By all accounts, the Washington Football Team's offense has not been good through five games.
Washington ranks last in the NFL in total offense (263.0 yards per game), 31st in rushing and 30th in passing. During its current four-game losing streak, it has averaged 15.5 points per game. For the season, all but three teams are averaging at least 20.
But if there was ever a stretch for Washington to find its offensive identity, it would be over the next several games. Its first five opponents have a combined record of 16-7-1; its next four are 4-14-1, starting with the winless New York Giants on Sunday.
"Disappointed," head coach Ron Rivera said of the team's mindset, "but let's look at who we lost to. Everybody that we lost to has a winning record. We're playing good football teams. That's the big thing, and that's what we're working to be is one of those kinds of teams."
Washington (1-4) has already played the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 scoring defenses this season. Against its other two opponents -- the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns -- it averaged 23.5 points, and would have scored more if not for four turnovers against the Browns.
The Giants, while boasting a top 10 total defense, rank in the bottom half of the league with 26.6 points allowed per game, so there will be opportunities for Washington to find its offensive rhythm.
There should be even more chances in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) and in Week 10 versus the Detroit Lions (1-3) -- two of the worst defenses in the league in several categories. In between, Washington hosts the Giants and has its bye week, giving itself extra time to rest before going up against the Lions and Cincinnati Bengals.
"Just staying on pace and staying on schedule," running bac J.D. McKissic said about the keys for the offense going forward. "Not hurting ourselves. Doing things like that, you give yourself a chance, and that's something to be excited about."
Much of executing offensively comes down to following the game plan, and bad starts have forced Washington to stray from its ideal identity. The team has trailed by double digits at halftime in every game this season and has spent about 52% of total game time down by more than one score (at least nine points).
These circumstances have forced Washington to throw more, which has allowed opposing defenses to pressure the quarterback without fear of losing the lead or falling further behind. As a result, Washington's quarterbacks have been sacked an average of 4.2 times per game, according to TeamRankings.com -- the second-highest total in the league. Its rushing offense has also suffered, as it ranks near the bottom in attempts per game (23.4) and yards per carry (3.5).
But over the next several weeks, the offense should be able to play more to its strengths, which includes getting the ball to its playmakers in space. According to ESPN NFL analyst Mike Clay, Washington has the second-easiest schedule the rest of the season.
"I'm taking a shot at the short-term for the short-term glory," Rivera said last week regarding the quarterback change. "If we come out of this having won three of the four, we're right in the middle of it. I just think now is the chance to take that shot and see."
This begets perhaps the biggest part of the offensive equation: Kyle Allen. In addition to playing faulty defenses, Washington now has a starting signal-caller who has been in Scott Turner's system for the past three seasons. That familiarity paid off against the Rams, when Allen avoided negative plays, completed nine of his 13 passes and ran for a score that put his team ahead at the end of the first quarter.
Allen was knocked out of the game with an arm injury before halftime, but Rivera saw enough from Allen in his Washington debut to stick with him entering this crucial stretch. The coaching staff is hoping that Allen's play, combined with a much-easier schedule, will keep Washington in contention in a wide-open NFC East.
"I thought I saw it," Rivera said when asked if the offense made a jump with Allen under center. "I thought the scoring drive that Kyle led us on was good. I thought he made good decisions. He delivered a good ball for the most part. Unfortunately, the next time we got another drive going he got knocked out of the game, but again, it's what we're looking for. He managed it well. We'll see how things go."