WFT's Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2021 NFL Season

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2021

WFT's Position Battles to Watch Ahead of 2021 NFL Season

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    Susan Walsh/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team only won seven games in 2020, but it did take home the NFC East division title. While some may consider Washington's playoff berth a fluke, the reality is that it was no accident. The Football Team boasted the league's second-ranked defense and could be even better in 2021.

    Adding new pieces to the receiving corps and bringing in veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick should go a long way toward bringing balance to the roster. The tricky part will be selecting the best 53 players to carry into the regular season.

    Most of the 2020 defensive starters should retain their positions, and Fitzpatrick was signed to be the starter. However, there are some unsettled spots that will be determined during organized team activities, training camp and the preseason.

    Here you'll find a look at three of the biggest position battles to watch heading into the 2021 regular season.

Offensive Tackle

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    Solidifying the offensive line should be one of Washington's biggest goals this offseason. Fitzpatrick is a 38-year-old quarterback, and keeping him healthy could be the key to a successful 2021 campaign. This will require finding the right starting tackle combination, and there should be competition at both spots.

    Geron Christian, who started six games in 2020, was released earlier this offseason. More recently, the Football Team parted with Morgan Moses, who started all 16 games at right tackle. According to head coach Ron Rivera, Washington is looking to get new and/or younger players into the lineup.

    "Nothing other than we're just going in a different direction," Rivera said, per Ryan Holder of NBC Sports Washington. "We have an opportunity to get some young guys on the field."

    Cornelius Lucas, who started eight games at left tackle last season, will be back. Washington also signed former Chicago Bears starter Charles Leno Jr. and drafted Samuel Cosmi in the second round. Saahdiq Charles and Rick Leonard should also be in the mix as Washington searches for two starters out of the group.

Wide Receiver

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Fitzpatrick will have his No. 1 target in Terry McLaurin. However, the depth behind McLaurin at wide receiver will need to be settled. While McLaurin racked up 1,118 receiving yards in 2020, Cam Sims was next among Washington wideouts with just 477 yards.

    Sims will be back in 2021. As will Kelvin Harmon, who missed the 2020 season with a torn ACL. This offseason, Washington signed Curtis Samuel and used a third-round pick on North Carolina's Dyami Brown.

    Samuel, a hybrid runner/receiver who previously played for Rivera with the Carolina Panthers, should have the inside track on the slot job. Harmon and Sims will likely compete to start opposite McLaurin, though the promising Brown will be in the mix because of his deep-threat ability.

    "Brown is best on vertical routes where he can utilize his buildup speed and also his good body control and catching range to extend and high-point throws," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    The good news is that while the pecking order has to be settled, this should be a far more potent receiving corps than the one Washington rolled out last season.


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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    While most of Washington's defensive spots should be settled, there will likely be some competition to sort out the safety group. This is largely because prized 2019 acquisition Landon Collins missed nine games last year with a torn Achilles.

    Washington signed Collins to a six-year, $84 million deal to be its long-term answer at strong safety. When Collins went out, though, then-rookie Kamren Curl stepped in and played wonderfully. Curl, a seventh-round pick out of Arkansas, started 11 games and finished with 88 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and a defensive touchdown. He allowed an opposing passer rating of just 82.3.

    Washington also has Troy Apke, who started seven games in 2020, Jeremy Reaves and Deshazor Everett at safety. It used a fifth-round pick on rookie Darrick Forrest as well.

    Washington may look for a way to get Curl and Collins on the field together in 2021, but figuring out who plays where and how the depth shakes out is the key to this competition.