Perhaps more concerning, there didn’t seem to be any help coming in the immediate future — until Tuesday night, when the team signed Robert Foster off the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad. The 6-foot-2 Foster played 26 games over the past two seasons with the Buffalo Bills; he had 27 catches for 541 yards and three touchdowns in 2018 but managed only three catches for 64 yards in 2019. Foster is Washington’s ninth player from Alabama.
Foster won’t be able to help Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. He would have had to sign Monday afternoon to abide by the six-day quarantine rule imposed last week by the NFL. It seems Foster was one of Washington’s top choices, and it doesn’t appear the team is looking at established veterans. One of the best available free agents, Mohamed Sanu Sr., hasn’t heard from the team, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The team understood the threat of lacking depth before the season. It’s why it pursued Amari Cooper and signed Cody Latimer, though legal troubles led to the latter’s departure. For now, the team has three options for certain: a young star (Terry McLaurin), a veteran signed late in camp (Dontrelle Inman) and a third-year pro with six career targets (Cam Sims).
Washington could promote from the practice squad for Sunday’s game. Its options are Tony Brown, an undrafted rookie, or Jeff Badet, a young journeyman who most recently appeared in the XFL. If Washington doesn’t sign a free agent or trade for help before the Nov. 3 deadline, it will go forward with one of the league’s thinnest units. It could wait for the returns of Gandy-Golden and Steven Sims Jr. (toe), who is eligible to come off the injured list after the bye week.
Washington plans to stick with Dustin Hopkins at kicker. Hopkins’s missed field goal from 47 yards Sunday helped put the offense, which needs all the help it can get, in a bad position late. This was Hopkins’s second missed field goal in three games, but Rivera was emphatic about his kicker: “I’m not considering making a change,” he said.
This season has been somewhat of a struggle for Hopkins. In six games, his percentage of made field goals and extra points (80) ranks second worst of any kicker with more than six field goal attempts (in front of only Stephen Gostkowski of the Tennessee Titans, at 77.4 percent). Hopkins hasn’t missed any gimmes — he is 4 for 4 from inside 40 yards — but the inconsistency from long range is detrimental to a team with an offense that needs pick-me-ups.
After a dominant Week 1, the pass rush has slowed significantly. Washington’s sack total might look impressive — 16, good for eighth in the league — but the number is inflated by the team’s dominance against the Philadelphia Eagles’ beat-up offensive line. Washington has as many sacks in the past five weeks combined as it had in Week 1 (eight). This trend somewhat tracks with other pass rush stats, such as pressures and quarterback hits.
This issue is exacerbated by the fact that when Washington can’t sack the quarterback, it has a hard time getting to him at all. The team is averaging 1.3 quarterback knockdowns per game, which is tied for the second-worst rate in the league, according to Sportradar. Nearly every quarterback the defense has faced has had one of his best days of the season against this unit.
Perhaps this is best summed up by what Rivera said after the loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. He attributed the defense’s lone sack to the Rams’ outside-zone running scheme getting the defensive line to play horizontal rather than vertical.
“There were some good things in the pass rush,” he said. “There were some disappointments.”
Daniel Jones’s run for 49 yards Sunday was not a fluke. The Giants quarterback hit 20.64 mph, according to Next Gen Stats, which is elite speed for the position. Washington is familiar with Jones, who is 3-0 against it during his career, but he hadn’t flashed his running ability before. The defense should get prepared for Jones’s running ability in the teams’ rematch in Week 9 — of the top seven quarterback speeds recorded this season by Next Gen, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has four and Jones has the other three. After the game, wide receiver Darius Slayton called his quarterback “Daniel Jackson.”
Nicki Jhabvala contributed to this report.
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