We're in the final stages of preparation before the draft, which means that the Washington Commanders' coaches and scouts have watched hours and hours (and hours) of film on scores of prospects.
The Commanders, who start the 2022 NFL Draft with the 11th overall pick, have the chance to add six new players to their roster, and in order to find the right fits for the team, every detail matters. Each game contains a mountain of information to sift through, and for those who don't have a plan of attack, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.
Fortunately, Ron Rivera is not one of those people. He goes into each film session with something specific in mind, and he sat down with team analyst Logan Paulsen to provide some context into what he looks at when watching film. No matter what position he focuses on, competition is at the top of the list.
"It's not just about catching the ball," Rivera said. "It's not just about running routes."
It makes sense that Rivera would focus on this area. After all, he preaches that his players need to have the right attitude, preparation and effort whenever he can. He's also been an advocate for creating competition in the roster, from the top down.
No matter who the Commanders select with the 11th overall pick and beyond, they need to possess those traits. So, Rivera pays attention to how prospects perform against some of the top units or position groups in college football. If a team has a stout defense, he watches offensive players; conversely, if a team has a standout defensive front, he watches running backs and blockers.
Rivera pointed to Georgia's defensive front, which featured eight players at the Scouting Combine, as an example. The Bulldogs, who averaged just 10.2 points allowed per game, boasted a historically great unit, so if a player did manage to have success against them, it's going to catch Rivera's eye.
"I'm trying to watch running backs against that group," Rivera said. "I'm trying to watch blockers against the group. Because if I sit there and say, 'Oh my gosh, he blocked that guy. That's pretty doggone good,' that helps me."
Check out the top photos from the Washington Commanders' on-field offensive conditioning during the second day of the team's offseason workout program. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Rivera mentioned Ohio State's receiving, highlighted by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, as another example.
"You watch those guys against DBs and you go, 'Wow. This guy's sticking with this guy or this guy's sticking with this guy. That's impressive.' So those are some of the things I try to do."
Rivera also has a specific view for how he looks at pass rushers. It's always a plus when a player records a lot of sacks, but the context in which those sacks occur paint a much larger picture.
"What I want to see is a guy that gets 14 sacks and 10 of them happen during the process of the game, when he's really truly gotta work," Rivera said.
But that isn't relegated to what happens during the play, though, Rivera also pays attention to what happens before the snap. Again, he uses the receiver position to make his point. If he sees a prospect who doesn't run his routes all the time or isn't hustling between plays, that's going to tell him a lot about who that receiver is.
"That's a minus to me," Rivera said. "Why? Because he's not playing every play as if he's getting the ball."
The Washington Commanders' players have begun reporting to the team facility for Phase 1 of the voluntary offseason workout program. Check out the top photos from the first day of work. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Rivera can also find similar moments while watching two-minute drills before halftime and at the end of games. In those critical moments, some players revert to bad habits, and considering that Rivera's first charge to his players when became Washington's head coach was to "do it the way we ask, and the reward will be yours," it's easy to understand why Rivera looks at those moments.
"You'll see who wins and who doesn't win during those things."
There's still some work to be done before Washington puts together a final list of players they want to target next weekend, but at this point, it's a guarantee that the pool has been narrowed.
You won't catch Rivera tipping his hand now, but it's a safe bet to assume that whoever is in that pool, they're going to bring the right competitive energy to fit into the Commanders' culture.