The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.
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The Washington Football Team was already down Antonio Gandy-Golden when fellow rookie Isaiah Wright suffered an injury with 70 seconds remaining Sunday. And with just five wide receivers on the active roster, the team's only other option was Cam Sims, who entered the game with nine offensive snaps.
Three plays after Wright left the game, Sims was the outermost receiver in a bunch formation to the left. He burst about 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, broke towards the sideline and quickly turned back upfield, leaving veteran free safety Logan Ryan scrambling to recover. By that point, Kyle Allen had already floated his pass towards the back-left corner of the end zone. Sims ran under it for a 22-yard touchdown, bringing Washington within 20-19 in the final seconds.
A failed two-point conversion overshadowed the touchdown in the moment, but it should not discount the significance of Sims' first-career score.
"It was very rewarding because all of the hard work, you see that it's paying off," Sims told SVP of Media and Content Julie Donaldson on an episode of "Washington Football Today," which will air Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. "When I got in the end zone, I just lit up, and Logan [Thomas] and [Terry McLaurin], they were the first ones to come celebrate with me."
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 6 matchup against the New York Giants. (Photos courtesy of Josh Lobel/NFL, Courtney Rivera/Washington Football Team and John Minchillo/AP)
Sims, an undrafted free agent out of Alabama in 2018, has been making those types of plays the past three training camps.
It's how he made the initial 53-man roster as a rookie and remained with the team after missing nearly that entire season with an injury. He went back and forth between the practice squad and active roster, and he made two catches for 27 yards in seven games. Some thought this would be the season he developed into an offensive contributor.
That has not happened yet, but Sims has still made an impression on the new coaching staff. He was temporarily elevated from the practice squad for the first two games and was one of the team's best special teams players. That led to Washington bringing him up permanently when it placed Brandon Scherff on Injured Reserve Sept. 22.
"Cam is a great example of a player that is taking advantage of his role," special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor said last week. "I know that might sound like coach-speak, but his play and his play-making ability being enhanced and being viewed through the lens of special teams is just creating confidence. Any time confidence is created, it has a chance to enhance their performance. That certainly has happened with Cam. He's made some plays and started playing more confidently."
Kaczor said Sims' combination of speed and size makes him difficult to block, and that skillset is what differentiates him from Washington's other pass-catchers.
Plus, with injuries ravaging the wide receiver position, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Sims could receive more opportunities going forward. The timetable for Wright to return remains uncertain, but Rivera said Monday that Gandy-Golden will be out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Allen would likely welcome Sims into the lineup, as the two played together with the second-team offense throughout training camp. Their rapport was obvious Sunday, and it could be a connection fans see more of going forward.
"I just go to all the veteran guys or all the players who have been on the field more than me because they know what's been going on on the field, or they can just teach me new things that they see," Sims said. "Like [Terry McLaurin], for instance, he can tell me, like when we get on the field, how DBs are playing. And then I can go to [Dontrelle] Inman, and he can just tell me from experience of how the DB is going to play and how it's going to look."
The duo combined for four total tackles (two for loss) and four quarterback pressures -- the biggest of which came with the Giants threatening to go ahead, 20-10, late in the third quarter. With Young in his face, Jones tried to throw the ball out of the end zone, but Kendall Fuller made a diving interception to keep Washington within three.
For their efforts, Pro Football Focus ranked Young third and Sweat ninth among all edge defenders with grades of 88.8 and 79.7, respectively.
"I think his attention to detail, his preparation and his makeup allow him to be who he is," defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said of Young last week. "I think he's a really good football player. We're happy to have him back and active and ready to roll."
-- Washington among NFL's best passing defenses: Through six weeks, Washington ranks second in passing defense (207.0 yards allowed per game) and sixth in total defense (337.0). Yet in terms of points per game, the unit is tied for 18th.
The issue has been big plays, which continued in New York. The Giants' first touchdown was a 23-yard pass from Jones to wide receiver Darius Slayton, and later in the half, Jones' 49-yard scamper set up a field goal.
"It's two-fold, and it's got a lot to do with having the rush working at the same time as well," Rivera said after the Rams game on Oct. 11. "You've got to be able to stay in coverage and you've got to play your leverage in terms of the coverage that was called."
-- Rivera defines successful season: As head coach Ron Rivera has noted, Washington is in a unique situation. With a new coaching staff and a lot of young players, this was largely seen as a rebuilding year. But with the NFC East as bad as it is, Washington (1-5) is just one game back from first place. Considering both of these factors, Rivera recently explained what he would consider a successful season.
"Win as many games as we can, that's the first thing. Then the second thing is that these guys can step away and say, 'Wow, this is the culture that we're going to have. This is the way that we're going to do things. This is the way that we need to do things. This is our way.' That, to me, is important."
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