could be available for a first- and third-round pick this offseason, which sounds much too low to me. I’m calling the Seahawks and the Packers, even if my chances of making a trade are slim.
2. Improve the secondary
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed us it last year and the University of Georgia proved it Monday night: defense wins championships. It was Washington’s defense that got this franchise to the playoffs last season, but 2021 was a different story. Shockingly, Washington’s defense graded out as one of the worst units in the NFL through the early stages of the season, and then rebounded towards the end of the year before again dipping during Washington’s four-game losing streak.
Washington finished with the No. 22 defense overall, but it was the pass defense specifically which dragged the unit down as a whole. Washington had the fourth-worst pass defense in the NFL in 2021. It was a bizarre result, as Washington had the second-best pass defense in the NFL last season, and grabbed what was thought to be a major upgrade in cornerback William Jackson III. Kendall Fuller graded out much better in coverage, however. Looking at the rest of the cornerbacks, I anticipate Benjamin St-Juste will make a jump in Year 2, but there’s no denying Washington needs to make an addition at cornerback this offseason.
The free safety position is one that needs an upgrade as well. Bobby McCain is a pending free agent, and I’m not against re-signing him. A versatile veteran is always welcome, but Washington could use one of its first draft picks to acquire a new starting free safety who will take away the deep ball for Washington.
3. Figure out the linebackers
In speaking on Washington’s defense, it needs to decide on the linebacker rotation. Not only does Washington need another starter at this position, but it needs to figure out exactly where that starter will play. Rookie Jamin Davis played some middle linebacker, but the staff is still trying to figure out if he’s better suited there or on the outside. The same goes for Cole Holcomb, who is playing on the outside but could potentially be a MLB.
As previously stated, Washington had the fourth-worst pass defense in the NFL this past season. Some of that directly falls on the secondary, but Washington would also benefit from drafting or signing a legitimate starting 4-3 MLB who can take away the middle of the field in coverage.
The other facet of this is Landon Collins, who is now playing a hybrid linebacker/safety role. Using this offseason to draw up a specific plan for how you want to use him will be important as well.