ASHBURN — The Washington Football Team was already thin at wide receiver when the season began, with a young group of mostly first-year and second-year players at the position.
Dontrelle Inman was the team’s lone wideout who had extensive playing experience in the NFL. The 31-year-old veteran, signed in August, had played in 65 games — more than the rest of the receivers on the 53-man roster combined (30).
A month into the season, that depth is even thinner.
Only five wideouts — including two from the practice squad — took the field Wednesday as the team prepares for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Coach Ron Rivera said rookies Antonio Gandy-Golden (hamstring) and Isaiah Wright (shoulder) won’t practice this week, leaving Washington incredibly short at the position. Steven Sims (toe) is also still on injured reserve.
Washington’s newest addition at receiver — Alabama product Robert Foster — won’t be ready for the Cowboys game.
Washington signed Foster, who spent two years with the Bills prior to this season, off Green Bay’s practice squad Tuesday. But the NFL’s coronavirus policies make it so any new signing has to quarantine for six days, making Foster unavailable.
Rivera said Washington would promote Tony Brown and Jeff Badet, the team’s two receivers on the practice squad, for Sunday’s game.
“It’s very challenging,” Rivera said. “Hopefully our coaches have been doing a good job of trying to teach these guys. These guys really weren’t with us through training camp. Tony Brown came in near the end of camp and got a little bit of work. Jeff Badet, somebody we brought in a few weeks ago and he’s gotten a little bit of work.
“We’ll see how they handle it and we’ll see how many opportunities they get on Sunday.”
Neither Brown nor Badet has played in an NFL game before. Brown, a 6-foot-1 receiver out of Colorado, went undrafted this past spring, while Badet flashed with the Dallas Renegades in the XFL.
Besides those two, quarterback Kyle Allen will have Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims and Inman available when Washington faces Dallas. Of the three, McLaurin has been the most reliable. The 24-year-old is on pace to break 1,000 yards for the first time, and his 484 yards rank ninth in the NFL.
Washington has found ways to get McLaurin into space, and that’s paying off as McLaurin is averaging 6.9 yards after the catch.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said with the injuries, someone will have to step up and take advantage of the additional playing time. He pointed to Sims’ most recent outing in Sunday’s loss to the Giants as an example.
After the injuries, Sims, a third-year receiver who has been mostly on the practice squad, stepped in, played seven snaps and then caught a 22-yard touchdown with 36 seconds left that cut New York’s lead to one. (Washington then failed to convert a two-point conversion).
“He made the most of it,” Turner said.
There should be plenty of opportunities for the team to score Sunday. Through six games, Dallas’ defense has surrendered the most points (218) since 1961 — good for 36.1 points per game. The Cowboys are also allowing 410 yards per game, the fifth-worst mark in the league.
Rivera and Turner were pleased with how the offense mostly performed against the Giants with Allen under center. Both emphasized that Allen’s two turnovers — both of which resulted in touchdowns — were costly, but said Allen was efficient in leading the unit. They particularly liked how he helped the unit perform on third down (8 of 15 overall).
As he prepares for Dallas, Allen said he’ll help Brown and Badet get acclimated in time for Sunday’s game. The quarterback understands what it’s like to step in because of injuries. In Carolina, Allen got his first opportunity after Cam Newton and Taylor Heinicke went down near the end of the 2018 season.
“If you put in the work and you study during the week and you know your assignments, you can play at a high tempo in this offense,” Allen said.
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