When a team fails to make the playoffs, the offseason discourse is understandably negative. Especially after a team like Washington had such high expectations heading into the 2021 season, an end result of 7-10 is entirely underwhelming.
But even amid a disappointing season, certain players took the field for the Burgundy & Gold and defied expectations. They didn’t have the preseason press of Pro-Bowl caliber players, but still deserve to get a little extra attention as free agency begins this offseason thanks to their play in 2021.
So with that in mind, let’s examine the five Washington players who overperformed this year. Before we begin, it should be noted that the likes of Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson and others will NOT feature on this list. Even though they had great seasons, they were expected to perform superbly and thus do not qualify as ‘overperformers.’
Even at age 28, McKissic did more than enough to prove he’s earned an extension on his expiring two-year deal this summer. He was a crucial member of WFT’s backfield, giving them some needed veteran presence in addition to career-highs in rushing and receiving touchdowns, yards per reception, and scrimmage yards per touch.
“Before the [neck] injury, I felt like I was having one of the best seasons I could ask for — making plays and doing what I had to do to help the team win games,” McKissic said Monday on breakdown day. “[Washington] wants me here and I want to be here, it’s as simple as it sounds. We just gotta get something done over the [free agency] time period.
McKissic, despite being a running back, was Washington’s second-leading receiver behind McLaurin. Excellent at blocking the blitz and catching out of the backfield, McKissic’s stellar year should put him in contention for a roster spot going forward.
Believe it or not, DeAndre Carter was one of, if not the best pickup Washington made last offseason. He’d been a journeyman player before landing in D.C. and, like McKissic, proved to be one of the hardest working guys with the ball in his hands.
He led WFT in yards per carry this season and complimented that with the team’s second-most receiving touchdowns and the league’s second-most kickoff return yards. Carter impressed the coaching staff during training camp and continued to do so on Sundays. Having an electrifying, experienced player like Carter could do wonders for Washington’s offense and special teams down the line.
“In both areas, return game and receiver, I would say it was probably the best year of my career to this point,” Carter said. “I would love to come back here and play for Coach Rivera…that’s what I’m counting on and hopefully we can get that done.”
It’s not often that kickers get recognized for overperforming, but that’s exactly what Slye did this season. Washington signed Slye in November after releasing longtime kicker Dustin Hopkins and trying, and failing, to replace him with two other kickers.
Slye had an absolutely incredible season. In six games, he made all 12 of his field goal attempts (including three from 40+ yards), and went 9-of-10 on extra points. Slye, who had a preexisting connection to Ron Rivera, could very well be in Ashburn when OTAs start in the summer as the favorite to win the kicker job for 2022.
Charles Leno Jr.
Washington’s entire offensive line performed incredibly well under the circumstances of a pandemic and never-ending injuries this season. Charles Leno was a huge component of that, and the team recognized it by signing the veteran left tackle to a three-year extension this month.
“Offensive line wise, we were just all in sync. There was a rhythm and a flow to everything,” Leno said.
Leno’s durability was critical as Week 18 marked his 110th consecutive start — not to mention the fact that he’s one of the league’s best pass blockers and never commits penalties. Washington is lucky to have the 30-year-old stabilizing the left side for the next three years.
Holcomb is the first and only defensive player to make this list because, as a whole, the defense played well under expectations this season. Holcomb was the exception.
Bolstering a linebacker core that saw its fair share of letdowns and injuries, Holcomb led Washington in total tackles and solo tackles, tacking on two interceptions to boot. A no-BS leader at just 25, WFT fans should hope Holcomb sticks around after his rookie contract dries up. 2022 was far and away the best season of Holcomb’s young three-year career.
Honorable mentions: Cam Sims, Bobby McCain, Jaret Patterson, John Bates, David Mayo, Casey Toohill