The NFC East is Up for Grabs; Will the Shakeup Matter?

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

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Washington dropped their 3rd straight game to the Baltimore Ravens, but on Wednesday the WFT fanbase was dealt a gut punch with another high draft pick seemingly on the outs . This time its’s 2019 1st round selection, Dwayne Haskins, who seems to be the first sacrificial lamb for the Rivera regime.


Most fans expected Haskins to get, at least, the next 3 games heading into the bye to show coaches he progressed and deserved to keep the job as starter. Although the move seems a bit presumptuous, the goings-on behind the scenes could be a factor in the benching.


On a recent episode of the Kevin Sheehan podcast, he brought up an interesting conversation he had with Mike Shanahan. When asked the prospects of him losing the job as Washington’s franchise signal caller. The former WFT Head Coach had the following to say about Haskins.

“If he gets benched, it’s not about what you’re seeing on Sundays, it’s about things that are happening during the course of the week. It’s the little things that matter.”
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Although it’s just speculation, chemistry with the Washington coaches could have reached a stalemate. It’s possible Haskins could have played his last game in the Burgundy & Gold after only 13 games (11 starts). The fact that Rivera demoted Haskins so far down the depth chart, seems to speak volumes in regards to his long-term outlook for Haskins as Washington’s franchise quarterback.


Rivera’s statement on not giving up on Haskins just seems like coach talk. Haskins and his agent will surely push for a trade before the deadline on Oct. 29th. Although moving on from a 1st round pick is uncommon, we saw Arizona move on from their 10th overall selection of QB Josh Rosen after only 13 career starts. He was out of Arizona by year two. Washington’s OC Scott Turner hinted that this isn’t the end of the road for Haskins, but with Alex Smith now leap frogging Haskins, the writing seems to be on the wall for the former OSU quarterback.

NFL: The Washington Football Team-Training Camp

Making the Switch


After trading a 5th round selection for Kyle Allen this offseason, it was clear Rivera and Turner believed he could be a potential bridge quarterback if Haskins didn’t pan out. Unfortunately for Haskins, it seems that although in a rebuild, Rivera is still in a win now mode. Although Allen’s 17 td’s to 16 ints in 2019 should be cause for concern for fans looking to see an offensive turnaround, Allen still put up 3,322 passing yards with 106 yards rushing and 2 scores on the ground in only 12 starts.

As previously mentioned, Alex Smith is now QB2 and one potential bad play away from being Washington’s starter once again. How long of a leash will Allen get? That will be another storyline to watch, but going with Smith at some point seems likely. Smith’s story is inspiring and he should be commended on how far he’s come. In saying that, if Rivera truly believes Smith is the answer at quarterback, fans could be in for a rollercoaster ride.


Ideally, Kyle Allen can simulate what Smith achieved through 10 weeks in 2018 as a game manager, while minimizing turnovers and not giving the defense a short field. It’s likely that OC Scott Turner was influential with Rivera’s decision to bench Haskins, but the staff will now have to stake their short and long term reputations on this move.


The Playmakers


For fans looking for bright spots, there have been a few throughout the first 4 weeks. The emergence of Antonio Gibson in the receiving game was a pleasant surprise for fans looking for a positive during the Baltimore loss. The Burgundy and Gold Report’s week 2 coverage of AGG outlined ways he could be used as a receiver. After recording only 6 rec for 16 yards, during the first 3 games,

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Gibson had his best game as a pro with 4 rec for 82 yards with a 20.5 ypr average against Baltimore. While in Carolina, Allen showed a tendency to target running back, Christian McCaffrey in the passing game when plays broke down. This could bode well for Gibson, which could lead to an Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign.

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Second year receiver, Terry McLaurin, continues to impress and is ranked in the top five in most statistical receiving categories through 4 games. Although #17 has been dealing with a thigh injury, you wouldn’t have known it after his 10 rec 118 yard performance in week 4. McLaurin will continue to be a focal point for defenses to stop and will be Washington’s primary weapon for the foreseeable future. McLaurin’s presence will lead to more opportunities for rookie receivers Antonio Gandy-Golden and Isaiah Wright, in particular. They could see increased snaps at the slot with Steven Sims Jr heading to IR for a few weeks.

The East is Up for Grabs


Coaches believe, with the NFC East seemingly up for grabs, the time was ideal time to make the change at quarterback. The common denominator between the teams in the East is the horrendous play along each team’s offensive line, which can be attributed to injury, inexperience or, in some cases, tackles like NYG LT Nate Solder opted out due to Covid-19. Aerial attacks will be more important than ever, with the teams in the east struggling to establish the run, considering the issues along their offensive lines.

Lucky for Washington, it’s still early in the season and many believe teams could hit their stride during the second half of the season. A healthy Chase Young and Kendall Fuller should keep the defense competitive and the team in games, especially in their divisional matchups.

It’s not out of the question that a .500 record could win the NFC East. Although expectations should be tempered, fans should expect a smoother flow to the offense with Allen well versed in the playbook. Situational football needs to improve dramatically on both side of the ball. We should see, pretty quickly, if the change at quarterback was the right decision. As improbable as a run for the division title seems, we have seen how impactful injuries can be to even the best of teams. Although young and inexperienced, Washington has enough playmakers to stay competitive through December.

⭐️Credit photos to Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team


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