With Dwayne Haskins out, and Kyle Allen injured, Alex Smith returned as quarterback after his injury in November 2018. (Courtesy Photo)

By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

Making Dwayne Haskins inactive couldn’t mask the other deficiencies of the Washington Football Team last week at FedEx Field. Haskins wasn’t in the building after a week where coach Ron Rivera waffled between giving his starting quarterback a vote of confidence then demoting him to the third team, which caused a massive distraction.

The Los Angeles Rams, coached by two former burgundy and gold offensive assistant coaches, pushed all the right buttons and scored on their first three possessions before the storm clouds opened as they punished Washington in a 30-10 victory. This loss dropped them to 1-4 and exposed the ongoing ineptitude that is the offensive line compounded by questionable play calling.

Washington still can’t protect their quarterback as both Haskins’ heir apparent Kyle Allen and the returning Alex Smith were sacked eight times and routinely punished whenever they dropped back to pass. Allen was knocked out of the game running for his life in the second quarter leading to the first appearance by Smith in almost two years.  He was clearly more comfortable in Scott Turner’s offense and led them on a touchdown drive before his premature exit from the game.

“I thought Kyle handled himself pretty well,” Rivera said. “He took us down, we scored a touchdown, we moved the ball. He made some good decisions and it’s unfortunate he took the shot that he did. I would’ve loved to have seen him finish the game.”

Smith returned after suffering a compound fracture in his leg that resulted in a broken tibia and fibula on Nov. 18, 2018. The injury was thought to be career ending after it was infected with flesh-eating bacteria and needed 17 surgeries to repair. 

The driving rains made the second half offense negligible for both teams.  Smith finished 9/17 for 37 yards and was able to consistently take the punishment yielded by his offensive line.  He wasn’t the problem with the offense and finally gave Washington the chance to try and push the ball downfield with a deep passing game for the first time this year.

“This was very surreal,” Smith said.  “It was kind of nice in that situation not having to think about it. You just go out and do it.”

Rivera is changing the culture because the effort on defense continues even while their offense remains dazed and confused.  Washington’s defense shows flashes of toughness, but still gives up too many big plays.  Their blown coverages and trend of slow starts continued for the sixth consecutive game – dating back to last season – Washington trailed by at least 10 points, which was a hole that proved to be insurmountable once again.

Haskins’ days in Washington appeared numbered and the trade rumors started once last Sunday’s game ended and despite losing four straight games, Washington finds itself one game from first place with a chance to win four of their next five games. Between now and Thanksgiving, with two winnable games versus the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, they could position themselves to make a run at the NFC East title in December.

Rivera apparently has settled on Smith as the team’s starter moving forward as they try to make a plausible run at the playoffs.