In what seems like a never-ending cycle of starting quarterback dysfunction, we get to continue the carousel here in D.C.
On Wednesday, head coach Ron Rivera, in head scratching fashion, benched starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins in favor of back-up Kyle Allen. Rivera even went as far as demoting the young quarterback to third on the depth chart making him essentially inactive for the foreseeable future.
It comes at a time when Washington is a half of a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Haskins also bounced back performance against the Baltimore Ravens where he threw for over 300 yards.
So why bench Haskins now?
Rivera says that it’s in the best short-term interest of the team with how the division has shook out. Ron is straying away from what he was being so adamant about throughout the offseason and training camp. This is a year for development and growth. He did not sound like he was going to chase after cheap wins or let the outside noise effect the process he was putting in place.
But here we are. The 30th quarterback to start a game for Washington since 1993. And they are heading into one of their more important stretches of the season on a hope and a whim with a quarterback who is turnover prone. I could easily eat these words if Allen performs. But if it’s anything like last year, we are in for a rough ride. One that Rivera could have ridden out with his young quarterback.
And with that cheery picture, here are my 5 keys to a Washington Football win against the Los Angeles Rams:
Game and Clock Management Foundation: This issue is up there with the most mind-boggling thing we have seen through the first four games. I also can’t keep picking on safeties Troy Apke and Landon Collins every week. It can get stale for me as a writer and I’m sure for you as a reader.
First it was head coach Ron Rivera not wanting to risk his starters getting hurt in Arizona and Cleveland. So, he ran a couple of plays with his starters on the field to let the time run out. Wouldn’t you just kneel the ball down or pull your starters if you are that worried about injuries?
Next, it was poor communication between the coaching staff and Haskins running into the 2-minute warning against the Baltimore Ravens. Haskins was looking to run a play with 6 seconds left instead of calling a time out with just under 20 seconds left in the half. That prevented Washington from taking a shot at the endzone. Instead they wound up with Dustin Hopkins kicking a field goal. Did the coaching staff not run through this with Dwayne? Or why did Ron let the clock run down so far before catching the error?
Opportunities in the 2-minute window will present themselves against the Rams. Ron will have to follow his word now 4 games into the season that he is in it to win it and not just to develop. If so, Washington could put quick points up on the board and force a momentum shift like they saw against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kyle Allen Can’t Be Kyle Allen: New starting quarterback Kyle Allen started off on a hot streak early in his starting tenure last year in Carolina. But once teams got film on him, he started in a tailspin of turning the ball over. Allen also became acquainted with Washington defensive line, so much so, that he likely had a better relationship with them heading into camp then his new receivers.
Washington cannot afford to have the Kyle Allen that forced throws into windows that weren’t there. They cannot afford a Kyle Allen who ranked at the bottom of the league in advanced passing statistics and analytics.
They will need the dink and dunk, Check Down Charlie, quarterback that Washington Football Fans hate to see. You know, the same type of quarterback we saw Haskins be when he was extremely efficient against the Baltimore Ravens.
Allen will need to reinvigorate that first four game identity of himself for Washington to keep up on the score board. If he throws more then a couple of interceptions, Washington could not only be in line for a worse loss then to Cleveland.
Protect Against Play Action: Common sense in 90’s football says for the running game to be established to open up play action and the passing attack. Not in today’s NFL. Today you are starting to see more coaches use the pass and play action to open up the run.
Sean McVay has mastered this since being in Washington.
It is what allows wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to use double moves or find holes when they run slant routes against a zone defense.
The defensive back group will need to be extremely disciplined and take away the effects of play action to force an major in game adjustment that plays against quarterback Jared Goff’s strength.
Free Antonio Gibson: Prior to the beginning of the season in my WFT fantasy football preview, I had recommended that you take a flier on rookie running back Antonio Gibson. This was because he had the potential to breakout as the number one back this year. Well, it has started to happen even earlier than I anticipated.
Through the first quarter of the season, Gibson has 44 carries and has been targeted 12 times in the passing game. Antonio is third on the team in targets behind receiver Terry McLaurin (39) and tight end Logan Thomas (28).
Gibson is clearly the second-best offensive playmaker on Washington’s roster behind McLaurin. Antonio showed a glimpse of that in the passing game when he caught and ran 50 yards on a screen pass. Scott Turner can use him in a variety of ways in motion, out of the back field, put him in the slot.
Averaging the potential of 14 touches a game is not going to cut it against Los Angeles and their pass rush. Gibson will need to see at least 5 targets in the passing game while using him more on draws up the middle.
Letting Gibson free not only frees up the rest of the offense, but if gives Washington the best chance at winning on Sunday.
Tight End Double Trouble: Death, taxes, and start opposing tight ends against Washington in fantasy football.
The Los Angeles Rams have two effective tight ends on their roster in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett. And McVay likes to use them. Sean likes to use the 2 tight ends in multiple formations. He will send one in motion while sending the other on a post or crossing pattern. McVay has also is willing to use Everett on a jet sweep if he’s feeling feisty.
Guarding tight ends has been an issue for Washington this year. 21 catches, 239 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Washington has been able to curb some of the damage done by inserting rookie Kamren Curl as an additional slot corner. But he is only one player that can cover so much ground.
If the defense can find a way to shutdown the tight ends, Los Angeles’ offense could stall keeping the score low enough for a defensive inspired win.
Game Prediction: I’ll come right and say what I said on Washington Football Today with Mike Callow on Wednesday night. I had Washington winning this game with Dwayne Haskins under center. But, with Kyle Allen as the call signal I am extremely hesitant to do so.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said during his press conference that with Allen behind center, it does not necessarily open up the playbook more. They just have a quarterback who can process things a little quicker. So, we will see the same thing play structure wise then we would have with Dwayne. The difference? Kyle Allen is turnover prone.
Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams defense feeds on quarterback pressures and creating turnovers. Something that Washington has proven they cannot overcome.
As Kurt Russell says while the movie Miracle while portraying legendary head coach Herb Brooks, “You think you can win on talent alone? Gentlemen, YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TALENT TO WIN ON TALENT ALONE!” And that is what has been translated from Ron’s press conference too. “We are what we are.” They are a bottom of the league offense with a defense that is looking mediocre because of terrible secondary and linebacker play. They are a 1-3 team.
Washington doesn’t have enough talent to keep up and goes on a 4-game losing streak.
Los Angeles 27 Washington 14
Game Info: Time: 1:00 PM EST – FedEx Field; Landover, MD
TV: FOX – Brandon Gaudin, Daryl Johnston, Pam Oliver
Radio: The Team 980, ESPN 630, 105.9 WMAL – Julie Donaldson, Bram Weinstein, DeAngelo Hall
Line: LAR -7.5; O/U 45.5
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Alan Lepore joins “Washington Football” on SI.com, while still doing outstanding work as an editor/writer at FullPressCoverage.com or @FPC_Redskins. You can follow him on Twitter @AlanLepore or on instagram @leporealan. Alan is a Villanova University MPA Nonprofit Management candidate and is a fundraising/development professional.