After months of preparation, the Washington Football Team is finally kicking off Week 1 of the 2021 season, starting with a home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. The offense has retooled its arsenal with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starting quarterback, while the defense is primed to have another exemplary season after finishing No. 2 in yards allowed in 2020. Here's where analysts have placed Washington in Year 2 Ron Rivera's tenure.
Cam Mellor: "The NFL's top pass-rushing unit and top defensive line as a whole belong to Washington. Chase Young could easily win Defensive Player of the Year this season, while first-round LB Jamin Davis could just as easily win Defensive Rookie of the Year. William Jackson III's arrival in the secondary shores up a loose end in the secondary."
Vinnie Iyer: "Washington won't be sub-.500 again as it threatens the Cowboys with its own explosive offense as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick facilitates its many playmakers. There's already a strong defensive backbone for Ron Rivera's team with Chase Young and others."
Analysis: "Washington remains the highest-ranked NFC East club."
Danny Kelly: "An already fearsome defense (which ranked third in DVOA last year) got even better over the offseason with the additions of cornerback William Jackson and first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. The offseason move that could really put this team over the top, though, is the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing. The wiley veteran will be helming a talented offense featuring Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, Logan Thomas, and Curtis Samuel -- and if this group can manage even league-average efficiency after finishing dead last in DVOA in 2020, it should make Washington the clear favorites in the NFC East."
Nick Goss: "An excellent defense, which ranked No. 2 in yards allowed and No. 4 in points allowed, carried Washington to an NFC East crown despite a 7-9 record. Washington should be right back in the division title mix this season with an improved offense that will receive better quarterback play after the offseason addition of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Running back Antonio Gibson also is poised for a breakout campaign, and Terry McLaurin has shown signs of being a legit No. 1 wide receiver. Don't sleep on Washington this season."
Randy Gurzi: "There were a lot of teams that used the preseason finale as a dress rehearsal since they get a bye week before the regular season kicks off. That wasn't the case for the Washington Football Team as they rested all of their starters in their final game against the Baltimore Ravens ... Now they can start preparing for their season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers as they aim to defend their 2020 NFC East title. And they would probably like to also try and win that with a record that's better than the 7-9 they finished with last year."
Rank: 20 (as of Aug. 24)
John Keim: "He's the clear starter ahead of Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, but [Ryan] Fitzpatrick -- with his ninth franchise -- remains a quarterback with much to prove. Washington harbors playoff aspirations, and Fitzpatrick has never led a team to the postseason in 16 years ... Fitzpatrick has impressed new teammates with his knowledge and communication skills, and the receivers like that he'll be aggressive."
Rank: 24 (as of Aug. 11)
Dan Hanzus: "There might not be a more promising young pass-rushing duo in football entering 2021 than what Washington has in Chase Young and Montez Sweat -- or Young & Sweaty, as I will refer to them from this point forward. Sweat told reporters on Tuesday that he and Young have set a goal to break the NFL's single-season sack record for a duo (Chris Doleman and Keith Millard combined for 39 sacks for the 1989 Vikings). "We got two dynamic players on one line. You can make things happen," Sweat said."