WFT's Projected Winners of Key Position BattlesAugust 16, 2021
WFT's Projected Winners of Key Position Battles
The Washington Football Team won the NFC East in 2020, but the team only finished with a 7-9 record. Accordingly, Washington made some significant roster changes in the offseason, including adding quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
While Fitzpatrick should hold off playoff standout Taylor Heinicke for the starting job, other key positions are less settled. We got an early look at some of them in Thursday's preseason opener against the New England Patriots.
Here we'll dive into three key position battles for the Football Team, break down the latest buzz and make predictions for how things will unfold ahead of Week 1.
Last year, Washington had the league's second-ranked defense, but it did uncover some uncertainty at the safety position. Prized 2019 addition and strong safety Landon Collins suffered a torn Achilles, which thrust then-rookie Kamren Curl into the starting role—and Curl thrived.
Curl finished his rookie campaign with 88 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions.
With Curl, Collins, Deshazor Everett and Bobby McCain on the roster, the safety position needs some sorting out. One key to the competition, though, is Collins' recovery. The good news there is that he was healthy enough to take the field against New England.
"It felt awesome to be back out there," Collins told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay (h/t Ethan Cadeaux of NBC Sports Washington). "Got my feet wet again. Got the bugs out."
With Collins healthy and Curl capable of playing both safety spots, it would be a relative shock if both aren't in the starting lineup for the season opener.
Prediction: Collins and Curl start Week 1.
Washington has an established No. 1 receiver in Terry McLaurin. Running back/receiver Curtis Samuel, who topped 1,000 scrimmage yards last season, is likely destined to start. This leaves a battle for the third spot between free-agent addition Adam Humphries and rookie third-round pick Dyami Brown.
Neither player showed a ton against New England, as Humphries caught one pass for six yards and Brown caught two for 16. The battle will likely continue through the preseason, though Humphries may have the early edge.
While Brown—who racked up 1,099 receiving yards at North Carolina last season—may have the greater upside, Humphries has prior chemistry with Fitzpatrick. They played together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their rapport has been apparent in camp.
"It's also very obvious why Ryan Fitzpatrick wanted Adam Humphries," Rhiannon Walker of The Athletic tweeted. "He's easily been his favorite target thus far, and they run a wicked two-man game with Humphries out of the slot."
There's always a chance that both Humphries and Brown will start over Samuel, but Humphries looks like a favorite to claim one starting spot Week 1.
Prediction: Humphries starts Week 1.
The Football Team should have its starting left tackle in offseason acquisition Charles Leno Jr. However, things are a little less settled on the right side after the release of longtime starter Morgan Moses. Vying to replace him are Saahdiq Charles, 2020 left tackle Cornelius Lucas and rookie second-round pick Samuel Cosmi.
At this point, the rookie out of Texas appears to have the early edge.
Cosmi shone against the Patriots, allowing no sacks and ranking first among tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. The performance came after Cosmi left behind some early struggles and thrived in training camp.
"Ron Rivera says he's really encouraged by Sam Cosmi holding his own today with pads on going against guys like Sweat and Young," Finlay tweeted. "Looked much more assertive today with more contact."
Making the jump from college to the NFL can be tough for rookie offensive linemen, but Cosmi has been tested by arguably the league's best pass rush. Unless he falls flat ahead of Week 1, he will likely start opposite Leno against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Prediction: Cosmi starts Week 1.