Commanders

Rivera will keep touting O-line, with or without Brandon Scherff

Commanders

Like any experienced salesman, Ron Rivera has his pitch, and that pitch always begins the same way.

So far this offseason, Rivera has been quite forthcoming about his desire to acquire an acclaimed quarterback, and on Tuesday at the NFL Combine, he expressed that once more

Then, in following a pattern that he's established since January, the Commanders head coach went on to explain why his club is an ideal spot for a premier passer, beginning his list with Washington's offensive line.

Pro Football Focus rated that unit as the sixth-best bunch in the NFL after the 2021 campaign, a stat that Rivera has bragged about like a neighborhood dad showing off his new riding lawnmower.

Rivera's spiel also typically mentions the team's two 1,000-yard players in Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, and back in February, he even brought up the Commanders' rebrand as a factor that could entice quarterbacks to come. Those points, however, always come after the offensive line (which PFF rated as the sixth-best bunch in the NFL after the 2021 campaign, FYI).

It's something he'll continue to do even if All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff departs in free agency like many expect him to.

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"I do," Rivera said to reporters at the Combine regarding whether he feels confident in a Scherff-less O-line, "just because of the fact of what happened during the season with the number of injuries we had and the guys that had to step up and play."

Rivera's right about the amount of carnage Washington saw up front during the year. Scherff himself missed six starts on the right side and, among other shuffling, the offense relied on four different centers to get through the 17-game schedule. Therefore, the success that the line had didn't come easy and those who contributed to it are no doubt better for it.

Even so, Scherff — who, according to GM Martin Mayhew, declined a record-breaking contract offer in 2020 and sure appears destined to move on after two consecutive franchise tags — would represent a serious loss.

It's true that the 30-year-old is injury prone and it's true that someone like Wes Schweitzer could provide much better value at guard, yet it's also true that Scherff is one of the rare talents in the sport, the kind of blocker who'd be missed regardless of what depth has been built up behind him.

Despite the fact that it actually makes complete sense for the Commanders to let Scherff walk — he's shown a lack of durability under Rivera and is still going to cost a ton — it's natural to wonder how that could cause Washington's offensive line to regress overall.

Rivera's not wondering, though.

"You feel it's a good group, you feel like they're well-coached," he said Tuesday. "The things that we do offensively play to a lot of the skill sets that we have. So I think that that is going to be OK."

Rivera tacked on that he wants to "see if we can work something out" with Scherff, but that's a stance that this regime as well as the previous one has taken and, so far, no long-term pact has been reached. As of now, it's wise to prepare for Scherff's exit.

Clearly, that's not preventing Rivera from using the offensive line as an attraction for a veteran quarterback. Instead of acknowledging the downside of what the future could look like, he's plowing ahead with unabashed optimism — just like any experienced salesman would.