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. Stay up to date with "WFT Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
It was not clear exactly what was going on with Alex Smith in the first half of the Washington Football Team's game against the San Francisco 49ers, but it was obvious that something was not right.
It was later announced that Smith, who successfully came back from a life-threatening leg injury, was experiencing some muscle tightness in his surgically-repaired leg, and that's why he went into the locker room slightly before the rest of the team at halftime. So, for the first time since Oct. 4, Dwayne Haskins Jr. stepped onto the field and took a knee to close out the half and was the starting quarterback for the rest of Washington's 23-15 win. He finished the game 7-of-12 for 57 yards.
Haskins admitted the past 10 weeks have been challenging for him. In the time since he was relieved of his duties as the starting quarterback, he has tried to be the best version of himself and focus on climbing back to being a starter once again. With the team waiting to see what Smith's status will be for the rest of the week, there's a chance Haskins could be in that position. He has tried to spend as much time as possible to make sure he is ready for that opportunity.
"I've been working on ways to get better outside of the facility, staying longer at the facility, trying to prove to these coaches that I can be reliable and be someone that can lead this team," Haskins said. "That's what I've been working on since everything has happened."
Haskins said he is trying to grow in every aspect. He knows he is not a finished product and wants to be as great as the quarterbacks who play every Sunday. So, he's been throwing with players who used to be on Washington's practice squad to simulate reps so he can be ready whenever his number was called. On the practice field, he can be seen behind plays shadowing Smith's movements.
"Did a whole bunch of different stuff that I felt like [it] helped today," Haskins said. "I felt like I was in pretty good rhythm, despite not really playing the last couple of weeks. That's all I wanted to do was be in somewhat of a rhythm going back on the field so I could help this team win."
With Washington opening the second half with a 16-7 lead, Haskins delivered his first pass to J.D. McKissic for a 13-yard gain. He followed that up with a 12-yard completion to Logan Thomas. Haskins finished the possession 2-of-4, but he led an 11-play drive that ended with a 21-yard field goal.
Haskins reiterated that his performance wasn't perfect, but he was thankful and grateful for the way the defense played and how his teammates rallied around him. He also added that he has grown as a person, which is where he said he has grown the most.
"This is the most adversity I've faced since coming into this world. I lean on a lot of people, a lot of mentors, family, close ones. I prayed and I prayed again. I'm just glad that I'm able to be here right now and tell you guys that I'm thankful. That's all I care about right now."
Head coach Ron Rivera said Washington will monitor Smith's progress throughout the week. Should the veteran be unable to play, Rivera believes Haskins "will be ready."
"He'll get an opportunity to focus in, and the game plan will be directed toward Dwayne. We'll see how that goes. We'll kind of look at that and go from here."
Washington's win over the 49ers puts it in first place in the NFC East, and Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks provides a chance to strengthen that lead. That, no matter who is playing quarterback, is the most important thing to Haskins.
"There were definitely some throws I wish could have been completed, but it's all good," Haskins said. "We get an opportunity to play next week, and whether I'm playing or not, I'm just thankful for this opportunity."
Check out photos of the Washington Football Team during its Week 14 matchup against the San Fransisco 49ers. (Photos courtesy of Courtney Rivera/Washington Football Team, Riley Trujillo/NFL, Dylan Burns/NFL and Hans Rodriguez/NFL)
-- Chase Young and Montez Sweat have a budding partnership: Rivera said Chase Young and Montez Sweat are intense in practice. That can make him cringe at times, but playing full speed is just their nature. There might be a little competition between the two first-round picks, but their relationship has mostly been about collaboration. Rivera recalled one particular moment in practice when one tipped the ball to the other, who then ran it back for a touchdown. That sort of teamwork is what excites Rivera about the duo.
"One guy does something and the other guy feeds off of it, and the next thing you know it's successful. That's pretty exciting. We've got a way to go, but to see them play that way in practice and practice that way and prepare that way -- it's not just them, but it's the team in general. You perform and you practice at a high level, hopefully it carries over into Sunday."
-- Another Pro Bowl nod for Tress Way: Tress Way has a history of being one of the most reliable punters in the NFL, and he has lived up to that reputation in his seventh season with 60 punts for 2,907 yards with an average of 48.5 yards per punt, which is the second-best of his career. He was called upon eight times against the 49ers, including one punt that pinned San Francisco at its own 8-yard line. That's what Rivera has come to expect from the Pro Bowl punter, and if the decision were up to him, Way would get the second Pro Bowl nod of his career. (You can vote for Way to make the Pro Bowl, HERE.)
"First of all, it takes a little pressure off you in terms of decision making. But the beauty of a guy who can flip the field, can eliminate the possibility of a return, a big return -- that's impactful. ...I know last year he made it to the Pro Bowl, and in my opinion, deservedly so. I think he deserves it again."
-- No identity but "team": Following Washington's 41-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Rivera was asked if the team had formed an identity yet. He was quick to answer "no," saying his players were still growing and developing. But things have changed slightly since then. Washington beat the previously undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the 49ers, who represented the NFC in Super Bowl LIV. Rivera was asked the question of identity again Monday, and this time he had an answer: "Yeah. We're the Washington Football Team."
"I really think it's 'team.' We talk about it -- one side has stepped up and played well. One position has played well, picked up the other positions. A guy gets hurt, somebody steps up and does their job like the 'next-man mentally.' On the offensive line, we've had it in the secondary, we've had it at running back, we've had it at wide receiver. We've had those types of things. That's all part of coming together and being a team."
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