Washington is 2-2 going into a much needed bye week. Normally that would not mean much at all but things are seemingly looking up for this much-maligned franchise, and it starts with the little things: competitiveness and physicality.
If you compete, you can win.
If you’re physical, you can win.
It’s as simple as that.
For the first time in maybe a decade, Washington actually has a physical defense. They have a defense that will impose its will instead of getting punched in the mouth, ad nauseam. Gone is the soft mentality of previous defensive units led by former defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Now, with new leader — and former Washington player — Greg Manusky, the defense has seemingly taken on the feisty, tough-as-nails demeanor of its coordinator.
Washington’s defense has been the lifeblood of the team. It has played very well and it helped keep the team competitive as it’s offensive unit took a little while to find its identity.
Along with Manusky, key acquisitions this offseason like D.J. Swearinger and Zac Brown have been as advertised, as both have become vocal leaders for the defense. First round pick Jonathan Allen has been solid with moments of greatness here and there that would lead you to believe that he will become a franchise cornerstone.
The biggest surprise of the season has been the development of second year lineman Matt Ioannidis. His resurgence has come out of nowhere after having minimal impact on the team in his rookie season. Through four games, he has already notched two sacks and has been able to use his strength to push offensive linemen back into the quarterback. As Ioannidis continues to grow, he will play a key role on the line.
Ryan Kerrigan has been his normal solid self and the re-emergence of Preston Smith after a disappointing season last year has really energized the pass rush. With cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland having solid seasons, the secondary is on the rise.
Offensively, it is still a work in progress, but there is positive progress every week. Kirk Cousins has been solid, yet unspectacular but is showing moxie making winning plays when it matters—if only his receivers can hold on to the ball.
Receiver Terrell Pryor has been a work in progress and receiver Josh Doctson is slowly working himself into the rotation, which means Cousins has had to rely on running back Chris Thompson to catch balls a lot more, and he has delivered. Thompson has become the dynamic weapon other teams must account for on every play. For this offense to produce on an elite level, though, they must get more from slot receiver Jamison Crowder. He is too important to this offense to only have 14 catches so far this season.
The run game has been spotty at times with injuries to starting running back Rob Kelley and an offensive line still trying to get its footing, but all in all, things are looking up.
A 2-2 record doesn’t guarantee anything in the NFL. The team really has to clean up a lot of small mistakes to be taken seriously but there are many things Washington fans can be proud of as we enter the second quarter of the 2017 season.