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Players love Kliff Kingsbury's coaching style, desire to 'maximize' skill sets


It isn't hard to spot Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. He's the only member of the coaching staff sporting a big straw hat, even when there's an overcast hanging over the practice facility.

"There were still UV rays," Kingsbury said jokingly after the first practice of OTAs on May 14. "So that's what it was for."

Kingsbury is also one of the more active coaches on the field, showing energy during the team bag drills that start every practice and taking an active role in teaching concepts to the quarterbacks. His players love it.

"He's a guy who loves the game, wants us to win and wants the best from all the players," said second-round rookie Ben Sinnott.

There are plenty of new faces walking through the halls at the Commanders' facility, but Kingsbury drew much of the attention thanks to his history with developing quarterbacks and his use of the "Air Raid" system. He was hired to fix an offense that sputtered and struggled to maintain balance in 2023, and his enthusiasm, as well as his teaching style, has won over his new players.

"He really helps us play to our strengths," said wideout Jahan Dotson. "And that's really what you want in a coach; someone who knows your capability and what you can do on the field and tries to maximize it."

Kingsbury didn't want to use the "Air Raid" label when he was first asked about the offense he plans to install in Washington. He wants Washington's scheme to be its own thing, saying during OTAs that "the one major thing I try to do is make sure this was year one of the Commanders' offense, not year five of the Arizona Cardinals."

And so far, it looks like he's keeping his word. Tight end Zach Ertz, the only player on the Commanders' roster with experience playing for Kingsbury, does feel that it's "a little different" from what he ran in Arizona, but there's also some carry over. That's not a surprise to Ertz, considering that he has seen the scheme be successful in the NFL.

The Cardinals had the sixth-ranked offense in 2020, led by a top 10 ground attack that averaged 139.8 yards per game. In 2021, the Cardinals ranked eighth with an average of 373.6 yards.

"But this offense has been successful in this league, so it's not like he needs to come in and revamp this whole thing," Ertz said.

The rookies and veterans were on the field for the first time as they began OTA practices. Check out the top photos of Jayden Daniels working with Terry McLaurin, Brian Robinson and more.

Kingsbury wants to maximize the Commanders' personnel, putting players in a position that highlights their skill sets. That's a typical statement used by most offensive coordinators around the league, but it looks like Kingsbury means it. He's allowing input from his players as they work through the basic concepts of the offense, saying that "good ideas know no rank."

That doesn't mean every idea will be thrown into the offense, but he'll at least hear them out.

"A lot of times, these guys have been other places, whether it's [San Francisco] San Fran or [Philadelphia] Philly or somewhere where they've had a lot of success," Kingsbury said. "And if there's a better way to do it, I'm all about it."

Kingsbury's openness makes his players feel more comfortable, not just because he's willing to hear their ideas, but also because they feel included in the decisions that help them highlight their best traits.

"That's a big thing I would say for myself, being able to feel comfortable in the routes that I'm able to run," Dotson said.

Kingsbury is also focused on ensuring every player is on the same page and making measurable progress. While much of his attention is focused on helping Jayden Daniels and the rest of the quarterbacks, his assistant coaches are matching that energy and trying to elevate their entire position groups.

That sort of attention has been appreciated by the players.

"They were really helpful with getting us integrated into the team, adjusted to what we have to do but also teaching us everything," said rookie offensive tackle Brandon Coleman. "It didn't at all feel like I was overwhelmed and did a really good job of getting us the playbook, knowing what we have to do."

For now, Kingsbury is keeping things simple for his players. Dotson described it as a slow but urgent process, but it's been exciting for the players to use what they've learned against the defense in seven-on-seven drills.

Like any playbook, the Commanders must digest an encyclopedia of knowledge.

"But you know, it's day by day," Daniels said. "Obviously, today was install one. You go out there and just try to master install one. Go back, watch the tape, tomorrow, master install two."

It also helps that they have a coach like Kingsbury to push them.

"You can feel his energy each and every day that he's out there with the guys," Ertz said. "I think all of us are just excited to be here."

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