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Growth? Regression? Washington Football's confusing rebuild

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Psychologists use the Rorshach Test to examine a person's characteristics and emotional functioning. 

It might sound complicated, but the simple idea is to present a person with an abstract image and allow that person to make an interpretation of the image. People see what they want to see in the images, and the results can often be revealing. 

Well, the 2020 Washington Football Team is a Rorshach Test, and fans can see anything they want through four games. 

For the optimists there was the wild comeback win in Week 1, the early play of rookie Chase Young and the Week 4 emergence of another rookie in Antonio Gibson. 

For the pessimists, there are three straight losses where the defense gave up 30 points or more each week. In that same stretch the often stagnant offense is averaging 17 points-per-game despite scoring vaulting up across the league. 

At the game's most important position the Rorshach Test applies, too. 

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Supporters of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins will point to his first-ever 300-yard passing game in Sunday's loss to the Ravens as a real sign of progress. He completed more than 70% of his passes and didn't turn the ball over. 

Haskins' detractors will point to an ugly Week 3 loss where he turned the ball over four times and cost Washington a chance at a winnable game. 

Want one more? How about looking at Washington head coach Ron Rivera through four games?

 

On one hand, Rivera has brought more leadership and poise to the team than has existed in the last decade. On the other, Rivera has made questionable time management decisions and insists that he will maintain a big-picture outlook even late in games when he could call timeouts to try and cut into deficits. 

The reality of all these diverging viewpoints is just that Washington is four games into a massive rebuild that most assumed would take a few seasons. 

Washington just doesn't have that much talent, particularly on offense, and it's hard to get a real baseline for what the team has right now. 

Haskins hasn't been great, but wasn't the plan to stick it out with the 23-year-old passer to see what he's got? Rivera plans to, at least through next week against the Rams. Haskins can improve but he would also be well served with better protection up front and more talent on the edges. 

The defense hasn't been great, The secondary isn't very good and the unit gives up too many big plays. But wasn't the plan to build for the long haul? .

And what about Rivera?

When he arrived he pledged to flip the broken Washington culture and explained it could take years. With that in mind, he's focused on the 30,000-foot view for his team and that means plenty of hiccups, especially early.

By most metrics, Washington has been bad. But weren't they supposed to be bad? Las Vegas experts picked Washington to finish the year with only five wins. 

It's not a defense of the Burgundy and Gold. It's just a realistic reminder of how this team was expected to perform this season. 

That doesn't mean the team can't be better. It doesn't mean the team can't improve. Rivera. Haskins. The defense. All of them can be better. All of them can improve. 

But it also should serve as a reminder that this team is a quarter of the way into the 2020 season. Improvement can come, and likely will, at least in some areas. Other areas might get worse, and that's all part of the rebuilding process. 

Just because the 76ers appropriated the term and somewhat wrecked the notion of trusting the process, that doesn't mean Washington isn't taking necessary steps now for a better future.