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Who are Ron Rivera’s Building Blocks in Washington?

As the draft has now come and gone and has had time for the hype to settle (more realistically rise) and we find ourself back in a timeline that is mostly void of real NFL news, I found myself considering the task at hand for newly hired and powerful Head Coach for the Washington Redskins, Ron Rivera. It is important to note for the purposes of this article, that the building blocks that will be discussed in this article must meet a few qualifications, they must be young enough to be on the roster when there is a realistic window for the Rivera led Redskins to compete for more than 3rd place in the NFC East, they must have already proved something in the league that gives us the inclination to say that they are a key building block going forward, or they must have been a highly sought after prospect in this recent draft that has been added to the roster, and lastly, they can be considered a building block going forward if Rivera and Co. made a significant financial commitment to the player this offseason. 

Offensive building blocks

There are only two members on the Redskins offense that should be considered SAFE building block locks for this team. There is a very obvious caveat that we will address later on. 

 

  1. The first building block on the Washington Redskins is, in my opinion, the best player on the Redskins offense right now. That is Guard Brandon Scherff. Scherff is currently on the franchise tag and is among the best guards in football. A nasty blocker in the run game, solid in pass protection and athletic enough to make his presence felt by defenders in the second and third levels on pulls and screens. Ron Rivera’s first building block on this Washington Offense is the 5th overall pick from the 2015 class and the only top ten pick from that class on his original team. There are questions to be asked about Scherff given the contract situation and the injury history, but Scherff is the only player on offense that has recently displayed pro bowl level talent and close to all-pro level potential. 
  2. The second building block on this Redskins offense has been called a coach’s dream. That is 2019 3rd round standout, Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is coming off of a phenomenal rookie season in Washington and perhaps had it not been for injuries and a lost season McLaurin would have broken the Redskins single-season rookie receiving yards record. McLaurin showed in his rookie year that he can at least be a top-end WR 2 for this Washington offense going forward. McLaurin has the blazing speed that people want in a WR and has decent size at 6’0 210. McLaurin, who was originally thought of as a special team ace when drafted in 2019, after his almost 1K yard year as a rookie is consistently being considered one of the good young wideouts from the 2019 class. McLaurin’s speed, sure handedness, and ability & willingness to do it all makes him the second building block on this Ron Rivera Washington Redskins offense.

As mentioned earlier, there is an obvious caveat here. That is the QB. Dwayne Haskins is coming off of an up and down rookie season and a lot of that is to no fault of his own. Haskins showed real growth as he grew comfortable in the building and as the building rallied around him, but using the standards set at the beginning of the article we will put Haskins down as a very strong honorable mention. 

The next honorable mentions are Antonio Gibson and Saahdiq Charles, let’s take a wait and see approach with these two players.

Defensive Building Blocks 

Despite only having two building blocks on offense, the reason for optimism falls on the defensive side of the ball. The Washington Redskins even prior to Rivera arriving put an emphasis on building this defense from front to back and you will see that as that is the strength of this roster.

 

  1. The first of the defensive building blocks is for my money already the most talented player on the Redskins roster. That is 2nd overall pick and per most accounts the best player from the 2020 draft, Defensive End Chase Young. The Redskins resisted the urge to take the QB or to move back and instead stayed put and drafted what Mike Renner of PFF @PFFMike on twitter has called only the 2nd player he has called a future Hall of Famer as a prospect. Chase Young is for my money, the best non-QB prospect to come out in my lifetime. Young should reward the Redskins very quickly and should do so for a long time.
  2. The second building block that Ron Rivera has on his defense is the Redskins first-round pick in 2017, Jonathan Allen. Allen is on the verge of taking a step into being on that top tier list of interior defenders. Allen has everything you want in a long term building block. Solid pass rush for an interior guy, very strong against the point of attack, and a total culture guy who was voted team captain in just his third season in the NFL. Allen has the talent to be an elite top tier interior defender in the NFL. 
  3. The third building block on this Redskins defense will come as a surprise to the casual fan. That is Matt Ioannidis. Ioannidis a 5th round pick in the 2016 draft, who did not originally make the team as a rookie is now perhaps the best interior defender on the Redskins right now. If not the best all-around perhaps at least the best against the pass. Ioannidis, who signed a 3-year extension in 2019 worth only $7,250,000 per season has logged 20.5 sacks in the last 3 seasons and 8.5 in 2019 which ranked 5th amongst interior defenders in 2019. Ioannidis provides Rivera his third building block along the front of his defense going forward. 
  4. The 4th long term building block also resides in the interior of the defensive line. That is the 2018 first-round pick, Daron Payne. Payne will be only 23 years old entering his third season in the NFL. Payne has only amassed 7 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL, but there needs to be some context when that number is being brought up, first you must consider the other two players he is competing with when it comes to snaps on obvious pass-rush situations. The second is Payne was often asked to line up as a nose in the Redskins 3-4 base under Jay Gruden and former Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky. Payne should expect to take a leap with the new scheme and the upgrades with the defensive coaching staff. Payne who has already demonstrated he is among the best run defenders in the NFL and flashed a 5 sack rookie season is a very nice third defensive interior building block piece on the Rivera defense who could perhaps end up being the best of the three interior guys. 
  5. The 5th long term building block will line up opposite of Young and attempt to wreak havoc from the opposite end of the defensive line of the number 2 overall pick. That player is 2019 first-round draft pick Montez Sweat. Sweat, no slouch himself is coming off of a pretty impressive rookie season that admittedly started pretty slow. Sweat finished his rookie campaign with a strong sack total of 7 sacks that ranked 5th in rookies in 2019. Sweat also boasted 14 hurries and 5 QB knockdowns to go along with his 7 sacks as a rookie. Sweat who was highly productive in college and boasted a freakish combine running a 4.41 40 yard dash is the perfect compliment to Chase Young long term on the ends of the defensive line for Ron Rivera going forward makes him the 5th building block in the front of this defense for Rivera and new Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio.
  6. The 6th and final building block that Rivera has on the defensive side of the ball resides in the secondary. That player is a former 3rd round pick for the Redskins under former GM Scot McCloughan and former Head Coach, Jay Gruden, Kendall Fuller. Fuller, an original pick by the Redskins in 2016 was traded to Kansas City as a key part of the Alex Smith trade that sent Alex Smith to Washington. Fuller when traded from Washington, was at the time rated the number one slot corner in the NFL per PFF. Fuller, signed a 4 year $ 40,000,000 contract, making him the highest-paid CB on the team’s defense. There is still some debate as to if he will line up outside or play the majority of his snaps in the slot, but the truth is, he will likely be asked to move around in the secondary much like he was in Kansas City where he just recently won a Super Bowl. Fuller is young enough (25 years old) and talented enough to consider a building block for this team going forward, perhaps not as the long term number 1 corner, but as the 2/slot corner going forward. 

There are probably some of you wondering where a few big-name players are at on this roster, Kerrigan and Collins. There are reasons that these players did not make my list. 

Kerrigan, perhaps the best and certainly the most consistent Redskin since being drafted does not make the list because of age and he only has one year on his contract until Kerrigan is brought back he cannot be counted as a long term member of the Redskins in the Rivera era. 

Collins, let me preface by saying that I think the Redskins really like Landon Collins, more than most do and you could tell me he belongs on this list and I would be perfectly fine with that, I just did not feel comfortable adding what most consider a box safety who has at times struggled in coverage as a building block piece going forward. That may change with this season as Collins has flashed all-pro level play, but the Redskins should be in wait and see mode with Rivera and Del Rio in charge. 

When you look at the pieces Rivera has on this roster, there are a lot of questions on the offensive side of the ball that we will get answers on when play and practice begin. Although there are only 2 players listed now as locked in building blocks on offense, the truth is, there may be as many 5 on that side of the ball depending on Haskins, Guice/Gibson, and Charles.

The defense is where the team will have to win games in Rivera’s first season in the rebuild, that is shown by the strong defensive line that has come at the expense of using a first-round pick in the last 4 NFL drafts and hitting big on Ioannidis in the 5th round in 2016. If the Redskins are to surprise people in Rivera’s first season in Washington, it is going to have to be because the front that they have on defense is just so dominant that they elevated the defense to the elite level territory. 

Ron Rivera and his newly rebuilt front office and coaching staff in Washington have a lot of work cut out for them and perhaps should have their eyes down the road when it comes to being truly competitive in the NFL, but they do have a couple of building blocks on offense and more than a few on defense that they should feel extremely confident about for the 2020 season and more importantly going forward. 

 

Questions, Comments, & Opinions on this content?

 

Follow me on twitter @TdacusNFL for more #NFL and #Redskins content.

 

 

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