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Redskins' Rookies Tackle Learning Their Playbooks Virtually


Thaddeus Moss' first NFL offseason is unlike any he's experienced in his football career.

Moss finally received the chance to earn an NFL roster spot after the Redskins signed him as an undrafted free agent just hours after the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. If this were a normal offseason, Moss would be whisked away to Ashburn, Virginia, so he could spend time at Redskins Park meeting his new teammates and getting acclimated to life in the NFL.

That's not possible with facilities closed down as part of the league's efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. Instead, Moss' first interaction with his fellow rookies came by opening up a videoconference, and for the past three weeks, that's how they've tried to tackle the task of learning their new playbooks.

"It's just different," Moss said of learning in quarantine. "It's just a whole lot different [way of] learning football."

In many ways, Moss and fellow rookie Saahdiq Charles -- a fourth-round pick by the Redskins -- already have some prior experience working in an offense with some NFL tendencies. Joe Brady, who was the Tigers' passing coordinator for one season before becoming the Carolina Panthers' play-caller, sprinkled in concepts he learned working with Sean Payton and Drew Brees as an offensive assistant for the New Orleans Saints.

But working in a college system where much of the passing game and verbiage was lifted from the Saints' playbook does little to help Moss in his current situation. It's essentially the same information, he said, but the depth of what he is learning is far more profound than what he was doing at LSU.

"I've had to change just the way I'm learning this playbook. [It's] just a learning curve, learning how to learn and learning how to study differently going from college to the NFL."

The challenge of learning offensive coordinator Scott Turner's Air Coryell system has forced Moss to change his study habits. Moss admitted he wasn't much of a writer in college. Now, his days are filled by taking copious notes.

"I'm looking I have about 25 pages right here," Moss said during his videoconference May 13.

This is also the first time Moss has had virtual meetings, so any adjustments are warranted.

"It's a different type of learning and kind of a different kind of studying."

Charles isn't learning new pass concepts, but he is facing just as much of a challenge in trying to grasp the Redskins' blocking schemes and pass protection calls. Charles echoed his teammate's thoughts by saying the playbook is "basically all the same thing," but there is more detail than what he experienced in college.

"You've got to learn more things within the playbook," Charles said. "It's just taking more time, but I feel like it's going really well."

At least Charles has a study partner in fifth-round pick Keith Ismael. And this isn't the first time he and the former San Diego State center have worked together, either. They first met in January while training for the NFL Scouting Combine, and they have since become good friends.

Now that they're on the same team, that friendship continues to grow.

"Me and Keith have been in our own meetings for hours," Charles said. "Me and him FaceTime and talk about the playbook when we aren't with the coaches in a Zoom scenario."

Ismael's role is different from that of Charles', though. As a center, he is in charge of making protection calls for the rest of the offensive line. He lets them know which direction to slide during pass plays and which players have 1-on-1 responsibilities. He can also flip protections schemes, which is something he couldn't do in college.

As the daily meetings continue, Ismael said he wants to "level up my knowledge," and he plans to do that by continuing to be a student of the game.

"I've already learned so much with this advanced system," he said. "We have a lot of really cool concepts and schemes going in that get a lot of players the ball and allow the offensive line to be physical on point-of-attack."

Ismael, Moss, Charles and the rest of the offensive rookies have one advantage, though: every player on the roster is learning a new system. Even though the other players were able to participate in the virtual offseason program that began April 20, the rookies aren't too far behind.

The way Ismael sees it, everyone is on the same learning curve. So, if the Redskins hope to have a successful season in 2020, communication during this abnormal offseason is going to be pivotal.

"It's just going to take a team effort, a lot of communication and just everybody on top of their assignments. Everybody has to be on point moving forward."

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