WFT Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2021

WFT Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

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    Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team won the NFC East last season and will look to build on that 7-9 campaign in 2021. The challenge of repeating as division champion will begin Thursday, when the Football Team opens its preseason against the New England Patriots.

    While starters don't often see extensive playing time in the preseason opener, Washington plans to play many of its first-stringers against New England.

    "We're gonna play our guys on Thursday," head coach Ron Rivera said, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk. "I'll tell you that right now. I mean, it's a great opportunity. It's against a very good football team. Well coached. So I'm excited about that potential."

    Fans may not get a glimpse of every starter Thursday, but several key contributors are likely to take the field. Here are three worth following as Washington kicks off its 2021 preseason.

LB Jamin Davis

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    Teams and fans are generally excited to see rookie first-round picks take the playing field for the first time. For Washington, this experience will involve former Kentucky linebacker Jamin Davis.

    Davis, who was selected 19th overall, is expected to help boost a defense that ranked second overall in 2020. He could be a difference-maker at the next level, and he began impressing once Washington moved to padded practice in camp.

    "He put the pads on, and he just kept running into people," Rivera said, per Nicki Jhabvala and Emely Hernandez of the Washington Post. "I mean, that's his mentality, and that's what you're looking for in guys."

    On Thursday, Davis will get the opportunity to hit players in different-colored jerseys for the first time as a pro.

WR Dyami Brown

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    While Washington's defense was dominant in 2020, its passing attack left plenty to be desired. The Football Team ranked just 25th in passing yards and 30th in yards per attempt. Receivers Curtis Samuel and rookie Dyami Brown were added this offseason to improve the unit.

    While fans will be eager to see Samuel, Brown should be the bigger preseason draw. The third-round pick out of North Carolina is an explosive pass-catcher who racked up 1,099 receiving yards in 11 games last season. He has the potential to be a dynamic perimeter target opposite No. 1 receiver Terry McLaurin.

    "Overall, Brown projects as an outside-only WR who will bring a vertical threat right away to an NFL offense with the room and traits to develop into a very good No. 2 option," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.

    Brown should get his first taste of NFL action against a well-coached Patriots secondary. New England ranked eighth in passing yards allowed last season.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    There might not be a player fans want to see more than quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. If the Football Team hopes to be relevant in more than just the NFC East, it will need to see improved play from the quarterback position. This is where Fitzpatrick comes into play.

    The 38-year-old journeyman has never established himself as a franchise quarterback, but he's been a serviceable starter in his past couple of stops. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018, he started seven games and posted a passer rating of 100.4. With the Miami Dolphins last season, he started seven games, went 4-3 as a starter and posted a rating of 95.6.

    Collectively, Washington's quarterbacks had a passer rating of 80.1 last season.

    This is a new team and a new supporting cast for Fitzpatrick. Building chemistry ahead of the regular season will be critical, and the process is going to continue against the Patriots on Thursday.