Grading Washington's offense at the bye week

Taylor Heinicke

Thanks to the shift to a 17-game schedule, Washington isn't technically halfway through the 2021 season after playing eight games like they'd normally be. But for all intents and purposes, as the franchise rests on its bye, now's a good time to evaluate where things stand.

Here's a look at how each position on offense has fared so far along with a grade for each group...


Grade: C-

Analysis: This grade was expected to be applied to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the veteran was upright for only a quarter and a half for the Burgundy and Gold before suffering a hip subluxation in Week 1 versus the Chargers. So, Taylor Heinicke is the one who's getting evaluated here.  

Let's start with the positives for Heinicke.

When he's been sure of himself and decisive as a thrower, he's been able to move the offense. He was useful in Week 2 against the Giants and was really in control in his three-touchdown performance in Atlanta in Week 4. That theme also applies to his scrambling; when he understands when it's time to run (as opposed to waiting and waiting in the pocket and breaking out when it's too late), he has been dynamic in that area as well.

The problem is that Heinicke hasn't been nearly consistent enough in either aspect, which is understandable, because that's what makes backup quarterbacks backup quarterbacks and that's what he is in the NFL.

Some of his nine interceptions have been the result of seriously poor choices, and when you combine bad ideas with his limited arm strength, trouble will inevitably arise. He's also had some accuracy issues, particularly with missing high, and his outing in Denver featured a few sacks that more established guys simply avoid. Then there's the recent red zone struggles, which don't fall solely on him but are certainly partly on him. 


Heinicke's heroics versus the Giants and Falcons late in those meetings were flat-out awesome, and he gets the most out of what he's got. Problem is, he doesn't have the tools that other, more gifted signal callers do, nor does he have their week in, week out production.

Running back

Grade: B-

Analysis: Antonio Gibson has been Washington's lead back this season, and though he's had his moments — particularly that 78-yard catch and run in Buffalo — he has yet to fully break through or completely prove those who so ardently support him right.

Gibson's shin injury no doubt is factoring into his solid but not spectacular stats, as it can't be easy to burst between the tackles with an ailing leg. That said, his lack of lengthy rushes for Washington, pesky fumbling problems and pedestrian overall numbers as a receiver are concerning.

As a whole, it's possible to both commend what Gibson has done to this point while also wanting to see a lot more.

The reason the position's grade is a B- and not a tad lower is JD McKissic's effort in September and October. He is the team's second-leading receiver in terms of catches and yards, he's averaging more than four yards per carry and he's found the end zone twice, including a memorable game-winner at Atlanta. 

If McKissic were a part of a winning squad, he'd get the attention he deserves.

Jaret Patterson, meanwhile, led Washington in carries in their last contest before the bye and could have more of a role in the schedule's back half. 

Together, this three-man committee isn't as renowned as some other backfields around the league, but it's definitely a talented and diverse trio.

Wide receiver

Grade: D+

Analysis: If it weren't for Terry McLaurin, this unit would be expelled.

McLaurin's posted 43 grabs for 573 yards and four touchdowns for Washington despite having no true threat across from him (again) or a totally trustworthy quarterback to work with (also again). He's been a bit quiet at times in a couple of the organization's losses, yet it's hard to complain too much when he's playing so well in such an arid environment.

The rest of the crew, however? That's where the complaints can be directed.

The number of games that Curtis Samuel has missed (six) is greater than the total catches he's made on the season (four). A groin injury that he sustained back in May is still haunting him in November.


Dyami Brown, a third-round rookie who thrived in camp, has also been essentially silent. He's got just eight receptions for 81 yards and hasn't shown off the speed that was evident on the daily in the summer.

Adam Humphries has basically done what he was brought in for (be a reliable option across the middle and on shorter targets) and DeAndre Carter has emerged as a pleasant story (though he still has hauled in just nine balls on the outside). 

For a bunch that was hailed as much, much improved in the offseason, it has been a very underwhelming first couple of months.

Tight end

Grade: B-

Analysis: Logan Thomas earned a much-deserved contract extension ahead of the opener. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury in Week 4 has prevented him from justifying it. Still, he had two touchdowns before getting nicked up and should return after the bye, which will be a helpful development.

In Thomas' place, Ricky Seals-Jones has filled in admirably. Seals-Jones is tied with Humphries for third on the team in receptions with 20, and his score on Thursday night versus the Giants was — and this is a word that's rarely deployed to describe a Washington play — electric. Even so, Seals-Jones isn't the complete piece that Thomas is.

Fourth-round rookie John Bates and intriguing project Sammis Reyes haven't contributed much, yet they haven't really been asked to. Therefore, this grade is really based on Thomas and RSJ.

Offensive line

Grade: B

Analysis: Don't let the deflating, sack-filled matchup with the Broncos detract from how well the O-line has held together since Week 1. 

For much of the slate, Washington's front was among the league leaders in fewest sacks allowed. Sam Cosmi in particular was in the middle of a promising first year until succumbing to an ankle injury (he should be back for Tampa) and the rest of the line was mostly holding up in pass protection, too, even without Brandon Scherff for a good chunk of the schedule.

They aren't a dominant collection of blockers by any means, which is why they receive a B. Gibson's yards-per-carry average sits at 4.0, for example, and their inability to routinely open up lanes has something to do with that. They've also been a bit slow to get out on screen calls at times.

What'll be worth watching in the second half of 2021 is whether the offensive line can keep it up. Chase Roullier is now on injured reserve and, as mentioned, Cosmi and Scherff have already dealt with their own injuries. Was the disaster in Denver an exception or foreshadowing of the future?