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.
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The Washington Football Team is banged up at wide receiver. Its first blow was dealt before training camp when Kelvin Harmon tore his ACL. Then, Steven Sims Jr. was placed on Injured Reserve. Now, Antonio Gandy-Golden and Isaiah Wright -- two of the team's emerging players -- did not participate in Wednesday's practice.
With the likely possibility Washington will need to keep up with the Dallas Cowboys' No. 1-ranked offense on Sunday, many receivers who have seen little to no time on the field will have a chance to play. The coaching staff's message to them: be ready and prepare yourself to take advantage of the opportunity.
"That's part of what this league's about," offensive coordinator Scott Turner told local media. "Guys have got to step up, and we've got to do a great job of preparing some of these guys who haven't played as much to make sure that they know what they're supposed to do and they're able to play fast and execute."
Terry McLaurin and Dontrelle Inman remain in place as the team's No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, respectively. The players behind them, however, are a motley crew of practice squad players and undrafted free agents. The list includes Cam Sims, Jeff Badet and Tony Brown. Sims is the only player among that trio who has seen the field.
Quarterback Kyle Allen said those players will need to be ready for the chance to play, but he also believes there should be a group effort to make sure everyone is prepared for Sunday.
"It's on me, it's on the coaches, it's on the other players in that room, it's on the leader just to make sure throughout the week that whatever their responsibilities are for that week, they're 100 percent ready to go," he said. "Hopefully, these guys take advantage of the opportunity. I know the guys that we're bringing up...have all the talent to do it."
Turner said being without certain receivers doesn't necessarily limit the offense, but it does force the calls to be more specific.
"You just try to take the burden off of younger guys, not trying to ask too much of them. There's always a fine line. You want to give yourself a chance to be successful, but not do too much where you're putting your guys in jeopardy."
Sims has only caught five passes in his three-year career, but he has proven to be a reliable player who the coaching staff knows can operate in the offense. He caught his first-career touchdown from Allen last week against the New York Giants, which brought Washington within one point of tying the score.
Badet and Brown are more unproven commodities who signed with Washington prior to the start of the season but both flashed talent in their college careers. Brown caught 56 passes for 707 yards and five touchdowns with Colorado in 2019, while Badet had 1,851 total yards of offense and 10 touchdowns with Kentucky and Oklahoma. Badet was also the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 XFL Draft and is known for his blazing 4.27 40-yard dash time.
Turner said the team will continue to evaluate its options at the position, but right now Sims, Badet and Brown all have a chance of being a part of Washington's game plan Sunday. They will need to be ready for that possibility.
"We'll see how they handle it," head coach Ron Rivera said, "and we'll see how many opportunities they get on Sunday."
-- "Anything goes" for Rivera in a divisional matchup: The Cowboys have one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, but their defense has been one of the worst through six games. The team is 27th in total defense (410.0 yards per game), last in scoring defense (36.3 points per game) and last in turnover differential (-12). There is a chance for Washington's offense, which has also struggled, to have a better game. Rivera isn't taking the matchup lightly, though, because anything can happen in a divisional game.
"You've got to be careful with that crap. I really do think that. I've never bought into that. These are professional football players. There is a sense of pride, and this is a rivalry matchup. Anything goes. Within the division, to me, all bets are off."
-- The origin of Allen's mental toughness: Allen has had a winding and turbulent playing career. He was Arizona's No. 1 prospect in high school who fought for a starting role, was named the starting quarterback in his second season at Texas A&M and then benched in the same season. He then transferred to Houston, where he was named the starting quarterback in 2017 and then benched in Week 3. Then he had to fight for a roster spot with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent. Allen has developed a mental toughness throughout those experiences, and it has become part of who he is as a player.
"I think I'm a lot better just for going through those things. I think it shows up a lot on Sundays now. So, I think the mental side of the game, obviously at quarterback, the decision-making is huge, but at the same time the mental toughness part is just as big, and I pride myself in that area."
-- Danny Johnson is looking to score on every kickoff return: Kickoff returns aren't normally part of Danny Johnson's repertoire, but he's getting opportunities for the first time since his rookie season. He had four returns for 70 yards against the Giants for an average of 17.5 yards. He has shown he has the ability to break loose before; he had a 40-yard return in 2018 and had 12 returns for 283 yards. He hasn't scored a touchdown yet, but that's certainly one of his goals.
"I'm thinking, 'to the house.' I always wanna take it to the house. Whenever we get our break [on special teams], we always say, 'to the house on three.' So for me, if I see that window and I can hit it and catch a crease and take it to the house, that's always first."
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