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Week 4 - Studs, Duds, and Hat Tips

McKissic for the win

Canadian Hog

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After four weeks of the NFL season, the Burgundy and Gold finds themselves at 2-2 following a heart-racing and exciting comeback win in Atlanta yesterday. While things have definitely not been easy or always pretty thus far this year, as WFT fans, we should be content with where we are right now in the standings. That 2-2 record is truly reflective of a team still in the early phases in their growth process, and we should accept that. It is a long season and you take wins in whatever manner you can get them. The fact remains that with a really daunting schedule ahead, we are going to have to try and keep our heads above water heading into the run of division games in December. That will give us a chance, and the victory in Atlanta was a step towards achieving that. It's a game of inches and the reality is, we could easily be 0-4 minus a bounce here or there going our way. With Canadian Thanksgiving just a week away, I am very thankful for that! Let's take a look at this week's studs, duds, and those who deserve a quick tip of the hat for their performances in Georgia.

Studs:

1. Terry McLaurin: This guy has franchise player written all over him. I truly believe he will go down as one of the all-time great players in Burgundy and Gold history. In both of our victories, early in the contests, the WFT looked out of sorts and destined for disappointment. However, in both situations, it was Terry McLaurin who woke the team up and gave them a jolt with his excellent impact play. Down 10 points to Atlanta, McLaurin was able to get open for receptions of 21 and 33 yards, on the 7 play, 77 yard drive that led to his first TD reception. It sparked the team and put us right back into the contest. Elite players make impact plays at the most crucial of moments in a game, and Terry consistently does that. You saw that on display again in the 4th quarter where his heart, will, and determination allowed him to shake away from a defender to grab the touchdown pass that Heinicke put up for grabs in the endzone when we were down 30-22. He is a leader in every way imaginable. In the locker room post game, he thanked his teammates for picking him up after a 4th quarter drop. That's leadership. We have a special one in #17 who embodies everything that Rivera wants to create in terms of culture in Washington.

2. JD McKissic: put up your hand if you have heard this one before - JD McKissic is a playmaker and provides this offence with a bit of electricity every time he is given an opportunity. While not much of a factor in the run game yesterday, McKissic had 5 catches for 44 yards, and made two of the biggest plays in the ball game. The first being the 3rd and 9 reception late in the contest where he showed some nice moves and great effort to pick up a first down. It eventually set up the previously mentioned McLaurin TD to make it a two point game. Obviously, his game winning TD reception on 3rd and 7 where he scampered for 30 yards and dove for the pylon was also a thing of beauty. McKissic is clutch and steps up in big moments in ball games. I hope this organization is thinking long and hard about keeping him around in Washington for a bit longer. He gives that running back room a bit of juice.

3. Deandre Carter: we have been saying through the first three weeks of the season that we have liked what we have seen from Carter in various instances in the return game. Yesterday, he confirmed that our eyes were not lying to us with an amazing 101 yard kickoff return for a TD. It has been a long time since a returner has shown this much promise in DC, and it is a necessary and welcomed addition. What I loved most about the Carter TD is that it could have not come at a better or more critical juncture in the game. After going down 10-0, we seemed to gain control of the contest and eventually took a 13-10 lead. However, our soft defensive approach basically gave the Falcons a go-ahead TD right before halftime. At 17-13, a bit of wind was taken out of our sails going into the locker room, and Carter could not have timed that special teams TD any more perfectly. Talk about a pick-me-up! A huge shout out to Carter as well for contributing on offence with a critical 24 yard catch over the middle late in the game.

4. Taylor Heinicke: I would contend that this wasn't a perfect game from Heinicke, but I am not sure that perfection should really be the expectation from a player making his 5th career pro start. Yes, there were some misses and yes, there was a play or two where he almost got a receiver killed. As well, there were a few occasions in the game where when he took off to run, he likely could have gotten a few more yards and converted those into first downs; however, as a result of taking in what coaches have been preaching in regards to protecting himself, he slid or went out of bounds a bit early. All that being said, Heinicke was a huge reason for our team's success yesterday. Down 30-22 with approximately 9 minutes remaining, he stayed as calm, cool, and collected as can be. He used his legs when he needed to, found open guys, and orchestrated a great comeback. Here's something cool to consider - Heinicke led the team on 73, 77, 75, and 76 yard scoring drives yesterday (3 TDs, 1 FG). When was the last time we can say we had a QB that drove us down the field for four 70 plus yard scoring drives in a game? That's a welcomed addition for sure and it's nice knowing you have a shot of producing points no matter where you are in terms of field position with Heinicke in command.

Duds:

1. The Secondary: for the 3rd week in a row, the WFT gave up 29 or more points yesterday. While not the sole reason for the poor defensive performance of our team this year, the defensive backfield has struggled mightily. Yesterday, many of our guys had their fingers in the cake. Landon Collins continues to struggle, this week having a hard time bringing down Cordarelle Patterson on one of this three touchdowns yesterday. Granted, it was a hard play asking him to come across the field to handle Patterson, but the fact is that at the professional level you can't afford to miss tackles at critical moments. Collins has adequate experience and is paid too much to be making that mistake at this point in his career. Bobby McCain blew a coverage from the Safety position as well, allowing Patterson to basically haul in another touchdown where I don't think there was a single WFT defender even on the screen when he caught it. Communication continues to be an issue. William Jackson as a high-priced free-agent also had his share of struggles in one-on-ones again, and got flagged once for pass interference. So too did Torry McTyer, who had his hands full all day and was flagged for PI on a critical 3rd down on one of the Falcons' scores. There was a lot of overhaul with this unit, several new faces, and we can only hope that as the season wears on, they will begin clicking as a group.

2. Chase Young: our prized 2nd overall pick from a year ago makes his way onto this list unfortunately for the second week in a row. As has been the case virtually all season long, Young continues to get neutralized and can't seem to get to the Quarterback with any sort of consistency. We were optimistic about that finally happening yesterday, given that Matt Ryan does not have the escapeability from the pocket that several of the other QBs we will face this year do. Unfortunately, when Young finally did have his chance to put his stamp on the game with a free run at Ryan, as opposed to wrapping him up to bring him down, he love tapped him near the facemask, resulting in a roughing the passer call that led to an eventual Falcons TD and almost sealed our team's fate. Young talked about ending the BS this week as a team. It starts with him and he has to get his head in the game.

3. Dustin Hopkins: Rivera's hands are continuing to squeeze tighter and tighter around Hopkins' neck with every additional missed attempt. It would have been really hard to listen to any WFT analysis this week had Hopkins' two extra point misses factored into a loss. At the end of the day, he is a Jeckyll and Hyde kicker and I am not sure how long a team can survive in an NFL season with that type of player on their roster. Will we see the end of the Dustin Hopkins era in DC before the season is over?

Hat Tips:

1. Cole Holcomb: It is hard to justify putting a defensive player on a stud list when your team gives up 30 points. That being said, Holcomb probably played his best game of the season yesterday. Early on, it looked like it was going to be a Kyle Pitts kind of day and one of those ones where the opposing team's TE feasts on us. However, Holcomb disrupted him just enough early on to prevent a potential endzone grab and after that Pitts was relatively quiet. In fact, Holcomb's coverage was pretty solid all day and a definite step in the right direction moving forward.

2. Curtis Samuel: The stat line suggests he had an underwhelming game in his first contest for the Burgundy and Gold. 4 catches for 19 yards is pretty pedestrian. However, Samuel converted for a 1st down on 3 of those catches. Two were on 3rd down and another was a 4th down conversion. Moving forward, as he gets more acclimated to the team, hopefully greater things are in store for our free agency acquisition.

3. Daron Payne: In the Falcons final drive where they were trying to position themselves to take a few shots at the endzone, Payne made a pretty good hustle play tracking down Ryan on a 17 yard scramble. More importantly, he played heads up football in that scenario and showed really good situational awareness by making absolutely zero effort to get up off Ryan (knowing they had zero timeouts) and allowing the refs to spot the ball.

That's it for this week! Thoughts? Who did we miss?
 

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Boone

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Gotta give a tip of the hat to Adam Humphries. In both of our comeback wins this season, he's made a huge catch to keep the drive alive. He may not be racking up huge #'s, but when we have needed someone to step up big in crunch time, he's gotten it done.

And I think Samuel deserves the 'Stud' label this week. Coming off the groin injury, almost zero reps with Taylor Heinicke, really a surprising start in this game to begin with, and he makes some huge catches. I was frankly shocked. I'm not sure we pull that win out yesterday if he doesn't play. Really excited to see what he can do as he gets healthier and regains full speed.
 

Canadian Hog

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I suppose a hat tip to John Bates as well. What an impact block on the Carter TD! I just saw that now. I imagine these kinds of effort plays will earn him a few targets offensively as the season moves forward.
 

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Yeah - he basically sprung him for 7 there. Shows you that you never know the impact of one great effort on a single play - could be the difference in a game.
 

Chris

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The offensive line has been quietly playing very well. Heineke and McLaurin have both gone out of their way to praise the group. Even with the loss of their best player, which the untrained eye wouldn’t notice, they kept Heinicke’s jersey clean.
 

Knightingale

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Can't argue with any of what's been said above. I have to admit, I was REALLY pleased when JD got the TD to ice the game as I really DID NOT want the game's result to be at the mercy of Hopkins foot at that point. I had almost zero faith in him kicking a winner being as he'd been shanking them to the right all game.
 

Canadian Hog

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Can't argue with any of what's been said above. I have to admit, I was REALLY pleased when JD got the TD to ice the game as I really DID NOT want the game's result to be at the mercy of Hopkins foot at that point. I had almost zero faith in him kicking a winner being as he'd been shanking them to the right all game.
It is funny that you say that. Here I was for some reason where part of me wanted them to rule McKissic out of bounds. I just didn't trust the defence enough and thought that Atlanta was maybe going to be left with too much time to do something heroic. I was hoping that we could just drain the clock and have Hop kick a chip shot for the win down at the goal line. I suppose there are no guarantees though - it was better that JD was ruled to have crossed into the endzone.
 

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