Washington Football Team falters; Nats face long road ahead

Marco Squitieri

As the Washington Football team’s season begins and the Nationals season ends, the two DC sports teams sit in wildly different places as their directions diverge.

The Washington Football team came into the season with high expectations after winning the NFC East and a strong showing against the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the playoffs. These expectations took a hit after a disappointing Week One loss at home against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Football Team struggled throughout the game and a hip injury to free agent quarterback signing Ryan Fitzpatrick brought further insult to injury. 

With a Thursday night matchup the next week against division rival New York Giants, the stakes were extremely high as an 0-2 start would’ve dampened the teams playoff chances. It was a back and forth slug fest, with backup quarterback Taylor Henicke stepping up big alongside star wide receiver Terry McLaurin hauling in 11 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. In the end, it all came down to a game winning field goal attempt by Football Team kicker Dustin Hopkins. Hopkins missed the kick to the despair of fans everywhere, but an offsides penalty by Giants defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence gave Hopkins a chance at redemption, which he drilled to give the Football Team a 30-29 victory.

Optimism from week two’s victory was obliterated with an embarrassing 43-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Leading into the game, Head Coach Ron Rivera called it a “measuring stick game” to see where the team stacks up against elite competition, and after Sunday’s bloodbath it’s clear the Football Team isn’t up to par. The defence, the strongest aspect of the team last year, looked pathetic as they gave up 27 points in the first half and 487 yards throughout the game. The team is left with more questions than answers following week 3, and will look to bounce back on the road against the Falcons this Sunday.

The Nationals are in the beginning of what will be a painstaking period of time. At the July trade deadline the team firmly committed to a hard rebuild, trading away an astonishing eight players including franchise cornerstones Max Scherzer and Trae Turner. Losing so much talent sent the already struggling Nationals into a tailspin, leading to an abysmal 7-20 record in August. 

The bright spots are few and far between, but one obvious example is the sensational play of right fielder Juan Soto. Soto is a surefire MVP candidate, with a batting average well above .300 and having drawn over 130 walks this season. Another bright spot has been first basemen Josh Bell, who experienced a resurgence in the second half of the season. Bell signed with the Nationals this past offseason, but struggled in April batting only .113 with two home runs. The slugger rebounded throughout the rest of the season however, hitting 27 home runs as of September 23rd and a batting average in the mid 200s. 

One of the biggest disappointments of the season has been starting pitcher Patrick Corbin. Corbin signed a 6 year-140 million dollar contract with the Nats before the 2019 season, and played a key role in the teams World Series championship later that year. This year has been a much different story, as Corbin boasts a putrid 6.17 earned run average. Another major disappointment has been starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg, but not for his play on the field but rather the lack of it. Strasburg has pitched just 21.2 innings this year as he has battled a neck injury all season.

The state of these two teams couldn’t be more different. For the Nationals, the only optimism a fan could have would be for the future of the team years from now when young players hopefully develop into serviceable players. For the Football Team, there are clear kinks that must be ironed out but the team still has playoff aspirations and will have an exciting season ahead of them. •