WASHINGTON — All anyone wants is hope.
It is a hard thing to find at FedEx Field, where opposing fans are the majority and Redskins fans have seen one win in 11 games dating back 14 months.
So you take what you can get. We have no idea who will coach this team next year. We have no clue if team president Bruce Allen will be back. A normal NFL franchise would make changes after missing the playoffs four years in a row, but the Redskins veer wildly away from the norm. It is their nature.
On Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, an entertaining back-and-forth game, but, ultimately, a 37-27 loss, you were better served to look for those small signs of progress. It’s better than waiting around in vain for a win.
There was Terry McLaurin, the rookie wide receiver, exploding past Eagles tacklers for a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter. McLaurin is second in catches (51) among all NFL rookie wide receivers. He is second in yards (833). He could become the first Redskins wide receiver to top 1,000 yards since Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson did it in 2016. That’s great.
“But it has to result in wins,” McLaurin said afterward.
That was the refrain of the day. No one really had time for pats on the back or moral victories. The youngest Redskins have seen the cold side of pro football almost from the start of their careers. Jay Gruden was fired months ago. Interim coach Bill Callahan might have two games left before giving way to someone else. That new staff will be mining the film of these late-season games for gold nuggets when they’re deciding who will be part of their plan to rebuild the Redskins.
For rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the Eagles game was easily the best of his six starts. The Redskins gave him help on the ground with Adrian Peterson and blocked well upfront. Haskins was not sacked. His turnover came on a desperate Hail Mary from midfield when Philadelphia blitzed and Haskins tried to shuffle the ball as he was being tackled on the final play.
But there were no interceptions when the game was in the balance, no fumbles. Haskins had two touchdown passes. He gave his team a chance to win. The Redskins need to see more of that next week against the New York Giants. But that was progress for Haskins and his team – even if he insisted afterward he was “nowhere close” to where he needs to be.
Ryan Anderson isn’t a rookie. But his story is one you need to see, too. Washington’s second-round pick in 2017 from Alabama, No. 49 overall, Anderson has been a disappointment early in his career. He was a bit player on non-playoff teams. He played a little, appearing in 27 games entering his third season. But he wasn’t a factor. Now he is becoming one.
Anderson had two sacks and three forced fumbles on Sunday against the Eagles. In the past five games, he has four sacks and five forced fumbles. He’s getting more snaps at age 25 and he’s making the most of that opportunity.
“It’s definitely a confidence builder for me. Been here three years, struggled a little bit,” Anderson said. “Never really had those reps and those opportunities I’m getting now to get a feel and make up for some of the mistakes I’ve made. So it’s big with my development going forward. But other than that it don’t mean nothing.”
Still, that kind of game makes you think Anderson could be a big contributor next season, a full-time starter, an impact player. That performance provides hope. But there’s the big problem: Hope is for fans. It doesn’t do much for the players on the field, no matter how bright their future seems. There’s no time for it.
“In this business it’s about winning. That’s what you get judged off of,” Anderson said. “It’s good that people are progressing. But you’ve got to win right now. That’s the nature of this beast.”
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