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#HailMail: The Beginning Of The Ron Rivera Era


The Ron Rivera era is upon us.

The Redskins announced the hiring of Rivera on New Year's day, and in the weeks since they've overhauled the coaching staff, reworked the front office, brought on a new head athletic training and added a medical consultant. The Super Bowl has not even happened yet, and all eyes are already looking towards the 2020 season and beyond.

With all of these changes comes questions, and we're here to answer them every Thursday for the foreseeable future. Here's what Redskins fans wanted to know in this week's mailbag:

What will be the focus this year? Where do you start with the rebuilding process? -- Bill S.

The biggest focus this year will be for the organization to buy into the vision of new head coach Ron Rivera.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder made it clear that the franchise will operate using a coach-centered approach, and that's been apparent in the weeks since Rivera was hired.

He overhauled the coaching staff, bringing over several people who coached with him in Carolina. The team announced a new head athletic trainer, who also previously worked for the Panthers, as well as a medical consultant. It also announced changes to the front office.

Rivera is a proven winner; that's evident in his days as a linebacker from the Chicago Bears and in more than two decades coaching in the NFL. Now, it's up to the Redskins to put their trust in him as he works to create a consistent winner.

"It's all about winning," Snyder said. "Ron Rivera knows how to win as a player, as a coach, as the new head coach of the Redskins. One thing that's very, very important is we're going to have one voice, and only one voice alone, and that's the coach's."

What are the challenges of coaching a team with so many young players, especially with a coaching change? -- Andrew N.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for someone coaching a young team is getting them to reach their standard of excellence. Almost all of these players were college standouts, and some of them excelled in large part because of their natural ability. But to succeed in the NFL, talent is not nearly enough. Exhaustive mental and physical preparation becomes imperative. Discipline and commitment have to be at an all-time high.

It's even harder to get through to these players as a new coach. The Redskins have had three head coaches in the past five months, all of whom have brought their own principles and ideas. That's difficult for any player, let alone those in the beginning of their NFL careers.

Luckily, the Redskins hired someone who has been widely adored by his players. It's because Rivera cares about the people behind the helmet and the shoulder pads. He's invested in their lives, not just their performance.

Defensive end Gerald McCoy, who played for the Panthers this season after spending his first nine in Tampa, gave the current Redskins a preview of who they'd be playing for.

"One of the best things to ever happen in your career is about to happen," McCoy said. "One of the greatest men I've ever been around. One of the greatest coaches I've been around."

Do coach Rivera and the staff feel good about Dwayne Haskins as the Redskins' quarterback? -- Zach A.

From talking to Rivera and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner, it seems as though the staff has high hopes for Haskins.

"I think he can become a franchise style quarterback," Rivera said in his introductory press conference.

"I was a really big fan of his coming out of Ohio State, had him rated pretty high," Turner added during his introductory conference call.

Both coaches acknowledged that developing Haskins will take time and hard work. Rivera wants Haskins to step up and become a leader in his second NFL season, while Turner said Haskins' growth will require him to be the "most committed guy in the room." But they're confident Haskins can become the type of quarterback to lead the franchise back into contention.

Will Alex Smith make his return as QB or is Haskins a for sure move? -- Makenzee B.

"Without a doubt," Alex Smith plans to return to the field in 2020. He said as much during the Redskins' locker room cleanout on Dec. 30.

But as Smith noted, him coming back does not mean he's in competition with Haskins for the starting job.

"For me, that's the last of my concern," Smith said. "His path and trajectory and mine are not conflicting each other at all, so any narrative of that is just not real. Like I said, my focus is singularly on getting back to where I was and even better. That doesn't mean I can't also be a good teammate. Those things aren't exclusive from one another."

Does the team plan to address the tight end position? -- Anthony P.

The Redskins will definitely address the tight end position this offseason. The team's starting tight end, Jordan Reed, missed the entire 2019 season after suffering his seventh documented concussion. Its No. 2 tight end, Vernon Davis, turns 36 at the end of the month and missed the final 12 games with a concussion. The other tight ends on the roster are Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges and Jerome Cunningham and Caleb Wilson -- all of whom combined for 18 receptions, 226 yards and two touchdowns. Davis and Cunningham are also set to become free agents this offseason.

Simply put, the Redskins received virtually zero production from the tight end position. And that will almost certainly change under Rivera, who was able to rely on Pro Bowler Greg Olsen during his entire tenure with the Carolina Panthers.

"Right now, the tight end is very important to our offense," Turner, who coached with Rivera in Carolina. "We're evaluating everything. We're going to try and get as much talent as we can on offense. You look at that in different ways, obviously what is on the roster currently, but then we will look in free agency and we'll look in the draft. Those are the different avenues to acquiring talent and we're open to all of that."

How are the new defensive coaches? -- Lewis R.

The Redskins announced their full coaching staff Wednesday, which you can see, HERE.

The defensive coordinator is Jack Del Rio, a proven winner that's spearheaded some of the best defenses in the NFL during his career. He last served as the Oakland Raiders head coach from 2015-17 and was the Denver Broncos' defensive coordinator before that.

Several of the defensive assistants came over from Carolina, including Steve Russ (linebackers), Sam Mills III (defensive line), Richard Rodgers (assistant defensive backs) and Vincent Rivera (defensive quality control). Chris Harris, the team's defensive backs coach, spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers and previously played safety from 2005-12.

The Redskins also have their first defensive-minded head coach since 2001 in Rivera. He played linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1984-92 and has been coaching in the NFL since 1997. Before getting hired as the Panthers' head coach in 2011, all of Rivera's roles were centered around the defense.

What is Ryan Kerrigan's future? -- Nicholas W.

Kerrigan still has one more year left on his contract, so if the new coaching staff wants him, he'll be back with the Redskins. Otherwise, they could opt to trade or release him. Kerrigan is currently 1.5 sacks away from breaking the Redskins' all-time sacks record.

"Certainly, I want to be here," Kerrigan said during locker room cleanout on Dec. 30. "This is my home now. I've been here for nine years. I've been through some good seasons, I've been through some bad ones. I want to be here through the good and the bad. I love Washington, D.C. I love the Redskins. I want to be here."

How are Reuben Foster and Bryce Love rehabbing and what can we expect next year? -- Marc M.

All signs point to Foster and Love being fully healthy for the 2020 campaign.

Foster tore his ACL and LCL during team's first day of minicamp in June, ending his season long before it began. But in late October, he posted a video of himself running on the treadmill along with an inspirational message. There have not been any other updates with his recovery, but the video alone is a good sign that Foster will be able to return to the field in a timely manner. Foster, a former first-round pick in 2017, will surely bolster the linebacker corps with his unique strength and speed.

Love, a fourth-round selection in 2019, has been sidelined since tearing his ACL in his final game at Stanford in December of 2018. He spent his entire rookie season on the non-football injury (NFI) list.

It's now been more than a year since Love suffered the injury, so while there's no definite timetable for him to return, it's fair to see he'll join the Redskins' running backs room in 2020. He'll join a group that'll include veteran Adrian Peterson and 2018 second-rounder Derrius Guice. Chris Thompson will become a free agent this offseason.

Do you think Chase Young is the guaranteed pick at No. 2 in the 2020 NFL Draft? Or would they go in a different direction? -- William R.

It's easy to assume the Redskins will select Chase Young, the dominant edge rusher out of Ohio State. Many draft experts are hailing him as No. 1 prospect in the class, while 56 of 59 mock drafts done since the end of the regular season have Washington taking him second, according to NFL Mock Draft Database.

But there are no guarantees in the NFL, especially when it comes to the draft. The Redskins could decide to take a player that fills a greater need. They could trade back to acquire more draft capital, especially since they gave up this year's second-round pick to select Montez Sweat in 2019.

Regardless of their decision, the Redskins will gain a valuable asset as they attempt to rebuild under Rivera.

What positions on the Redskins are most likely to be strengthened either through free agency, the draft or UFAs? -- Tim F.

As I mentioned above, tight end is a position the Redskins will be looking to strengthen this offseason. There's also a lot of uncertainty surrounding the offensive line. Three-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff is set to become a free agent, as are fellow starters Donald Penn and Ereck Flowers. The Trent Williams situation is still ongoing. Look for the Redskins to either re-sign some of these players or look for their replacements through the draft and free agency.

Defensively, linebacker appears to be an area of need. With the Redskins switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front, Sweat and Kerrigan will in all likelihood act as defensive linemen. Getting Foster back helps, and rookie Cole Holcomb was one of three Redskins to have at least 100 tackles this season. But they're both inside linebackers. It remains to be seen who Rivera and Del Rio will pick to play on the outside.

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