Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

#HailMail: Dwayne Haskins, Depth Charts And Personnel Changes


The Redskins are nearing the end of the virtual offseason program, and players and coaches have spoken on the team's progress. Here's what Redskins fans want to know:

When might we see a depth chart? So interested in how things shake out moving to a 4-3 defense, plus seeing how coaches view the O-Line and receiving corps. -- Robert B.

I doubt that we will see a depth chart anytime soon, Robert, and I wouldn't place too much stock into where players are placed when the first rendition of it is released.

You're right to point out the offensive line and receiving corps. Those are two positions that have some of the most questions fans want answered. Ron Rivera is also looking for the same thing.

When asked Wednesday about which positions will be the hardest to evaluate, Rivera answered, "It's obviously going to be left tackle. The other question is where will Wes Schweitzer and Wes Martin fit in terms of opportunity to be a starting guard? That'll be a heck of a competition."

As for wide receiver, the Redskins have no shortage of young talent they believe in moving forward. Rivera wants to see what he has in these players and how they will develop in their careers. Obviously Terry McLaurin will lead the group, but it's anyone's guess how the rest of the group will turn out.

I won't deny that it's exciting to see that first depth chart, but it's wise to remember that the final depth chart, which is the one that really matters, will look different from the first one.

Graham Gano really found himself as a kicker after leaving here for the Panthers. What can Coach Rivera and his staff do to help Dustin Hopkins take the next step? -- Nick C.

I believe Rivera has already chosen the best option to help Dustin Hopkins by retaining Nate Kaczor as special teams coordinator.

There's no denying Gano was productive as Rivera's kicker with the Carolina Panthers. He was only with the Redskins for three seasons, but he was still more productive in any three-season stretch with the Panthers than he was in Washington. You can check out the stats for yourself, HERE.

Admittedly, kicking is not an area of expertise for me. But one thing I do know is that consistency is vital. That applies to creating a routine to follow for games and practices as well as the people around them. Obviously the holder and long snapper are the first two players that come to mind with that, but the special teams coordinator is included in that, too.

The 2019 season was the first time Hopkins had worked with Kaczor, and his number were relatively similar to those he recorded in his first four seasons with the Redskins. He made 83.3% of his field goals and 95.5% of his extra points. Those numbers are close to his career average, which is a good sign considering Hopkins had no prior experience with Kaczor.

Hopkins has a strong connection with Nick Sundberg and Tress Way, and it would seem he has built that with Kaczor as well. So, the best thing Rivera has done for Hopkins is to keep things the same.

I've heard the Redskins will be in a base 4-3 formation only a third of the time. So will most Redskins snaps just substitute a nickel corner for the "Sam" (strongside) linebacker? If not, what other changes in personnel/formation are likely to occur on defense as frequently as the base 4-3? -- Tim F.

You have heard correctly, Tim; based on what defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said during his press conference in May, most defenses are in their base formation about a third of the game.

The Redskins' secondary is certainly capable of having a sub package that includes a nickel corner in place of the strong-side linebacker. Working as a nickel corner is what Kendall Fuller has done well for most of his career, and Jimmy Moreland could manage that responsibility as well. Don't count out Cole Holcomb, either. Rivera is a fan of his position flexibility, so it entirely possible we could see Holcomb covering slot receivers, too.

Del Rio also briefly touched on what to expect from the new defense, and as it turns out, many of the changes will come in the front seven.

"We're going to ask our guys to be more penetrating and disruptive," he said. "Our linebackers and secondary will understand how to fit off of that, so they're going to have a lot more freedom in terms of being able to generate the beginning of a pass rush while we're playing the run."

Del Rio said the front seven has been used to playing in gaps, which is the opposite of the aggressive style he wants to implement. This method will allow for the defensive line to play the run on the way to the quarterback, and the linebackers will know how to play off of that.

"I think our guys are going to really like it."

Will the Redskins consider running more hurry-up offense during the course of games rather than just the last two minutes of a half or game? -- Dan S.

Based on what I have heard from offensive coordinator Scott Turner and quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., I believe the answer to this is yes.

Turner said during his introductory phone conference in January that he likes to cater his offenses around what his players do best, and that includes the quarterback. Sure, they still want to develop their players, but the coaching staff still wants its players to utilize their strengths.

Among the things that Haskins does well -- play-action passes and getting the ball out quickly to his playmakers -- he also excels at running up-tempo offenses. That's what he did at Ohio State, and he played well whenever the Redskins ran a hurry-up offense during his rookie season.

Those are the things Turner wants to include in the offense, and so far, Haskins is liking the new scheme.

"I feel very comfortable just because having learned an NFL offense last year, it's easier to translate into different terminology," he said. "It's more one-word plays or tempo and things of that nature. It's easier to regurgitate and be able to play faster."

The Redskins have said Haskins will be treated as the starter and will have every opportunity to earn that spot for the season. Rivera also believes Haskins has the chance to be a franchise player, so molding the offense to what Haskins does best would benefit everyone.

What do you believe is the strongest part of a defense: a shutdown secondary, a great defensive line or a powerful core of linebackers? -- Will D.

It's difficult to say which part of any defense should be the strongest. How each team molds their personnel makes the answer more subjective. In the Redskins' case, I would have to say it is a great defensive line.

It's a well-known fact that the Redskins have invested heavily in their defensive line, and in April they added another first-round pick in Chase Young to that group. Here's what Rivera had to say after Young was drafted:

"It's not necessarily just about the one guy as much as it is about putting the final piece in place, and you feel really good about who those four guys are going to be that are on the field at that time."

The hope is that Young and the defensive line will help change the entire defense. Rivera believes the group will benefit the secondary as well as the linebackers. It will give quarterbacks less time to find open receivers and running backs fewer holes to run through.

There are some quality players at other positions like Landon Collins and Holcomb, but neither of the positions groups as a whole compare to what the Redskins have built along the defensive front.

All of the hype this year is about Chase Young and the defensive line. What about safety? Obviously Landon Collins is the guy at strong safety, but are we going to see an open competition at free safety between Sean Davis and Troy Apke? What could this position look like in September? -- Connor C.

You're right about Collins, Connor. It's a certainty he will be the starting strong safety for the 2020 season. Davis was signed with the hope that he would fill the open free safety position, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a competition between him and the other safeties on the roster.

The 2019 season was a solid one for Troy Apke. He played in 15 games, including two starts, and had an interception to go with two pass breakups and 26 tackles. He just finished his second season, but he has shown enough to earn a chance to prove himself under the new regime.

If it were a competition based on past production, Davis would clearly by the victor. During his best season in 2017, Davis had three interceptions, 92 tackles and a sack. Prior to his season-ending injury in 2019, he had proven he was a starting-caliber player in the NFL.

Still, Davis was signed to just a one-year deal, so a competition is still possible. That's exactly what Rivera wants.

"I love that guys are betting on themselves, that they're going to come in and prove that they belong, that they deserve an extensive contract," he said. "So again, that's what we're trying to do is find out who fits us. A lot of these guys are up for the challenge, so I'm pretty excited about that."

If I had to guess, I would say that Davis will enter training camp as the starting free safety. However, Rivera just wants the best players on the field, and Apke will also have an opportunity to prove that he is one of them.

As many people know, Coach Rivera has given some information on the Antonio Brown situation. Can we get a little more detail? Is there the potential for Antonio Brown to be in a Redskins uniform this season? -- Kyle M.

Antonio Brown has been phenomenal over the course of his career, and Rivera conceded to that point. There are few receivers today that have had as much success as him this past decade.

With that being said, all I can provide is what Rivera has told us about Brown, and it doesn't seem like he will be in a Redskins uniform this season.

"For us to bring a veteran guy in a couple of positions, we have to see what we have in terms of our young guys first," Rivera said. "If you bring in a veteran right now, you are going to stunt the growth of someone young. We have to see and that is the beauty right now."

A good chunk of the Redskins' receivers only have a year's worth of experience in the NFL. McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr. and Kelvin Harmon were all rookies last year, and the team added another young player in Antonio Gandy-Golden in this year's draft.

But Rivera likes what each player brings to the offense and wants to see what he can get out of them. That's why the competition between all of them during training camp will be so important.

Rivera added that they will be able to better judge each position once camp is over, but right now, their main focus is evaluating the talent already on the roster and not adding veterans.

Do you think Ron Rivera is going to be a long-term situation for us, or is he just the right guy at the right time to fix the current climate of the organization and then Dan Snyder will replace him when/if he rights the ship? -- Jon S.

From what team owner Dan Snyder said in January, he unequivocally believes Rivera is the long-term solution for the Redskins.

"What the Redskins have needed is a culture change, someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization. It starts and ends with our head coach. When looking for that man, I looked for a class act. That's how you describe Coach Rivera."

Snyder spent a lot of time asking people about Rivera before he was hired. Those people brought up the integrity, honesty, knowledge, grit and determination that Rivera has. Those qualities assured Snyder that Rivera knew how to help the Redskins win.

So, I don't believe that Snyder is thinking about replacing Rivera anytime soon. In fact, he told Rivera that he wants "this to be the last job you ever have in the NFL." All those signs would point to Snyder committing to Rivera for the foreseeable future.

What style of offense will we be running with all this young talent? -- Devon Y.

The Redskins will be running a version of the Air Coryell system. It primarily relies on power running to set up deep throws based on timing and rhythm. Because of its potential for explosive plays, the system is also referred to as the "vertical offense."

The Air Coryell system is dependent upon putting players in motion to give them the best chance to make plays. Receivers, tight ends and even running backs can be moved around the offense. For example, Turner said after the Redskins drafted Antonio Gibson that he could be moved out to play as a slot receiver in certain packages.

At its core, the Air Coryell system is best when it has a quarterback with a strong arm to make throws to fast receivers. Haskins' arm strength has been on display repeatedly, and the team has many speedy receivers on the roster. Based on the conversations McLaurin has had with Turner, he believes it could be a "very receiver-friendly offense."

"They just want to push the ball down the field and have some explosive plays, spread teams out," McLaurin said. "We just got to make sure that we're keyed into what we need to be doing on every play."

Does Ron Rivera think Haskins is good enough to be successful as his quarterback right now or is he thinking he may be a player who shouldn't have been drafted in the first round? -- Mario O.

To put it simply, Mario, Rivera has given plenty of signs that he thinks Haskins is good enough to be a successful quarterback.

Rivera has been asked about Haskins since his first press conference. As I said earlier, he believes Haskins can be a franchise-style quarterback, but he also wants to see Haskins step up and be a leader.

Fast forward about six months, and Rivera has already seen a lot from his young quarterback.

"I think he has done very well with it," he said. "He is really taking what he and I talked about to heart. I really do appreciate it because it shows maturity as well. He is a young man who is just learning the game. [He] came out of college early...and it's just one of those things where as you see him grow and develop, you can see those types of things that you are hoping for."

As I have also said earlier, the Redskins will view Haskins as the starter once training camp begins. So, Haskins has shown enough to Rivera, both in last year's film and in recent months, to earn Rivera's faith.

Related Content