Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media earlier today at the league owners meetings in Phoenix, Arizona. Here are some of the top takeaways from his press conference.
1. Jacoby Brissett is "a very bright and very smart guy."
The Commanders tried to retain Taylor Heinicke and were close to doing so, but they ultimately could not agree on a deal. That left Heinicke signing with the Atlanta Falcons and the Commanders looking for a backup quarterback. They found one in Jacoby Brissett, and all accounts point to him being a good fit in Washington.
"He's a guy that learns very quickly," Rivera said. "He is a very bright and very smart guy. He knows a lot of football."
Brissett, 30, has played for four teams over the course of his seven-year career, and he has established a reputation for being an exceptional teammate who has "good athletic skills, good quarterback skills." Brissett has one of the best seasons of his career in 2022 a career-high completion rate of 64% while the Cleveland Browns waited out DeShaun Watson's suspension.
But one thing that was most appealing to Washington was how well he works with young quarterbacks. So, whether Sam Howell is the starting quarterback or not, he is bound to grow in his second season.
He's going to push Sam, and Sam is going to push him," Rivera said. "I really think we will have a really good room because of guys like that."
2. There will be competition at QB.
Both Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew have said that Howell will get every opportunity to be the starting quarterback, and they have reiterated that over the past couple of days.
But don't misinterpret that as Rivera handing Howell the job.
"I think its open right now, I really do," Rivera said when asked about a quarterback competition. "All I said was that Sam was going to get the first crack. I didn't say that Sam was the guy. He's going to have to come in and earn it."
Howell will spend OTAs, minicamp and training camp trying to make his case that he deserves the job over Brissett, who has started in 48 of his 76 games. He also coming off what many considered to be his best stretch as a starter, despite having a 4-7 record in 11 games.
Rivera and Mayhew seem confident that Howell has the ability to be the starter, but if he doesn't, they feel like they are still in solid position to win.
"I'm going to play that guy that we believe at the end of the day gives us the best chance at winning football games," Rivera said.
3. Some offensive line updates.
The Commanders were busy from the start of the new league year, and much of that was concentrated on the offensive line. After signing players like Andrew Wylie and Nick Gates, both of whom have starting experience, Rivera said he feels comfortable with where the group is at.
"We made a concerted effort during free agency to go out and fortify the line," Rivera said. "Add some depth to the line. Add some competition. We have some guys that are also position flex guys, so it'll give us an opportunity to see the best places to have these guys and integrate them with the guys that are currently on the roster."
It was clear last season that Commanders needed a shakeup on the offensive line last season, and Rivera believes they can find a group of five starters among the players on their roster. He believes left guard will "truly be a competition" among Saahdiq Charles, Chris Paul and Andrew Norwell.
The Commanders still need to find a replacement offensive line coach with the departure of John Matsko. The team has not made an announcement yet, but Rivera said that "we have a guy that is on staff and we feel very comfortable with him."
4. Washington is exploring "every avenue" in the draft.
The Commanders have some areas that analysts consider to be needs, from cornerback to offensive line and linebacker. Washington could address any of those positions with the No. 16 overall pick in April, but Rivera believes they have more flexibility with the roster.
"We have to look at every avenue and look at every opportunity," he said.
Outside of retaining Daron Payne, the Commanders did not make any "splash" moves in free agency, choosing instead to make functional signings and bring in players who can compete. Those moves might not have made waves, but they did give Washington the ability to pursue the best player available when their time arrives in the draft.
That includes the quarterback position, although Rivera has not started his own work on evaluating this year's class yet. It depends on how the 15 picks in front of them shake out, but if one of the quarterbacks with a first-round grade were to fall to them, it sounds like Rivera would at least consider taking him.
"It's kind of twofold because the best player for us could be a different position, but the best player available may be that position. So, we'll see," Rivera said.
5. It's "a priority" to have a third quarterback.
While their names are not written in ink on the depth chart, the Commanders have answers at the starting and backup roles. The same is not necessarily true of the third quarterback spot, and Rivera wants to find a solution there in the near future.
"It is a priority to have a third quarterback," Rivera said.
As of now, Jake Fromm is in that spot, and Rivera seems pleased with what he has seen from the former Georgia quarterback. "Jake Fromm is a heck of a football player. Very smart, very bright guy," Rivera said.
But like all positions, Rivera said the team is still going through the process of evaluating the roster and the rest of the draft class. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, Rivera intends to look over the rest of the quarterback class to get his own interpretation of the position. That will go a long way in determining whether they could pick a quarterback at any point in the draft.