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#HailMail: The 2020 Offseason Begins Now


The Kansas City Chiefs proclaimed victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, and now the rest of the league is already planning for ways to make sure they end the 2020 season with the Lombardi trophy in their grasp.

The Redskins have already been hard at work for the past month, though, and new head coach Ron Rivera has been diligently filling out his staff and establishing a new culture at Redskins Park.

Rivera offered fans a glimpse of his plans on Radio Row in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, but fans are still curious about what's next for their team. That's why we're back with another addition of our weekly mailbag. Here's what Redskins fans want to know:

What are the plans heading into the 2020 season regarding the quarterback position? -- Jerome H.

There were high expectations for Dwayne Haskins under the previous regime, and that looks to be the case for Rivera and the new coaching staff.

But don't expect Rivera to just hand Haskins the keys to the offense; he wants the young quarterback to earn them.

From the moment Rivera officially took on the mantle of being the Redskins' next head coach, he has been asked by multiple people about Haskins and his plans for the former first-round pick. Rivera has said multiple times that he likes what he has seen from Haskins; he even said he believes the former Ohio State Buckeye can be a franchise-style quarterback. But there is going to be a process involved in reaching that potential. Rivera wants Haskins to be a leader and become "a guy that's willing to step up in front of his teammates and tell them, 'Hey, let's go, man. Let's roll.'"

It also doesn't sound like Rivera is counting out veteran Alex Smith, either. He told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael and staff writer Kyle Stackpole that the team has two options when it comes to finding an answer at quarterback. Case Keenum and Colt McCoy are set to be free agents in March, leaving only Haskins and Smith as the two quarterbacks on the roster. Smith has been recovering from a broken leg for the past year, but he has made consistent progress towards his goal of returning to the field at some point.

So, it looks like Rivera is going to give Haskins every opportunity to earn the starting job, but he will have to compete for it every step of the way.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of changing our team's defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3? How difficult will it be for our existing coaches and players to make this transition? -- Robyn S.

In simplest terms, switching to a 4-3 front will allow for more defensive linemen on the field who can rush the passer.

3-4 defenses have been a popular choice in the NFL since offenses have started to stretch the field vertically as well as horizontally. The two outside linebackers offer more flexibility than traditional defensive ends because they can both rush the passer and drop back in coverage.

But the Redskins have invested heavily in their defensive front. In addition to Ryan Kerrigan, who they drafted in 2011 and has the second-most sacks in franchise history, they used first-round picks in the past three drafts on Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat. That is a similar approach the San Francisco 49ers took with their defensive line. Coincidentally, the 49ers also run a 4-3 defense.

Switching to a 4-3 will allow the Redskins to use those first-round picks more often doing what they like to do best, which is rushing the passer. As for players adjusting to the transition, there is always an adjustment period when a new coaching staff comes in with a new scheme. But both Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio see the switch as an "obvious" fit, and they are known for putting players in the best position to succeed.

What is the team's biggest need and how will the coaching staff improve it? -- Huzayfa K.

Rivera hasn't pointed out one specific need that the team needs to address, but if you look at the list of players who are set to become unrestricted free agents, the answer would be offensive line.

Three of the starters on the offensive line -- Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers and Donald Penn -- are all set to hit the open market on March 18 at 4 p.m. Scherff earned his third Pro Bowl selection in a contract year, while Flowers and Penn performed well on one-year deals. Potentially losing both Scherff and Flowers would leave a massive hole in the middle of the offensive line that was productive when called upon to block for Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and the rest of the Redskins' running backs.

Rivera and the coaching staff are taking a small break until Feb. 10. That's when they will come together and establish a core of players to build around. Rivera mentioned on Radio Row that offensive line was one of the position groups he looks at for core players.

Scherff is considered to be one of the best guards in the league, which means his service will likely demand a large deal. It's unclear how Rivera will address this, but I will say that Rivera wants tough, hardworking players who will do things the right way. That describes Scherff perfectly, so the two appear to be of like minds from a philosophical standpoint.

Do you seen the team picking up Greg Olsen or Hunter Henry or finding a third-round talent in the draft? -- Daniel P.

Anything could be on the table for how Rivera wants to address the tight end position, but there is a chance that he could pursue a combination of these options.

There is no doubt that Olsen would bring plenty of veteran experience and familiarity with Rivera's coaching style. He's been with Rivera since he was drafted by the Panthers, so it makes sense that Olsen would at least want to visit with the Redskins. He also knows about the culture that Rivera wants to establish in Washington, so his value would extend beyond his production on the field.

Olsen is also 34, though, and would be a temporary fix for the position, at best. The Redskins got virtually no production out of their tight ends last year, so it wouldn't be out of the question for them to also look to the draft for some depth at the position.

Henry would likely demand more money than Olsen, but he is nine years younger and would be more of a long-term solution. He posted career-highs in receptions (55) and yards (652) in 2019 in only 12 starts last year. But regardless of whether the Redskins choose Olsen or Henry, there is still a chance they continue to address the position in the draft.

In what ways will this year's training camp be different compared to what they've experienced the past half-dozen summers? -- Tim F.

The short answer is that this year's training camp will be a learning period for both the veterans and rookies.

With Rivera bringing in a new offensive and defensive coordinator, training will mostly involve players learning the new system and plays. On offense, the team will switch from a West Coast system to the Air Coryell offense under Scott Turner. Some players on defense will have to learn new positions or adjust to different schemes in their current positions. In many ways, Redskins fans will get to see their team create a new identity with their own eyes.

Rivera will also likely use this opportunity to build his new culture that will be "player-centered" with a "coach-centered" approach in mind. He wants the players to know that he cares about them, but he also wants them to do things his way. If they do that, all the success that will come their way will be theirs and not his.

With the Redskins moving to a 4-3 defense, how would the rotation of Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis work? -- James B.

This is a question that a lot of fans are asking about Del Rio's new defense.

The defensive line has been one of the stronger position groups on the roster. It's filled with multiple first-round picks and players like Ioannidis who have had great seasons (Ioannidis led the team with 8.5 sacks last year).

There are only two starting spots for interior defensive linemen in a 4-3 defense, though, which means there will have to be some level of competition in training camp as to who deserves to be in those spots. Del Rio is a coach that values hard work. He's spoken multiple times about not caring much about potential and outside publicity. Instead, he wants to see his players put in the work to earn playing time on the field.

The coaching staff will have an idea about who to initially put in those starting roles, but Del Rio and Rivera will let the players decide with their performances on how that rotation will play out.

Do you anticipate Adrian Peterson being part of the Redskins organization next season? -- Mike B.

Peterson currently has a second-year option in his contract, meaning the team can decide to either bring him back or let him enter free agency in March.

Like all other positions, Rivera hasn't said anything specifically about Peterson, but he did point out on Radio Row that the team has an answer at the running back position and two candidates to be core players. It's also worth noting that Peterson has produced in the two seasons he has donned the burgundy and gold. He has rushed for 1,940 yards in 31 games and averaged 62.5 yards to go with 12 touchdowns.

Peterson is also a likely future Pro Football Hall of Famer and the second-oldest active running back in the NFL. He is the veteran leader of a running back group that has a lot of young talent in Guice and Bryce Love. So, even though Rivera will evaluate everyone before making decisions, Peterson has certainly put together a great case to be a part of the team in 2020.

Will we be running a totally new defensive system? -- Clifton T.

Del Rio and Rivera plan to switch the defense to a 4-3 front, so you can expect a lot of overhaul when it comes to defensive schemes. That doesn't mean they will completely abandon three-man fronts.

Although many teams like to specify whether they use a three- or four-man front as their "base" set, they also use a multitude of looks to stay versatile. Take last year for example; while the Redskins were considered to be a 3-4 defense, they implemented plenty of four-man fronts each Sunday.

Based on Rivera's history as a head coach, Redskins fans can expect the same this year. Rivera's defensive philosophy requires multiple fronts to keep up with defenses; he made that clear in conversations with Panthers senior digital writer Max Henson, who had worked for the organization for nearly all of Rivera's nine years in Charlotte, North Carolina.

While the Redskins might use more four-man fronts than they did last year, there will still be some level of familiarity with some schemes in the system.

What will it take (other than winning) to make our team a beast in the NFC East? -- Mike H.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder believes that what the team really needed was a culture change. He said that while introducing Rivera before his introductory press conference. He looked at all the successful teams in the NFL and decided they all have one thing in common: they have a "coach-centered" approach.

It's obvious to say that winning gives teams better reputations. There is a reason why only two six-seed teams in NFL history have advanced all the way to the Super Bowl and ended the year with a win. However, the cause for those wins lies in the culture established by the head coach. That's what Snyder and Rivera believe, and that has been their message since Rivera was hired on New Year's Day.

Rivera has offered glimpses into what the new culture will be in Washington. It will begin and end with discipline and only doing things that benefit the team. He wants to mold great players and even better men under his tenure, and his coaching staff reflects that goal. He wants things done the right way first; if that becomes the priority, the wins will come on their own.

Would it be possible to move Morgan Moses to guard? It was a great move for Ereck Flowers. -- Steve N.

Moving from tackle to guard certainly did great things for Flowers, but that isn't always the case for every player.

Technically speaking, offensive linemen are generally told to learn the blocking schemes for every position. It's rare to have one set group of offensive linemen to start and finish the season, and there is always the chance for players to start at one position and end at another.

But it isn't always easy for a player to move from their original position. While there are a lot of similarities between guard, center and tackle, there are some critical differences in terms of steps and foot placement, especially when it comes to pass blocking. That transition takes time, and players react to it differently. Moses may be able to play guard and easily adjust to it, but there is a chance that it wouldn't work out.

What's more, a move like that would put the offensive line in even more flux than it is at this moment. The team still needs to decide what to do with Flowers and Scherff in free agency, and moving Moses to guard would also require the team to find a new right tackle. The group needs some stability, and keeping Moses at his current spot would certainly accomplish that.

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