Football Team

Hailey's Notebook: What stood out after WFT vs. Seattle re-watch

Football Team

Pete Hailey is not a current or former NFL player, nor is he a current or former NFL coach. He is a reporter. Therefore, this space won't be used to closely analyze schemes or assign blame on coverage breakdowns or anything like that related to the Washington Football Team, because those things are hard to discern without knowing the design of and plan for a given play.

That said, he does cover Washington on a day-to-day basis, meaning he can (hopefully) pass along helpful observations after re-watching each of the franchise's games. So, here's what stood out to him from the Week 10 win over Seattle:

 
  • Washington held the ball for 41 minutes and 40 seconds. Good lord.
  • When Ron Rivera selected Antonio Gibson in the third round last year and converted him into a multi-talented running back, this was the kind of performance out of No. 24 he likely dreamed of. On the night, Gibson carried the ball 29 times, caught seven passes and generated 146 yards of offense on his own. Also crucial: He didn't fumble. Gibson has gone for 64, 95 and 111 rushing yards in his past three appearances and has been straight-up punishing defenders at times. There are still little areas for him to grow in, yet overall, he's ascending.
  • Another player whose stock is shooting up is Landon Collins. He is seeing things so clearly on defense these days and it's allowing him to burst through the line of scrimmage for tackles for loss (like the one he notched on the Seahawks' second offensive play of the evening) and get pressure on the quarterback (he and Kam Curl co-took down Russell Wilson at the end of the third quarter). Then there was his forced fumble, which was the result of nice effort and a ferocious punch from behind on Alex Collins. Landon Collins was, up until a month or so ago, one of the most-maligned guys on Washington's roster. Now, he's one of the most necessary.
  • Taylor Heinicke's turnover-free streak ended on the interception where he was targeting Logan Thomas — the window there was ultra-small — but other than that, he once again guided the offense effectively and played well enough to earn another victory. He appears to have settled into an ideal balance between being frenetic and being frugal as he keeps getting more experience in the NFL. He and offensive coordinator Scott Turner are making sweet, sweet music together.
  • It was encouraging to see Curtis Samuel make it through the action unscathed, even if he wasn't asked to do all that much. He should have his snap count increase in the coming weeks, and with that, have more plays drawn up specifically for him and his unique skill set. Oddly enough, his most notable contribution came as a blocker, which was unexpected but key nonetheless: 
  • It sure looked like Bobby McCain was responsible for the coverage bust on Tyler Lockett's 55-yard reception in the first quarter. Those types of errors had been erased by Washington in their triumphs versus the Bucs and the Panthers, and hopefully, they'll be few and far between the rest of the way. No secondary will be perfect, but still, McCain seemed completely lost and his mistake basically directly led to Seattle's first touchdown.
  • Washington held the ball for 41 minutes and 40 seconds. GOOD LORD.
  • Rookie defensive end Shaka Toney only played five reps on Monday but he made them count. On the visitors' second-to-last possession, the seventh-round choice tracked down Russell Wilson on a third-and-10 and prevented Wilson from potentially picking up more yards. Then, on their next drive, he sacked Wilson for a nine-yard loss. Though Toney and Daniel Wise were both out-snapped by Casey Toohill and James Smith-Williams, the two backups along with the defensive line as a whole excelled at making Wilson uncomfortable and not allowing him to create his trademark out-of-the-pocket magic.
  • Terry McLaurin's 4-catch, 51-yard outing wasn't anything spectacular, but one route he ran in the second quarter was — and it was something the wideouts had worked on all week at practice. On the sequence, Washington called for a max protection and sent only McLaurin and DeAndre Carter out for Heinicke. McLaurin's job was to break toward the sideline... then turn upfield like he was executing a double move... and then make a third adjustment by stopping dead in his tracks and turning around for his quarterback. He did so, like usual, quite smoothly and was able to haul in Heinicke's toss for 12 yards. Again, this was something the guys were drilled on as they were preparing for the matchup last week and all that repetition paid off.
  • Give Kendall Fuller — who's been so, so, so much better after an unfortunate beginning to 2021 — and William Jackson III credit for their efforts against D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Together, those two stars had just four grabs together, with only one of those coming in the second half. Somehow, Metcalf didn't even register a target until there was a little more than four minutes left in the third quarter and it took him 59 minutes to tally a reception.
  • Washington held the ball for 41 minutes and 40 seconds. GOOOOOOOOD LOOOOOOOOORD.
  • JD McKissic was the only man to score for the hosts, but give Brandon Scherff and Keith Ismael assists on his first end zone trip. Just before halftime, McKissic snared a side-arm screen from Heinicke and scooted in for six points, which wouldn't have happened without Scherff pushing aside one Seahawk and Ismael doing just enough to fend off another. The Burgundy and Gold's screen calls this season haven't always produced, and many have left a lot to be desired. This one from McKissic, however, was textbook.
  • Speaking of textbook, when coaches discuss pursuit and team-tackling, this is what they mean: 
  • The blocked extra point that concluded in two points for Seattle was a total debacle. Washington's left side couldn't withstand an overload rush, which led to major penetration, which led to the block, which led to Joey Slye feeling the need to give chase (and eventually pull his hamstring), which ultimately led to a very deflated stadium. As Rivera told the Sports Junkies on Tuesday, Slye will be out a minimum of three weeks, meaning the club will be in the market for its fourth kicker of the season. 
  • Daron Payne is such a monster on the inside when opponents attempt to run on him. Honestly, they should probably just stop trying to do so. Whether he's single- or double-teamed, he often finds a way to clog everything up, as he did a couple of times on Monday.
  • Last one, and it serves as something to monitor in the future: Turner and/or Heinicke have got to start calling for Heinicke to keep some of these short-yardage exchanges he and Gibson are having. While Gibson has proved to be proficient at moving the sticks on third-and-ones, it's becoming beyond predictable that he's going to get the handoff in those situations. Defenses will hone in on that — somehow, they haven't already — and Heinicke pulling the ball out of Gibson's stomach and dashing around to the outside could be a way to ignite a big-gainer in a crucial spot soon.