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Five takeaways from Dan Quinn's combine press conference

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Washington Commanders head coach Dan Quinn addressed the media at the NFL scouting combine yesterday. Here are five takeaways from his press conference and scrum with local reporters.

1. His valued qualities in a quarterback.

The Commanders are justifiably keeping quiet about what they're doing at the quarterback position. General manager Adam Peters said there's still a lot of work to do before deciding on what to do with the No. 2 overall pick, and while Quinn didn't necessarily echo those statements, he wasn't keen on laying out specifics, either.

However, he did lay some of the general qualities he looks for in a franchise quarterback.

"I think you have to have the mental toughness to withstand all that's going on and keep your focus right here on the team, right with the group that you're with," Quinn said.

Having the mental toughness to make all the throws required of a modern NFL quarterback is important, but so is physically being able to do so. Quinn likes his quarterbacks "to show accuracy on the deep ball" to make explosive plays -- a nagging issue for Washington last season -- and make the most out of a bad situation.

But as players like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson have shown over the past five years, making plays off-script has become just as critical for a successful offense. Mobile quarterbacks have become more commonplace in the NFL, and having someone who can make the most out of a bad play, whether it's with their arms or legs, can change games.

"A lot of that is when a play breaks down, they can go create and get on the move to go," Quinn said. "And so how do you speed up when a blitz is coming and it's not there yet and you buy time to let that happen?"

Unfortunately, there aren't many metrics that can measure those intangibles, which is why it's so hard to evaluate a quarterback and predict their success. That's what makes it fun for Quinn and Peters.

"That's why at that position, [it's about] the tape, the tape, the tape," Quinn said. "You have to find that, you have to get outta bad plays, you gotta be able to speed up, you gotta show that kind of toughness, and there's all sorts of ways to look at it."

2. The importance of in-person interviews.

While the Senior Bowl has become a bigger event for scouts to evaluate prospects, the combine is still considered the moment for teams to get their best look at each year's talent pool. The on-field workouts have value, but those have become readily available for any coach to watch and break down from their office. What's become more important is the interview portion of the combine, where teams get to know who the players are as people.

Quinn sees that as vital to determining what Washington should do with its upcoming draft picks.

"Getting to know the ball player, what he's about, what's his why, what are the things that drive him," Quinn said.

Players often get asked outlandish questions during the interview portion of the combine, most of which stem from a team trying to see how they respond. Quinn, however, likes to learn about each player's stories and why they made certain decisions. For example, if a player decides to stay at one school rather than transferring for a better opportunity, he wants to know the reasoning behind that choice. Their answer could be a sign of resilience and wanting to find a way to make things work in their current situation.

On-field evaluations are important; that's what Peters and his staff were hired to provide to the team. To Quinn, "finding out who the person is inside the helmet" is just as important.

"There's just more stories and more depth to it."

3. His expectations for the offense.

There are several factors at play for the Commanders as they enter a new regime. On top of evaluating the roster to make decisions for the draft and free agency, they also need to put together a scheme that best highlights the talent on the roster. Like most things about the team, Washington is staying buttoned up for the most part about their thought process, but Quinn did provide some insight on what he wants to see from the offense.

To sum it up in one word: balance.

"I think on any team and certainly one that we want to be a part of to say the run and the play pass that really has to go hand in hand," Quinn said. "And so that's where a lot of the explosive plays comes [a] big run then it comes back to a play pass."

For all the things that Washington's offense was in 2023, balanced was not one of them. They ranked last in run play percentage, despite ranking seventh in yards per carry. Clearly, that strategy did not pan out, as they were in the bottom 10 of average yards per game.

There's no denying that the NFL is a passing league, but Quinn also wants the running game to "flourish" in Washington.

"So having that balance, having the ability to run the ball, now play passes now big plays that come off it, that's balance," Quinn said. "And if you can get that part right, those are the hardest teams to go against."

4. He's started evaluating the players on the roster.

After spending time with national reporters, many of which asked questions about his time with the Dallas Cowboys, Quinn also had a private media scrum with local reporters to answer more focused questions about the team he's currently coaching for.

Although the process for evaluating the roster is ongoing, Quinn did provide some thoughts on the players, starting with pending free agent Kam Curl.

"I've been super impressed with him over his last couple of years as a guy who has absolutely gone for it, from tackler to being an enforcer," Quinn said. "I was definitely impressed, not just this season, but he's put out good tape all the time here. I think it shows a good story of a player going for it, developing, finding his space to go do his thing."

Curl, a seventh-round pick from 2020, is set to hit the open market once the new league year begins on March 13. The team will also need to make a decision regarding 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis and whether to pick up his fifth-year option. Quinn said he sat down to watch "every blitz he had" to provide a clearer evaluation.

"Then you find ways to feature him and train him in that space," Quinn said.

Quinn has also met with quarterback Sam Howell, although their conversation was more so about how much he appreciated Howell as a competitor.

"That was one thing that I really admired about him coming up from North Carolina and his two years here," Quinn said.

5. He thinks Adam Peters is elite at breaking down film.

Quinn and Peters haven't worked together for long, but it's been obvious to the head coach that Peters' ability to break down players is on another level.

Asked about specific things that have stood out about Peters, Quinn said, "Just the level of detail that he went to of, 'Watch him get out of a bad play. Watch him speed up here. Look at the route combination. Look at the accuracy.'

Quinn and Peters have said multiple times that they want to be collaborative and in lockstep with each other, even joking that they will have a door made to connect their two offices. The two have already spent a lot of time together since Quinn was hired in early February, often spending hours together watching film on players.

It's cool, Quinn said, to watch someone who is at an elite level of their profession. After one film session, when they spent four hours together breaking down prospects, Quinn told his wife, Stacey, that "this guy is elite."

"He just has a stronger feel than most."

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