Commanders

Why WFT can follow up 2020 success with — get this — 2021 success

Commanders

Success and the Washington Football Team have run into each other for a few brief hangouts in the 2000s, while success on top of success and the Washington Football Team are still waiting to intersect for the first time.

There's a growing sentiment, though, that 2021 could be the initial meeting between sustained winning and the Burgundy and Gold.

ESPN's Dan Orlovsky is in love with what the franchise has assembled on offense, and his cohort, Louis Riddick, recently declared that the club is "no question" the NFC East favorite this year. And those are only the analysts who've spoken up lately about what Ron Rivera is building.

How should fans feel about all this hype, however? Could anyone forgive a Washington supporter for not even wanting to dip their toe into this pool of developing optimism? Of course not.

But maybe, perhaps, possibly, feasibly, this will be the season that the organization follows one competitive campaign with another. There are, at least, plenty of reasons to hope so.

What was already a top defense in many categories should be even scarier, thanks to the arrivals of rookie linebacker Jamin Davis and skilled cornerback William Jackson III. Those new faces should fit right in with the unit's mainstays, all of whom will be more comfortable in Jack Del Rio's system.

Fortunately for Del Rio and Co., they shouldn't find themselves so alone on Sundays in 2021 because of what's happening on offense. Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and Dyami Brown seem poised to inject life into the Terry McLaurin-led receiving corps, and Logan Thomas appears to have some decent reinforcements behind him at tight end. The offensive line figures to be deeper, too, even with Morgan Moses off the roster. Antonio Gibson is a major breakout candidate in the backfield.  

 

Then there's Rivera, who has a stronger grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of his guys compared to his pandemic-tainted debut year with the squad. Don't underestimate how much of a difference the coach's improved health can make, either. 

As Washington's diehards know all too well already, Ryan Fitzpatrick represents the largest question mark in terms of projecting another playoff berth for this operation. But think about it: If Fitzpatrick (and/or Taylor Heinicke) can even perform like an average quarterback for coordinator Scott Turner, that'll be a substantial leap compared to what occurred in 2020. Anything above that, meanwhile, and this area will be losing its mind by November. 

Now, ignoring Washington's history any longer would be reckless. Before the 2020 division title, the team had qualified for the postseason four times in this millennium (2005, 2007, 2012 and 2015). Yet all of those trips into January were followed by a return to mediocrity (and no return to the playoffs, by the way). 

This group's schedule is another factor working against the budding confidence, as its littered with talented throwers such as Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott. There are certainly easier opponents to try and handle on the path to back-to-back NFC East crowns (a feat that hasn't been accomplished since... 2004).

So, sure, no one who closely follows Washington should necessarily be forecasting a 13-4 record and a first-round bye for Rivera's bunch, since those gloomy points that were just mentioned all matter. 

But, hey, fans also shouldn't be cowering inside, waiting for a collapse that those familiar with the past may view as inevitable. The foundation that was laid last season has been fortified further, and a respected staff is at the helm of the show.

Not every peak has to lead to a valley, after all. Sometimes, another peak can reveal itself.