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WFT Daily: Pro Football Focus Really Likes Washington's Rookies

Antonio Gibson runs downfield against the Los Angeles Rams. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)
Antonio Gibson runs downfield against the Los Angeles Rams. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.

Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.


The Washington Football Team's rookie class has the coaching staff's attention, head coach Ron Rivera said in a Sept. 28 videoconference, and he has been pleased with their growth so far. The coaches are not the only people who have their eyes on the team's 2020 draft picks, either, as Pro Football Focus has started to take notice of their performances.

Three of Washington's rookies -- Chase Young, Antonio Gibson and Kamren Curl -- have risen ahead of their peers and produced some of the highest grades at their positions. Young, the No. 2 overall pick in April, was widely expected to be one of the best pass-rushers in recent memory. However, Gibson and Curl, who were taken in the third and seventh rounds, respectively, have become pleasant surprises as valued pieces of Washington's youthful foundation.

Gibson, who leads the team with 213 rushing yards, is also the team's second-leading receiver behind Terry McLaurin. His Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) of 17% ranks seventh among running backs with a minimum of 40 rushing attempts, according to Football Outsiders.

PFF has Gibson ranked as the seventh-highest graded rookie through Week 5, putting him among the likes of wide receiver Justin Jefferson, quarterback Joe Burrow and safety Antoine Winfield Jr.

"The dynamic Gibson showed off his elusiveness once again in Week 5 with three broken tackles on his five catches, securing his standing as the NFL's highest-graded receiving back over the last two weeks," PFF's Anthony Treash wrote Tuesday. "Overall on the year, Gibson has averaged 10.6 yards after the catch, the second-best among 34 qualifying backs."

Curl, who was drafted No. 216 overall out of Arkansas, has impressed his coaches since training camp. Following the release of Washington's initial 53-man roster, Rivera said he saw consistent growth.

"He's got the nice size, the nice length. He progressed. Every day he seemed to get better. We just kept saying, 'He's got a high ceiling. He's not even scratching it yet.' So, we're excited."

Curl has been a heavy contributor on defense and special teams. Last week against the Rams, he played a season-high 53% of the defensive snaps. His 13 tackles are fifth among Washington's defensive backs.

But his coverage is where Curl has truly excelled this year. He has a grade of 63.5, which is third-highest among rookies.

"Kamren Curl is a guy that really has exceeded expectations. It's one of those things that this is a guy that not having the workouts I think is why he slipped and was where he was when we drafted him," Rivera said. "I think if he'd had the workouts, I think people would've seen a little bit more into him and he would've been drafted higher. So, he's a guy that we're very fortunate to have on the football team."

Young has received praise from PFF since the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the fifth-highest graded pass-rusher at his position for his four tackles and 1.5 sacks in Week 1, and he also received the third-best pass-rush grade PFF has ever given to a rookie in the first game of the season.

Prior to last week's game, Young was selected to PFF's All-Rookie team through the first quarter of the season.

"Young was as advertised before a groin injury slowed him, racking up eight pressures through two games before getting hurt early on in Week 3." PFF's Michael Renner wrote. "He's also collected six stops in the run game and looks like the complete all-around edge defender the Football Team needed."


-- Rivera acknowledges the players' disappointment amid 1-4 start: Washington has played good football teams in the first five games; its past four opponents have a combined record of 15-5. Rivera knows the players are disappointed, and that mostly stems from missed opportunities to be more competitive in those games. The players have acknowledged their play needs to improve in order to capitalize on those chances, and Rivera sees that as a positive step towards growth.

"Defensively, there were some third downs that we didn't stop them on. The players know that. Offensively, we had some plays where we didn't quite make it and we didn't convert. That's the disappointment. We didn't play up front as well as we would've liked to offensively. There are some things that we have to work on, we have to get shored up, and we have to get better at. Again, the disappointment is that we didn't play better."

-- Kendall Fuller believes Washington can make a run: Washington has a stretch of winnable games coming up starting with the New York Giants Oct. 18. That's followed by the Dallas Cowboys, a bye week, the Giants again, the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. It's an opportunity for Washington to get back to its winning ways and make a push for a playoff appearance. To Kendall Fuller, it's an attainable goal for the team.

"It definitely feels like it. Even after the loss, it still feels like it because we know there are a couple [of] series here or there...we know that if we just put it all together and play consistently, we can go out there and make a run. We've got three divisional games coming up. The key to getting into the playoffs is winning the division, so we've got to lock in these next three weeks."

-- J.D. McKissic is confident Washington's offense can bounce back: J.D. McKissic was frustrated after Sunday's loss to the Rams. His feelings were justified, as Washington only put up 108 yards of offense. That kind of production will rarely win games, and McKissic gave credit to the Rams for being prepared. Still, he feels confident in what the offense can do moving forward.

"I feel confident in us going forward. I'm so excited and ready to get back to it right now. Our guys came out healthy, and Wednesday we'll be right back to it."

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