Redskins head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media for the first time since free agency began on March 18. Here are five things we learned from his video conference:
1. He's "not too concerned" about being unable to meet with his players.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world with more than one million reported cases, and the NFL is not immune to adjusting its work habits. Per a memo sent out by Commissioner Roger Goodell on March 24, the league instructed all clubs to close their facilities until at least April 8, meaning coaches and players have been at home for the past two weeks.
Rivera understands the necessity of such actions, but he's familiar with unconventional offseasons. The NFL was going through a lockout during his first offseason as a head coach in 2011, and players were not allowed access to team facilities from March 12 to July 25 of that year.
Fortunately, there are ways for the Redskins' coaching staff to communicate with their players in what Rivera called "a whole new normal." Once they get clearance from the league and the NFL Players Association, they will be allowed to have virtual meetings to discuss playbooks and other offseason plans.
The past month has been unprecedented territory for almost everyone, but the fact that Rivera has experience in a similar situation ensures he has a plan moving forward.
"I'm not too concerned [with not meeting players] because I've kind of gone through this, and just know that the best that we can do is that we're gonna meet with our guys virtually so can stay in contact with them," Rivera said. "The biggest thing is just be ready when it's time to come back to the building."
2. He's going to rely heavily on his scouts for draft evaluation.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are felt among all sports at every level. For college athletes who are entering the NFL Draft, which is now set to be done virtually, the wide-ranging "stay-at-home" orders by states has eliminated Pro Days and official visits.
As a result, Rivera and his coaching staff are choosing to rely on the evaluations done by their scouting department.
"I have a lot of trust in what Vice President of Player Personnel] **[Kyle Smith** and our college scouts have been doing," Rivera said. "I had a chance to be around those guys when we were at the Combine. I really loved the way that they handled things."
Rivera said he and the coaching staff are going to begin meeting virtually on April 8 for their position coach readings, which is where they will add a coach's point of view to the scouts' evaluations. They'll discuss what prospects' skillsets are and how they will fit into their system.
Rivera reiterated that he likes what Smith and his department have done with the last three drafts, but it's clear that he views the current situation as a challenge, not just for the scouts but also for himself and his position coaches.
"We're gonna find out just how good we are in terms of being able to evaluate," Rivera said.
3. Tight ends will be a big part of the offense.
Tight end was clearly one of the biggest areas of need on the Redskins offense this offseason. They addressed that position in free agency by signing Logan Thomas from the Detroit Lions and Richard Rodgers from the Philadelphia Eagles.
They could still add to the position in the draft, but Rivera also said they like what they have in Thomas and Rodgers.
"In this system, you'd like to have a guy with Greg Olsen-type of ability who's a primary ball catcher, a guy who can go out, find the hole, find the seam, can separate when the ball's in the air at the right time," Rivera said.
Rivera said he sees glimpses of that ability in Thomas. He said tight ends coach Pete Hoener felt "very strongly" about Thomas' abilities, mostly because he viewed him as a "smart, savvy" football player.
When it came to Rodgers, Rivera viewed him as a safety valve for Aaron Rodgers when he was with the Packers. And on top of that, Rodgers always had a good game when he played the Panthers, so Rivera feels like he can come in and compete for playing time.
Both Thomas and Rodgers will likely get plenty of playing time in the Redskins offense. Rivera said their "multi-personnel offense" could feature two or even three tight ends.
"Having multiple tight ends on your roster is going to be very beneficial."
4. Players signed to one- and two-year deals will have the chance to prove themselves.
The Redskins have been active so far in free agency by bringing in 14 new players in addition to re-signing three of their own. Most of those deals only last one or two years, but Rivera likes it that way so the new players can prove themselves.
"I love that guys are betting on themselves, and they're going to come in and prove that they belong," Rivera said. "That's what we're trying to do is find out who fits us."
Rivera has been all about competition since he was hired by the Redskins and has addressed most positions of need with players who want to prove they deserve longer contracts. Most notably, Sean Davis and Ronald Darby, both of whom will be part of the Redskins' new secondary, have confirmed they are on one-year deals and want to prove they are still starting-caliber players.
If they have productive years, then it's likely Rivera would be open to bringing them back in the future.
"These guys are up to the challenge, so I'm pretty excited about that," Rivera said.
5. He wants to get immediate impact players if they decide to trade back.
Rivera said he likes to think he has an idea "in the back of his mind" who the Redskins will select with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on April 23, but all options, including a scenario where they trade back, are still available to them.
If that does happen, Rivera wants to be sure the player he trades back to pick is able to give the kind of impact he needs to validate the trade.
"In other words, if you're going to pass up on Player A, and you're going to go back and you're going to get Player B, Player B has to be equal to Player A," Rivera said.
Rivera views the first five spots in the draft as an opportunity to get players who can play immediately. Most people view Chase Young, who the Redskins are predicted to pick, as that kind of player in this draft class, but Rivera said there are a few players on their draft board who can offer a similar impact.
The important thing for Rivera is getting the right player. He believes they need someone who can change their franchise, and whether they stay at No. 2 or trade back, it has to be a high-impact player.
"If player A is going to play for you for ten years, and player D might not, did you really get value or did you just get a whole bunch of picks?"