Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera wrapped up his press conference at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine earlier today. Here are four takeaways from what he had to say.
1. He's glad to be back interviewing players in person.
For the past two years, the process for evaluating players has been a little different. COVID-19 regulations limited in-person interactions between coaches and prospects, leaving them to settle with Zoom meetings for interviews.
For someone like Rivera who values the in-person interviews, the return to normalcy is a welcome sight, and there's much more to learn from things virtual meetings don't show.
"You get to see the whole body language," Rivera said. "It's so much better than when all you see is that little square. You're seeing the whole reaction, everything from the face to the body to the way they're sitting."
For the quarterbacks, the first position group to show up in Indianapolis, Rivera and his staff like to put on game film to see how they respond. Some of it is positive; some of it isn't. Either way, there's information to be learned from it. They want to see what the prospects' retention is and hear them talk through plays, but they also want to see how they react to those positives and negatives.
Rivera said that's something he and the staff missed last year.
"Now, I think it's the chance to get the true reaction, which has been good," Rivera said.
2. He and his staff are already evaluating the quarterback class.
Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew acknowledged that the Commanders are looking at all avenues for a quarterback in 2022. That includes drafting one, and they're already shaping how they feel about this year's class.
"We've spent a lot of time already on the quarterback class and had an opportunity to watch them," Rivera said. "There's several quality guys."
Monday was the first opportunity for teams to interview the quarterbacks. That process has continued throughout Tuesday afternoon, and the team will use that information to determine which players they want to see again in private interviews.
Rivera said it's a different type of group than in years past. Some players are pure passers, while others have pure athleticism. Both those have their benefits, and the staff is looking at which type would be the best fit for the roster.
Either way, they're going to look at whether it's worth using the 11th overall pick to invest in a young signal-caller.
"I promise you, these are all things that we're looking at," Rivera said.
3. He's confident Juan Castillo is going to continue Pete Hoener's intensity.
Riviera admitted it was a bit of a surprise when Pete Hoener told him about his retirement. The two have been together since their days with the Carolina Panthers, and Rivera has developed a deep respect for the person and coach Hoener is.
The very next week, Rivera already had a replacement in Juan Castillo, and he knows that his new tight ends coach will bring just as much intensity as his previous one.
"He's gonna coach them just like Pete did," Rivera said. "For those of you who were entertained by watching [Hoener] work with his guys, you're gonna see the same thing."
Rivera listed off a few similarities between Hoener and Castillo. They both care about their players, but he also knows how to push them. Maintaining both those qualities was important to Rivera, particularly when it comes to the young players, and Castillo has already met with a few of his new players.
4. OTAs and minicamp are going to be tremendously important.
Last year's four-game win streak offered a glimpse at what the Commanders can be. Players were communicating properly on the field, and leaders were starting to step up.
There were also some moments where the group could have been better. For some groups, like the secondary, that is to be expected. After all, the players hadn't spent much time together. They had to learn how to work together and play off each other.
That experience of working with the same group is important to Rivera, and with some members of the secondary set to be free agents, he would like to keep as much of the secondary intact as possible.
And because last year's OTAs didn't necessarily allow for the group to build that chemistry, it only heightens the importance of this year's offseason activities.
"This year's OTAs are very valuable, very important," Rivera said. "I'm hoping we can get as many guys out there as we can."