By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO
It remains to be seen whether last Thursday’s epic win over the New York Giants was an aberration or a sign of things to come. In a division of mediocrity at best their extended time in a three-way tie at the top of the NFC east with a backup quarterback at the helm made for a more palatable weekend.
The Washington Football Team is 1-1 because the New York Giants reversed roles at FedEx Field. Normally it was the Burgundy and Gold that made the unforced errors at critical moments, but under the national TV spotlight, the Giants buckled this time prompting an unexpected time for optimism despite glaring weaknesses. Big Blue has won 15 of their 23 meetings since 2010, but quarterback Daniel Jones is no Eli Manning.
New York was given the game when Dustin Hopkins missed a 48-yard field goal attempt, but they jumped offsides. When given another reprieve, Hopkins sent the non-sellout crowd home following a walkoff game-winning field goal that moved them to 1-1 and into a three-way tie with Dallas and Philadelphia heading into Sunday’s game at Buffalo.
Washington has enjoyed the luxury of playing at home twice and the argument could be made that had it not been for Hopkins inaccuracy against the Los Angeles Chargers they may be off to western New York for this week’s game against a legitimate Super Bowl contender that is 2-0 and sitting on top of the division.
Despite the warts in the secondary, at linebacker, and at running back, the Football Team’s defense gives them a puncher’s chance on the road. Chase Young and Jonathan Allen came into the season playing at a beast-mode level, which has transcended the entire unit and masking their holes on the backend of the defense.
The defense is not ready to be revered like the 2000 Ravens, but their front four is trending toward the great Burgundy and Gold defensive fronts- featuring Charles Mann, Dexter Manley, and Tony McGee, who were in the prehistoric years before the internet when the franchise was competing for championships regularly. It is something that gives cause for hope against the Bills.
However, Buffalo’s strength offensively plays into the biggest weakness facing the Washington defense. Those fans who play fantasy football may be in for a great Sunday if they start Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen and former University of Maryland stud receiver Stefon Diggs. Allen was rather pedestrian last Sunday with an anything but spectacular line by completing 17/33 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs was targeted eight times and caught four balls for 60 yards and one of the scoring passes went to him.
Washington’s secondary is vulnerable so the burden is on the front seven to bring the heat and take pressure off the defensive backs so they won’t have to play in coverage under duress.
While D.C. seems enamored by the “greatness” of quarterback Taylor Heinicke in sports bars, barber shops, and sportsbooks, Washington still has to unlock it’s rushing attack. Through the first two weeks of the season Antonio Gibson is averaging just 79.5 yards per game, but his fumble cost them in the season opener and the converted receiver will have to learn to run more physically, especially if the team has the lead late in the game to run time out.
Washington is still a work in progress and this first road test against one of the NFL’s best will be a benchmark for how the rest of the season will play out.
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