LANDOVER, Md. — Since Los Angeles HC Sean McVay left the nation’s capitol, any age 30, to become the youngest head coach in NFL history in January of 2017, seven different quarterbacks have started for Washington. At age 34, McVay returns to where it all began for the first time since leaving: The boy is back in town. Sunday, when Washington hosts the Rams, Kyle Allen will become the eighth different Washington QB to start a game since McVay left, joining Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins. At age 34, McVay returns to where it all began
Allen takes over the reigns of 1-3 Washington, as Ron Rivera chose to bench Haskins this week, even demoting him to 3rd string behind even Alex Smith, to send a message to the 2019 First Round pick. Interestingly, with Haskins being demoted to 3rd string, QB Alex Smith will dress in a game for the first time since breaking his right tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion on Nov. 18, 2018. It remains to be seen if Rivera will bench Allen for Smith if he plays poorly, but the possibility of Smith playing less than two years after his compound tibial fracture is unbelievable.
In terms of attacking the Rams defense, it begins and ends with knowing where DT Aaron Donald, is at all times. Most of the time you can find him creating havoc in the backfield, resulting in Donald being double teamed on most plays, creating opportunities for his teammates and making things hard on opposing offenses who throw whatever they can at Donald, usually to no avail. “The thing about Aaron Donald is he’s special, and you’ve got to be able to account for him,” Ron Rivera said of the 2-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. “You have to account for wherever he is.” Donald is a tall task for even the best of offensive lines to stop, so it remains to be seen what Washington will throw at him.
Kyle Allen has the unenviable task of lining up under center across from Donald after not starting since 2019 while also having a history of taking copious amounts of sacks. Last year, in 13 games with Carolina, Allen was sacked 46 times, taken down at on 8.6% of his pass attempts (Haskins: 8.1%). Not ideal against a defense that knows how and when to pin their ears back. However, the Rams’ defense has not been infallible when it comes to sacking QBs this season. The staunch LA unit couldn’t sack Philly QB Carson Wentz, someone Washington was able to take down 8 times in their only win, Week 1. The Rams have allowed 80 points in 4 games, one more point than the Washington offense has scored in 4 games.
Despite Washington’s well documented offensive woes and the poor quarterback play that led to Haskins’ benching, WR Terry McLaurin has been a bright spot. The 25-year old wide out is 5th in the NFL in receiving yards with 387 through 4 games. McLaurin trails only Stephon Diggs, D.K. Metcalf, Amari Cooper and DeAndre Hopkins so the young receiver is in good company this season. McLaurin will give Allen a reliable target on Sunday, so expect the new starter to look for him early and often, as Washington will likely be operating in a negative game script. Allen also has the weapon of RB Antonio Gibson, the other bright spot in the Washington offense, at this disposal Sunday as well. Gibson ran for 46 yards and found the end zone on just 13 carries in Week 4 against Baltimore. Even if Washington is trailing, the rookie has proven he is a viable receiving option out of the backfield, hauling in 10 receptions for 98 yards this season, including 4 catches for 82 yards in Week 4.
Once again, Washington will play in front of no fans as FedEx Field remains closed to fans for 2020 so far. This might be yet another disadvantage, as Rams HC McVay thinks the NFL record scoring average of 51.3 points/game through the first four weeks of the 2020 season can be credited to a lack of crowd noise. Some believe the lack of raucous crowd noises has been allowing offenses to communicate when they might normally be limited to hand signals and silent snap counts. “It’s probably louder with the speakers at practice than it is in the actual games,” Rams offensive lineman David Edwards mused. “I really feel like our edge and our advantage on offense is our tempo and the way we challenge people with our cadence so being able to communicate with that, and not having fans is huge.” The Rams have certainly taken advantage of the lack of loud road crowds, scoring 69 points in their first two road games.
Kickoff at FedEx Field is set for 1pm.