Welcome to Week 7. This is the preview, in which we go in depth on everything you need to know as the Washington Football Team hosts the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field at 1 p.m. Sunday. We cover Washington’s wide receiver depth, its dubious results on defense and why the outcome of this game could impact Ron Rivera’s plans at the trade deadline.
Washington’s wide receiving corps seems to look different every week because of health issues. This week, because of injuries to Antonio Gandy-Golden and Isaiah Wright, wide receivers Jeff Badet and Tony Brown could get their first NFL regular season snaps, while taking on the challenge of learning multiple positions on short notice.
Brown, an undrafted rookie who split his offseason with the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants before signing with Washington late in training camp, was signed to the team’s active roster Saturday. And Badet, who was undrafted out of Oklahoma in 2018, will be elevated from the practice squad, along with defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence, for Sunday’s game.
Badet ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, but his speed has failed to produce NFL playing time. He spent his rookie season on the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad, was cut in 2019, was later drafted into the now-defunct XFL and was then signed to Washington’s practice squad in September.
The two have an opportunity to follow the lead of Cam Sims, who was added to the active roster this season and had a late-game touchdown against the New York Giants last week. But it won’t be easy.
“We have a lot in the game plan every week, so it’s hard for guys who are even consistently playing week in and week out,” second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. “But for guys who are getting more opportunity, I think it’s more important they study in the building and outside the building. You have to put in the time and the work to study the opponent as well as what we’re trying to do.”
Injuries at wide receiver also will force offensive coordinator Scott Turner to adapt and probably adjust the game plan to fit the team’s personnel — not just for Sunday but in the coming weeks, too. The team signed Robert Foster off the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad, but because of the league’s six-day pre-entry testing protocol, he will not be able to play Sunday. He will be among the team’s seven inactives Sunday and, assuming he passes his novel coronavirus tests, will be allowed to join the team next week without Washington needing to make a corresponding move.
Steven Sims Jr., who is on injured reserve with a toe injury, also may be back soon. He is eligible to return to practice after Washington’s bye.
“You just try to take the burden off of younger guys, not trying to ask too much of them,” Turner said. “There’s always a fine line. You want to give yourself a chance to be successful but not do too much where you’re putting your guys in jeopardy.
“Guys have to step up. Then we’ve got to do a great job of preparing these guys that haven’t played as much to make sure that they know what they’re supposed to do and they’re able to play fast and execute.”
Washington’s defense is improved over last year, but significant issues remain. Among them are a tendency to allow big plays. Washington has given up a league-high nine plays of 40 or more yards, including four that spanned 50 or more yards.
“Yeah, we’re working at it. It remains a priority for us,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. ”… It starts by creating turnovers, being good on third down, being good in the red zone, not giving up chunk plays. [Dallas] is a team that gets a lot of them, so we’ve got our work cut out.”
The Cowboys may be reeling after losing quarterback Dak Prescott and getting picked apart by the Arizona Cardinals, but they still lead the league in plays of 20 or more yards (29) as well as touchdowns of 50 or more yards (four).
Sunday’s game will be Washington’s last before the Nov. 3 trade deadline, and it could influence whether the team is active on the market. Rivera has refused to divulge any hints about the team’s plans, but the two players who appear obvious candidates are quarterback Dwayne Haskins and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.
Rivera said he has not “quit” on Haskins, but it seems unlikely the second-year quarterback has a significant place in Washington’s long-term plans. The question is whether Washington would get much in return for Haskins if it chooses to part with him.
Kerrigan seemingly has the most trade value, as a pass rusher who is still highly effective in Year 10. He set the franchise sack record earlier in the season but has played in reserve behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Against the Giants, Kerrigan played a career-low seven snaps.
Kerrigan is in the final year of his contract, and it seems unlikely the team would re-sign him, given its depth up front. But for a young team already short on locker room leaders, it may take a hefty offer to force Washington to part with Kerrigan in the coming weeks — especially if the team remains alive in the NFC East race. A win Sunday could go a long way in that regard.
You can thank Carla Young, Chase’s mother, for giving the rookie some extra motivation. Chase told reporters Thursday that seeing his mother in the stands at games and knowing she’s always watching pushes him even more to collect sacks.
“I can’t go out into a game and get put on my butt because my mom, she’ll say something about that,” he said. “So it definitely gives me more motivation when I’m tired, like, ‘I can’t look like no sucker for my mom.’ ”
Injury report: Left tackle Geron Christian Sr. missed his second practice Friday with a knee injury and is questionable to play Sunday. Should he be unable to go, Cornelius Lucas may get his first start for Washington. Wright (shoulder) and defensive end James Smith-Williams (concussion) were ruled out, and Gandy-Golden (hamstring) and offensive lineman Saahdiq Charles (knee) were placed on injured reserve. Gandy-Golden and Charles are eligible to return to practice after Week 10.
|Saahdiq Charles, OL||Knee||Out (IR)|
|Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR||Hamstring||Out (IR)|
|Isaiah Wright, WR||Shoulder||Out|
|James Smith-Williams, DE||Concussion||Out|
|Geron Christian, OT||Knee||Questionable|
Injuries have decimated Dallas’s offense, and the Cowboys will be without two more starters on the offensive line Sunday: guard Zack Martin (concussion) and tackle Brandon Knight (knee). According to reports out of Dallas, Connor McGovern will probably start in place of Martin at right guard.
|Zack Martin, G||Concussion||Out|
|Brandon Knight, T||Knee||Out|
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