Ron Rivera won Day 1 at Redskins Park

Craig Hoffman
January 02, 2020 - 6:06 pm
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Ron Rivera was everything he was sold to be during Thursday's introductory press conference at Redskins Park.

He was straight forward. He was extremely passionate. He showed toughness, even while standing at a podium answering questions. He also showed empathy. Rivera talked about developing players on and off the field in a way that was believable. He looked every reporter who asked a question in the eye, only breaking to occasionally address his new players in the front row of the auditorium.

Of course none of that matters if the days ahead don't match Day 1. He is charged to win and that's exactly what he plans to do. When asked what he would do differently than what he did in his nine-year stint in Carolina, Rivera replied without hesitation: "Win the Super Bowl."

How he plans to do that are the biggest takeaways from his first day on the job:

1. Haskins has to earn it – The most surprising revelation from Rivera is that he didn't immediately name Dwayne Haskins the starting quarterback. Haskins played well down the stretch before having to sit the final game of the season with a high ankle sprain. He clearly grew and got better with more reps and more responsibility.

"We're in the interview process right now," Rivera said about filling out his staff, including retaining offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. "We've got several names that we've reached out to. We've gotten permission to bring some of these guys in, and we'll be going through that process now. We're in the beginning of it and it's going to take a little bit of time."

If O'Connell stays, then Haskins will unquestionably be the guy. He's the best quarterback they have who will be here, and O'Connell saw firsthand the growth he underwent when he got more reps.

"I'm not sitting there and anointing anybody. This is a competition," Rivera told 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes shortly after the press conference. "We're going to play the best football players to help us win."

Frankly, Haskins is going to be the guy. He just is. The owner selected him 15th overall in last year's draft. However, to hear Rivera say he has to earn it after all the consternation caused by Jay Gruden doing the same thing is interesting, nonetheless.

Of course the difference this time is Haskins has a real chance, but that has more to do with Haskins than the coach. He's a different player than he was coming out of Ohio State and he's now good enough to win the job.

2. The Defense – Unquestionably Rivera was drawn to Washington to coach a young, talented defensive core that he'll now mold with the help of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The question is how that talent – drafted to play a 3-4 base – will fit into the new 4-3 scheme.

"I think it fits very well, I really do," Rivera said of his newly inherited personnel. "You look at the defensive line and we've got guys that we believe can play the one- and three-technique already. We also believe we have some guys that play the outside linebacker position that are going to transition to playing the defensive end spots for us ‒ specifically the six, the nine and the five (techniques)."

"So, we feel real good about those guys. I think the linebacking core, I think it's a pretty solid group of guys. They run well, they play physical. What we want to do is playing downhill through their gap. We're going to play the run on our way to the quarterback."

(For reference - a one-technique plays inside the guard. A three-technique plays outside of the guard. A five-technique plays on the outside shoulder of the tackle, while a six-technique lines up on the inside shoulder of the tight end. A nine-technique plays all the way outside the tight end.)

By process of elimination, the most moveable player who fits all these descriptions is Jon Allen, who can play one-, three-, five- and six-techniques in a 4-3 scheme. Guys like Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan – who played outside linebacker in the 3-4 – will play defensive end, which are the six- and nine-techniques. Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle will man the defensive tackle spots (one-, three- and five-techniques). The question becomes what to do with Ryan Anderson, who could become an end in nickel situations, play the "wide-nine" defensive end position or be converted to a Sam Linebacker and play off the ball.

Some of the adjustment talk is overrated. NFL teams are in nickel over 50 percent of the time and the Redskins have been playing with four down linemen in nickel for years. The difference is in their base defense, which they only play against two wide receiver sets, with either a fullback or a second tight end on the field.

However, that alignment still comes up quite often and it was interesting to hear how much thought Rivera has clearly put into how to deploy some of the personnel he has on hand.

3. Trent Williams – Good players win football games and few players are as good at their job in the whole world as Trent Williams is at left tackle. The six-time Pro Bowler sat out all of 2019 after a dispute with the team following a cancer diagnosis last winter.

Rivera said he has a plan to talk to Williams. The saga last year included bombshells in an interview with 106.7 The Fan from Williams and sniping back on and off the record by team officials. Rivera is clearly ready to move on from that. "Enough blaming everyone," the new coach emphatically told Dukes. "Let's find a solution so we can move forward as a football team and he can move forward as a football player."

There is still a long way to go in repairing the relationship with Williams, but Rivera's integrity, honesty and blunt approach might just be enough to get it done and add one of the best players in the world back to a Redskins roster that severely lacks top-end talent.

"I believe in me and I would bet on me," Rivera said when asked why he's so confident he can be the first coach to truly succeed here in the Daniel Snyder era. We got a hint at some of the details Thursday, but no one can deny Rivera's sheer force of will.

As he addressed the room, it was easy to see him on the same stage addressing a room full of players. He was believable. An earnest fire burns inside him.

It was a good Day 1. Now we wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Craig Hoffman is the Redskins beat reporter for 106.7 The Fan. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHoffman

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