Washington tries to defend NFC East with improved offense

Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams (73) blocks Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams (73) blocks Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Washington Football Team is banking on one of the NFL’s most talented defenses leading charge towards an NFL Playoff berth and beyond.

Best-case scenario

Boasting one of the deepest and most talented front-sevens in the NFL, the Washington Football Team has the pieces in place to defend its NFC East crown, and enough young star power on offense around veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to have legitimate aspirations on making a run in the postseason.

Chase Young is a legitimate Defensive Player of The Year candidate, after producing 7.5 sacks as a rookie in 2020, but is just one piece of a defense that also includes fellow first-round picks Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Montez Sweat.

At this stage of his career, Fitzpatrick is little more than a game-manager, but that might be all Washington needs given that Terry McLaurin is among the NFL’s most gifted receivers, running back Antonio Gibson produced 1,042 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns as a rookie, and Curtis Samuel has the kind of speed at receiver to take the top off a defense.

If Washington’s defense stays healthy, Fitzpatrick provides the kind of stability head coach Ron Rivera hopes, and its young stars continue to improve, look for the Football Team to push for 10-plus wins and perhaps win a playoff game.

Worst-case scenario

If Fitzpatrick, at age 38, isn’t able to replicate this success last season while splitting time with Miami Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa, passing for 2,091 yards with 13 touchdowns to eight interceptions — or even surpass that level of production, Washington could be in some trouble.

Washington is banking on Fitzpatrick providing veteran consistency and letting McLaurin, Gibson, Samuel, and the weapons around him to carry the offense. If Fitzpatrick looks his age, and takes a step backwards, Washington’s defense might not be able to lift them past eight wins.


Ryan Fitzpatrick. Much of the Football Team’s 2021 campaign will be dictated by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play.

Fitzpatrick likely isn’t the long-term solution, but he has the potential to be savvy enough to maximize the weapons around him in a way that Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke have yet to prove capable of.

Biggest game – Week 9 vs. Tampa Bay

Not only is this game a rematch of last January’s NFC Wild Card round showdown at FedEx Field, but it is a measuring stick for how much closer Washington is to legitimately competing this season, from last.

Bold prediction

Led by Ron Rivera, along with coordinators Jack Del Rio and Scott Turner, Washington is one of the best coached teams in the league, and boasts arguably the most complete roster in the NFC East. Don’t be surprised if Washington only loses one division game (splitting with the Dallas Cowboys), finishing with a 5-1 NFC East record and wins a playoff game.