I doubt anyone saw the Washington Football Team's 2021 season going like this through two games. After losing Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 during Washington's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Taylor Heinicke came in and won his first regular-season start with Washington in dramatic fashion against the New York Giants.
What happens next is anyone's guess, and we have more questions about this team than we have answers through two weeks. We will have to wait to see who will keep the starting quarterback job and if this defense will eventually live up to the hype, but we can point out players who have their stocks rising and others have seen theirs fall. It's still early but here are a few trends following the first two weeks of the season.
Thursday night was a wild ride for Heinicke, as he completed 34 of 46 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. At one point, it looked like he had committed the game-deciding mistake by throwing an interception deep in Washington territory with just over two minutes left to play. However, he rebounded to lead an 11-play, 50-yard game-winning drive -- and that's what's going to be remembered. Leading a drive to set up a walk-off field goal while operating with a short memory after a bad interception is something many young quarterbacks struggle with. Not Heinicke. Even with all the pressure on him in a divisional prime-time matchup.
He certainly sailed the ball high a couple of times, but also made some downfield throws that flashed legitimate starter potential. There's something special about him as a competitor, and I don't think they go back to Fitzpatrick unless Washington's offense completely nosedives.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has to figure something out. Washington's defense ranked No. 2 in the league last year and many believed they would get bumped up to No. 1 with the additions they made this offseason. They have struggled mightily through two games, however, as Washington ranks No. 24 in yards allowed per game. Many were willing to give Washington somewhat of a pass in Week 1. Justin Herbert is a rising star in this league and it was the first game of the season. Allowing Daniel Jones to rack up 391 yards of total offense on you is rough, though.
The defensive ends couldn't set an edge against the New York Giants, the linebackers haven't been good and the secondary has really struggled in both matchups. Head coach Ron Rivera even said that his defense has been "so disappointing" at times.
"We had our moments," Rivera said, via NBC Sports Washington. "You see things that get you there and go, 'Wow, this is what we're working toward.'
"Then you see things and go, 'Man, that is so not us. That is so disappointing. That is almost immature.' Again, that's just us growing and learning."
This roster has the talent to be one of the best defenses in the league, but it has disappointed through two games.
Jonathan Allen is a monster. Chase Young and Montez Sweat get much of the glory because of their pass-rushing skills, but Allen makes a huge impact in the middle. The Alabama product signed a big, four-year $72 million extension this offseason, and has upped his game. He recorded one sack, three combined tackles and three QB hits against the Chargers, and then two sacks, six combined tackles and three more QB hits on Thursday night. Allen has a second gear he utilizes when rushing the QB from the interior. After shaking off a blocker, he closes in quickly to seal the sack. Allen has the second-highest PFF grade among all Washington defenders through two games (83.9) and he balled out this week.
Pick Six Newsletter
Crafted By The Best NFL Experts
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
We really could put a couple of corners here, but Jackson struggled on Thursday night. As PFF points out, Jackson was asked to play more "tight" one-on-one coverage than the other corners, but that's because he's the No. 1 CB. He made a couple of nice plays against the Giants but also allowed a couple of big plays.
On the Giants' third play of the game, Jackson allowed a 16-yard gain to Kenny Golladay. He ran what was a skinny post, but really it was just him running down the sideline with Jackson giving him too much cushion. Jackson was then burned several times downfield, including on the 33-yard touchdown by Darius Slayton.
On Slayton's now-infamous drop in the end zone in the fourth quarter, Jackson was also in coverage on that side of the field. It was a blown coverage, as Jackson clearly thought he had help behind him, but the tape still looks bad.
Jackson now has the worst PFF grade (40.7) of any Washington defender that has played at least 10 snaps. It's interesting because he made some big plays in Week 1 with two passes defended and an interception, but noticeably struggled in Week 2. Jackson will be able to rebound. Let's just hope that rebound starts in Week 3.
Brown is a rookie many are hoping breaks out soon. He caught three passes for 34 yards on Thursday, and was targeted six times. He also had this nice catch:
Brown isn't going to be a must-start player in fantasy just yet, but I was intrigued by how the veteran Adam Humphries was targeted eight times on Thursday night. He caught seven of those targets for 44 yards, but I wonder if Brown is going to slowly take away some of those reps from the slot. He's younger and more dynamic. The UNC product is also more than just a speedster, and I wonder if he's going to start getting more touches moving forward.
TBD: Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic
How Washington has handled its running backs over the first two games has been very different. After Week 1, it appeared Gibson had finally beaten out McKissic for touches in the passing game, but that completely changed in Week 2. The second-year back was targeted just two times on Thursday night as opposed to the five targets he recorded in Week 1. While McKissic was targeted just once in Week 1, he was targeted six times on Thursday, and caught five of those targets for 83 yards. He was pivotal in Washington's scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, and has proven he's a dynamic offensive weapon. That's not a good thing for Gibson fantasy owners, however, as he accounted for just 73 yards in Week 2. McKissic also stole a goal-line carry, and scored a touchdown in the first half.