Here’s how injuries impacted the Washington Football Team in 2020.
I recently wrote a piece in which I argued that the Washington Football Team got relatively lucky with injuries in 2020 and that masked some serious depth issues. That point was part of my argument against giving up much draft capital to acquire Matthew Stafford.
I’m sure we will be revisiting quarterback questions repeatedly through the offseason, but I thought I should elaborate a bit on the whole injury issue. This was partly inspired by a number of readers telling me I was – well, decency rules keep me from quoting them exactly – but they thought I was not displaying much wisdom in my line of reasoning.
So, for the record, let me state that I know the Washington Football Team did indeed contend with injuries during the 2020 season. By some metrics, they suffered an above-average loss of players and/or man games.
But as we know, not all injuries are created equal.
How injuries hurt the Washington Football Team in 2020
The most significant injury the Washington Football Team suffered was to their starting quarterback, Kyle Allen. Any time a starting QB is knocked out for the season, it is serious. In Washington’s case, this loss was mitigated somewhat by the fact that Allen was not considered an upper-echelon quarterback and his replacement, Alex Smith, did not represent much of a drop-off in play.
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When Smith eventually went down with his own injury late in the season, that was more serious as it left the team with no reliable alternative. (This is before we learned of the legend of Taylor Heinicke.)
The same is true of the loss of starting safety Landon Collins. His replacement, Kam Curl, performed as well or better than Collins. A second starting safety, Deshazor Everett, was lost for the season as well, and as with the quarterback situation, this second loss was more problematic.
The only other starter who suffered a season-ending injury during the actual season was left tackle Geron Christian, and as with the Collins/Curl situation, his replacement, Cornelius Lucas, proved to be as good or better.
Washington got very lucky along the offensive line and at cornerback, where the roster is extremely thin. Of course, other starters did miss time. Some of the team’s best players – Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Brandon Scherff, Chase Young – all missed a couple of games. Cole Holcomb missed a few early and Kevin Pierre-Louis missed a few late.
But the only other really valuable player to miss the bulk of the season was Matt Ioannidis, and he, fortunately, plays the one position at which Washington has excellent depth.
But I do not mean to suggest that injuries did not hurt the Washington Football Team in 2020. What I want to suggest is that injuries didn’t really hurt very much during the season. Where those injuries are really showing up is now, in the offseason.
Washington lost six young players – three before the season even began – all on offense, all at positions of need. And because of this, the team was not able to evaluate these players. That makes this offseason more complicated than it should be.
Before the season began, Kelvin Harmon, Washington’s second-best receiver in 2019, and Emanuel Hall, an athletically-gifted dark horse candidate to become a downfield threat, both went down with season-ending injuries. Rookie draftee Antonio Gandy-Golden dealt with injuries all season and barely saw the field.
That’s three receivers who could be valuable pieces moving forward. But would you bank on any of them at this point?
Harmon at least has a bit of a track record from his rookie season. But he also suffered the most serious injury – a torn ACL. As the team considers exactly how it needs to address the receiver situation, not having a clear read on these three players muddies the waters.
The same is true along the offensive line where 2020 draftee Saahdiq Charles managed two plays before going down for the year. As a 21-year rookie, Charles was almost certainly unprepared to step into the starting left tackle job in 2020. But had he been able to play – either at guard or at tackle for a few games – the team would have a much more reliable opinion of his future. Heading into his second season, he remains a complete mystery.
The same is true of tight end Thaddeus Moss. Could he become a steady pass-catching complement to Logan Thomas? We have no idea because he was ruled out for the year before Week 1.
And most importantly, no one knows what to make of Kyle Allen. The brief glimpse we did see suggested that this offense looks better with a mobile quarterback who can make quick reads. Both Allen and Heinicke fit that bill, but both bodies of work is also very limited.
As with Kelvin Harmon, we do have Allen’s 2019 campaign on which to judge him. But I’m sure we’d all feel a lot more confident in giving him a thumbs up or thumbs down had we watched him play 10-12 games in 2020.
This is how injuries most hurt the Washington Football Team in 2020. They will have to make a lot of roster decisions in free agency and the draft. And they will be doing it based on incomplete information.
OK – done with that. Now we can all get back to our “Washington practically beat a Super Bowl team with Taylor Heinicke so we’re just two angel hair pasta widths away from being champion” debates.