Few teams have more to prove than the Washington Football Team and its players in 2020, partly because Washington, in 2019, was proven to be nothing short of a disaster. There was a rigid disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff, a disregard for player development, and an unstable foundation that inevitably led to change.
Luckily for Washington, that change has yielded the light of a new era, as president Jason Wright, head coach Ron Rivera, and others appear ready to reset Washington’s culture and make it a desirable destination for the first time in decades.
Players, of course, can also help expedite that process. While player development should be improved under the new coaching staff, that doesn’t change the fact that many still have to prove themselves if they want to stick around. Here are three Washington players who have perhaps the most to prove in the 2020 season.
WR Steven Sims has a chance to show his value in 2020
Washington’s offense was statistically abysmal last year, and subsequently, expectations are fairly low for the 2020 season. Outside of Terry McLaurin, the entire team’s skill-position unit is made up of declining veterans, journeymen, and unproven young players.
If you set out to rank the skill-position units in the NFL, Washington’s group would surely be at or near the bottom. But one thing that could change is the performance of wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. in his second NFL campaign.
Sims managed to catch on as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas in 2019, first functioning as a kick returner before finding a role as an offensive weapon down the stretch. Sims totaled almost 400 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in his debut season, with 23 receptions, 259 receiving yards, and 4 scores in his final five games.
Sims flashed elite route running quickness and game-changing dynamism in his rookie season, but while he’s known among the locals, he hasn’t yet reached national notoriety as a playmaker. Sims will have to prove himself as a legitimate weapon in Washington’s receiving core in 2020. If he doesn’t, it could spell trouble not just for Sims’ career prospects, but for the offense’s performance as a whole.
Can Chase Young hit the ground running in Washington in 2020?
This choice may seem odd, as Chase Young seems like a proven entity on the surface. He was considered a can’t-miss prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft by many scouts, after accruing 16.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, and three pass deflections in his final collegiate season.
Just as Young’s solidity as a prospect provides him security, it also increases the weight of the expectations that he’ll have to shoulder heading into the 2020 regular season.
Make no mistake: Young deserved every bit of recognition he received in the lead-up to the draft. His tape showcased a supremely athletic player with the motor, bend, and length to be a game-changing defender. But the hype train hasn’t yet run out of fuel, and now some think Young could be in for a Pro Bowl campaign in Year 1, especially with Washington’s stacked defensive line by his side.
Young can’t just prove he belongs on the NFL stage. He has to prove that all of the hype was worth it. He has to prove that he has the potential to dominate against NFL competition. While that shouldn’t be hard for the No. 2 overall pick, his lowest moments will be magnified, same as his greatest ones.
Dwayne Haskins needs to use 2020 to prove he is one of the players for the future in Washington
Before he took the starting job late in the 2019 season, Dwayne Haskins was crumbling. He had no help from his supporting staff and coaching staff, and in a dysfunctional situation, he failed to retain the starting quarterback job from Case Keenum, throwing interceptions at a scarily high clip.
It wasn’t until Week 9, against the Buffalo Bills, that the team finally decided to pick Haskins and invest all of their resources into his progression. Haskins rewarded them when they did. He finished the 2019 season strong, completing 107 of 181 attempts for 1,225 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions in his seven starts. In the final two games of the season, Haskins’ passer rating comfortably surpassed 100.
The tape backed up Haskins’ statistical improvement, as he looked more confident as time went on. He became more decisive and poised and began to show flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick in 2019. In the 2020 offseason, he’s taken it ten steps further, having trimmed over ten pounds from his frame and authoritatively taking hold of the leadership duties a starting quarterback inherits.
Rivera had a chance to choose a clean slate over Haskins in the year’s early months, but instead, he opted to keep Haskins and issue a challenge to the young quarterback to earn his trust and subsequent opportunities. Haskins has done everything possible to accomplish that, but he’s far from finished.
In the coming 2020 regular season, Haskins is the Washington player with the most to prove. He’s not a franchise quarterback yet, but with a strong showing, he can prove his worth to his new coaching staff, and man Washington’s prestigious passing position for years on end.