ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Football Team must try to extend its three-game winning streak without two key players — safety/linebacker Landon Collins and running back J.D. McKissic. Both were ruled out of Sunday’s game at the Las Vegas Raiders because of injuries.
Both players were hurt late in Monday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks. Collins hurt his foot while McKissic suffered a concussion. Coach Ron Rivera said he didn’t know how much time Collins would miss.
It’s a pivotal blow for Washington (5-6) as its recent hot streak vaulted it into the seventh and final playoff position in the NFC.
Collins has become a key defensive player while transitioning to a hybrid safety/linebacker role. He’s rushed the passer a lot more out of this look — 20 times in the last five games combined compared to 10 times in the first six, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He also handles a lot of the communication in the back seven.
Washington’s defensive turnaround has been helped in part by Collins as part of a three-safety alignment, along with Kam Curl and Bobby McCain. With Curl and Collins, Washington felt it could disguise coverages better, with offenses not always knowing who might be breaking where — whether in coverage or blitzing.
Rivera said they’d fill Collins’ role by committee. Washington could use more three-corner sets in nickel or it could use a linebacker such as Khaleke Hudson or David Mayo in other spots where it wants more size.
McKissic serves as Washington’s third-down back and has caught 43 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also carried the ball 48 times for 212 yards and two scores. He’s adept at picking up blitzes in protection.
Washington still has Antonio Gibson as its primary back, but McKissic offered a veteran backup when needed. Rookie Jaret Patterson, with 32 carries for 104 yards, also can back up Gibson.
Wendell Smallwood, who is on Washington’s practice squad, will be signed to the active roster and serve as the third-down back. From 2016-19, with Philadelphia and Washington, he caught 56 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried the ball 233 times for 931 yards and five touchdowns.
Making matters potentially worse for Washington: veteran left guard Ereck Flowers missed the last two days of practice with a foot injury. He’s listed as questionable, though Rivera expressed confidence he’d be able to play. Veteran backup Wes Schweitzer, who would have started at center this week, is out with an ankle injury.
Receiver Curtis Samuel (groin), center Tyler Larsen (knee) and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (hip) all are listed as questionable. Samuel is expected to play, though he remains on a snap count.