With all apologies to Tress Way (maybe I'll do a special blog to appreciate his punting excellence someday) and Kyle Allen (his two fully healthy games weren't enough), this is the list of Washington's 10 best players at the midway point of Ron Rivera's first season.
1 1. Terry McLaurin
A year after putting together one of the most impressive rookie receiving seasons in franchise history, McLaurin has solidified himself as one of the NFL's ten most productive wideouts. Among wide receivers who have played eight games, McLaurin ranks second in targets (77), third in yards (692), and fifth in catches (50). He's already caught 10 passes of 20-plus yards en route to becoming one of the game's scariest players after the catch. The 25-year-old is the best player on the Washington Football Team and it isn't close.
2 2. Montez Sweat
Sweat has been the most impactful pass rusher on a defensive front that ranks second in the NFL in sack percentage. The second-year defensive end has a team-high five sacks through eight games. Sweat also leads Washington's defense in total pressures (29), hurries (17) and quarterback hits (17). A 2019 first-rounder, Sweat has only been asked to drop into pass coverage on four plays, allowing him to become a steady presence in the opponent's backfield against both the pass and run.
3 3. Kendall Fuller
Despite missing the first two games of the season, Fuller's four interceptions are just one back of the NFL lead. A former Washington draft pick who was once traded to Kansas City for Alex Smith, Fuller has made his presence felt since re-signing with the Football Team this offseason. He's broken up five passes and according to Pro Football Focus' metrics, Fuller has allowed just 10 completions on 22 targeted passes. His Week 6 end zone pick of Daniel Jones gave Washington a chance to get back into a game they appeared to have lost. The former Hokie has been fantastic.
4 4. Chase Young
The No. 2 pick in April's draft, the hype surrounding Young probably got a little bit out of hand. Then two games into his rookie season Young had compiled 2.5 sacks and two tackles for loss and it looked like he might be on his way to a giant debut campaign. An injury that cost him a game-and-a-half later and Young has come back down to Earth, but he's still playing at a high level. The former Buckeye has 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss on the season. Despite drawing more attention than anybody else on Washington's defensive line, Young has still managed 17 pressures and 13 hurries. He's also been a force in the run game, an area of the rookie's game that was probably underrated coming into the year.
5 5. Antonio Gibson
Gibson can thank his top-five spot in this ranking on his monster game against the Cowboys. Don't get me wrong, Gibson has flashed frequently and been consistently involved over the last two months. But he was on another level in that Dallas game, slicing through Mike Nolan's terrible defense like a knife through cream cheese. The closest thing Scott Turner has to a workhorse, Gibson's 90 rushes are 52 more than any of Washington's any other backs. His 391 rushing yards and five touchdowns are both team-highs. The dual-threat has already tallied a 100-yard rushing performance and an 80-yard game as a receiver. If there's still Gibson stock to be had, it's worth buying in bulk.
6 6. Morgan Moses
Evaluating offensive line play is always tricky, but Moses' improvement from last season has been pretty obvious. A durable force at right tackle, Moses has been on the field for 515 of Washington's 521 snaps so far this season. The former Virginia Cavalier has been asked to pass protect 337 times, and on those reps he's yielded just two sacks and five hits on the passer. A frequently penalized tackle over the years, one of Moses' biggest progressions this season has come in the area of avoiding flags. The 29-year-old has been assessed just three penalties through eight games. For all of Washington's offensive line woes and questions, the right tackle position has been a source of stability in 2020.
7 7. Daron Payne
Payne is a defensive lineman who does not get many sacks, which results in him being under-appreciated. But Payne is not paid to sack the quarterback. He's paid to push the pocket and he was also drafted to be a stout run-stuffer who could make life easier on Washington's edge rushers. Payne has 16 pressures, 13 hurries, two QB hits, and a batted pass on his ledger. He also doesn't fatigue; he's played 43 more snaps than any of his line-mates. The kind of guy you have to watch to properly appreciate, Payne frequently blows up runs that result in somebody else's highlight.
8 8. JD McKissic
And people thought McKissic wasn't even going to make the team. Ha! McKissic has become a vital member of Washington's offense, serving as the club's lead third-down back and primary pass-catching option out of the backfield. The former Seahawk and Lion leads the team in yards per carry thanks to breaking 10 of his 35 rushes for 10-plus yards. But he's also hauled in 34 passes for 248 yards in the passing game. McKissic is coming off his largest workload yet - a nine-catch, 65-yard outing against the Giants - but don't be surprised if Sunday wasn't his final 12-touch game of the season.
9 9. Jonathan Allen
Allen, like Payne, does a lot of the dirty work that makes rushers like Sweat and Young look good. He has better counting stats in the passing game than Payne, tallying 18 pressures and 14 hurries (both rank second on the team). Like Payne, only having two sacks is disappointing but the half-dozen sacks Jack Del Rio has gotten from his linebackers and secondary are often due to the work of his interior linemen. A fourth-year defender, Allen has been assigned 18 stops by PFF, a stat they use to credit tackles by linemen that constitute failures for the offense.
10 10. Ryan Kerrigan
Despite declining play-time, Kerrigan is still making impactful plays in his tenth season. His 4.5 sacks rank second on the team, just a half-sack back of Sweat despite 147 fewer pass rushes. How efficient has the multi-time pro bowler been? Kerrigan has been in on a sack in three straight games despite rushing the quarterback a total of 26 times during that span. His production could garner Kerrigan more playing time as the year goes on. Perhaps Del Rio and his staff can find a way to incorporate all three of Washington's premium defensive ends at the same time.