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Washington Football Daily 9/28: Ron Rivera Has Been 'Very Pleased' With The Rookie Class So Far

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (24) runs the ball during NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, September 27, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Aaron Doster/NFL)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.

Stay up to date with "Washington Football Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.


Chase Young was viewed as one of the best defensive prospects in recent memory, and he met those expectations during his first two games by leading the Washington Football Team with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. And while he left Sunday's loss to the Browns with a groin injury, head coach Ron Rivera said the No. 2 overall pick has been "everything that we thought he would be."

Young has been far from the only impressive rookie, though, several of whom Rivera highlighted in Monday's videoconference. "The young class really has got our attention," he said. "I'm very happy about it. I'm very pleased with the effort that we're getting in terms of their growth."

Praised for his versatility, third-rounder Antonio Gibson currently leads the team in carries (31) and rushing yards (140) and has added two touchdowns through three games. He's also second among all running backs with 10 broken tackles.

Wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, who was selected in the fourth round, has not made nearly as big of an impact on offense, but he's gradually working his way into offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system. Gandy-Golden went from zero offensive snaps in Week 1 to five in Week 2, when he made his first-career catch. On Sunday, he played 19 snaps and rattled off a 22-yard run that help set up Washington's first touchdown.

"You mention [Antonio Gandy-Golden], he got his opportunity and has done some really good things," Rivera said. "Antonio Gibson has done some good things. He's got to protect the ball a little bit better, but those guys are doing things that we were hoping."

Saahdiq Charles has yet to see the field, which Rivera said has been "a little disappointing" considering what the team saw from the fourth-round tackle before he reinjured his leg. Charles did not practice at all last week, but Rivera hopes to get him back in the near future.

Fifth-rounder Keith Ismael has been healthy since the beginning of training camp, showing his ability to excel at multiple positions along the offensive line. When Washington placed guard Brandon Scherff on Injured Reserve, Ismael became the backup at the three interior offensive line spots on the depth chart. "We're happy with his progress," Rivera said of Ismael.

Rivera did not mention Khaleke Hudson and James Smith-Williams in Monday's press conference, but both have been quality special teams players early in their NFL careers.

Hudson, a fifth-round linebacker, has played about 75% of the special teams snaps this season, including 89% of them against the Browns. Smith-Williams was inactive Sunday, but the seventh-round defensive lineman played about 52% of the special teams snaps in the first two games. Both players also offer the positional flexibility that Rivera covets.

Rivera concluded his lengthy response about the rookies by highlighting two of the class's biggest surprises in defensive back Kamren Curl and wideout Isaiah Wright.

"Kamren Curl is a guy that really has exceeded expectations," Rivera said of the seventh-rounder, who has played about one-third of the defensive snaps so far. "Not having the workouts, I think, is why he slipped and was where he was when we drafted him. I think if he'd had the workouts, I think people would've seen a little bit more into him and he would've been drafted higher. So, he's a guy that we're very fortunate to have on the football team."

Wright, an undrafted rookie out of Temple, made his receiving debut Sunday with starting slot receiver Steven Sims Jr. limited with a toe issue. He made the most of the opportunity, catching four of his six targets for 24 yards and delivering a vicious hit on a Browns defender to break up an interception. Wright has also been praised for his special teams' ability, including as a returner.

"Isaiah Wright has been excellent, he really has," Rivera said. "You've just seen the progress each week, and that's what you're looking for is growth. You want to see a guy produce every week and show that he is growing."


-- Secondary returns to full strength: Cornerback Kendall Fuller started Sunday and played all 63 defensive snaps, which is an encouraging sign after Fuller missed the first two games with a knee injury. With Fuller starting opposite Ronald Darby, and Washington often using three linebackers to defend the Browns' rushing attack, Jimmy Moreland only played 13 snaps and Fabian Moreau did not see the field aside from special teams.

The secondary has struggled with receivers getting behind them, but that was not the case against the Browns. After giving up eight plays of 20-plus yards the first two games, the unit did not allow a completion of more than 18 yards.

"I thought for the most part we were able to contain the passing game," Rivera said. "A week before, the receivers had big days. We were able to limit their exposure and explosive plays."

-- McLaurin is a YAC machine: Terry McLaurin is averaging 11.2 yards after catch per reception this season; no receiver with at least 15 receptions has more than 6.8. "Just fortunate to have him," Rivera said of McLaurin. "Everything he works on he excels at."

After compiling 919 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, McLaurin is on pace to haul in 85 balls for 1,434 yards this season. Expect Washington to continue finding McLaurin in space and letting him make plays.

-- Rivera believes Haskins' mistakes are due to inexperience: Haskins has been in the NFL for about 18 months, but Rivera has pointed out multiple times that he only has 10 career starts. "He is a young quarterback who, in my opinion, is really just going through his rookie year and has not quite finished it yet."

Haskins' four turnovers Sunday resulted in 24 points for the Browns, but Rivera still believes in his young signal-caller. The key for Haskins will be continuing to grow while trying not to make the same mistakes.

"The hard part for him last year is he wasn't the primary quarterback until the very end of the season. Now, he becomes the primary quarterback. Everything is being put in for him; now he has to learn it, now is his continuation of his education and growth. Again, as I said, we're looking for positive growth."

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