The Washington Football Team will have to go without one of its most versatile weapons against the Las Vegas Raiders.
J.D. McKissic, who suffered a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday day, was ruled out Friday afternoon after missing a week of practice. Given that McKissic is the team's second-most productive pass-catcher this season, it's a serious blow to the Washington offense.
Head coach Ron Rivera is confident in the rest of Washington's running backs to pick up the load, though, and he even has a player in mind who could fill the role, if he's elevated from the practice squad: Wendell Smallwood.
"I think his skillset is similar in a lot of respects to what J.D. does well," Rivera said.
Smallwood, who's been in the league since 2016, was signed to Washington's practice squad on Nov. 2, but it's not the first time Smallwood has suited up for the burgundy and gold. He was on the team in 2019 and appeared in 15 games. He was used in a limited role, but in the two games he received more extended work -- Week 5 against New England and Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers -- he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Against the 49ers, he even caught a screen pass that resulted in an 18-yard gain.
"We thought Smallwood played really well," interim head coach Bill Callahan said of Smallwood's performance in 2019. "He was really functional in the passing game in terms of protection and pickup. He knew where to be, his check downs were in order."
Throughout his career, Smallwood has proven that he can be a dual threat out of the backfield. Nearly a third of his total yards have come through the air, and he averages 8.1 yards per reception.
"I like who he is," Rivera said. "I mean, he's a guy that's kind of a tweener in terms of, he looks like a good sized back that could come in and do some things. But then on the other side, he shows a nimbleness in terms of route running and catching the ball."
The Washington Football Team continues its week of practice leading up to its matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
Smallwood knows that getting a chance to play in the NFL is a rare commodity. After all, his last rushing attempt was with Washington two years ago. Smallwood would need to be elevated to the active roster to be eligible to play against the Raiders, but if Washington decides to make that move, Smallwood will make the most of it.
"You gotta be ready for any opportunity," Smallwood said in 2019. "Nothing is guaranteed in this league for anybody around here. So I'm definitely all about taking advantage of your opportunities, especially with me."
It also doesn't hurt that running backs coach Randy Jordan has already seen what Smallwood can do with more carries.
"Randy Jordan has a tremendous amount of confidence in him and because of that," Rivera said, "if we had to play him, I wouldn't be concerned."