Through the midway point of the 2021 season, the Washington Football Team has failed to live up to its lofty preseason expectations. The club sits at 2-6 and in the basement of the NFC East.
Yet, the team still has nine games to play. Ron Rivera's past teams have historically won a lot more games over the second half of the season, something the head coach thinks is plenty possible this year, too. This sentiment is echoed by cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Speaking with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay, Fuller believes the Burgundy and Gold has plenty to play for, especially with five straight division games to end the season.
"We still have everything in front of us with all the games at the end," Fuller said. "But at the same time, we're not looking at the last five games. Each week is a challenge. No matter who you play, it's a challenge. You're just trying to go 1-0 every week. All of your focus has to be on the week at hand."
Fuller offers an interesting perspective on Washington's success compared to many of his teammates.
Originally drafted by Washington in 2016, the cornerback was shipped to Kansas City after two seasons as part of the Alex Smith trade. In his two years with the Chiefs, Kansas City played in two AFC Championship games and one Super Bowl. And, on the biggest stage in that Super Bowl, Fuller hauled in the game-sealing interception.
Fuller experienced marginal success last year in his first season back with Washington, as the club went 7-9 and won the NFC East before being bounced in the first round of the playoffs. But this season hasn't been the same. In fact, it's largely reflective of many other Washington seasons this past decade, filled with a lot more defeats than victories.
Despite Washington's first-half struggles in 2021, Fuller believes his current squad is "not at all" similar to previous Washington clubs that failed to win.
"At the end of the day, that's life, that's the National Football League. Not everything is going to be peaches and rainbows," Fuller said. "You just put your head down, keep grinding, keep working and eventually it'll show. But it definitely doesn't feel like [before]."
The cornerback cited his teammate's work ethic and continuous grind as reasons why he feels this team is different than past Washington teams he's played on.
"Just the mindset, you see dudes coming out every week working and grinding. It's only a matter of time before it starts showing," Fuller said.
As Washington comes out of its Week 9 bye, the franchise has one of its toughest tests yet on the horizon. The reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers come to town on Sunday, a rematch of January's Wild Card matchup where Tampa Bay narrowly edged Washington, 31-23.
Having played against Tom Brady multiple times in his six-year career, Fuller knows what to expect come Sunday when he takes the field opposite of the greatest QB of all time.
"You just have to be at your best all game long," Fuller said. "You've just got to be locked in mentally, ready physically and just understand that it's going to be a battle."