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2020 Redskins Questions: What are reasonable expectations for Jack Del Rio's defense?

2020 Redskins Questions: What are reasonable expectations for Jack Del Rio's defense?

At a certain point the noise becomes an echo, and after a while, it just goes unheard. That's the best way to describe the chatter in the last few years talking about the Redskins defensive potential. 

The team invested on defense with first-round draft picks up front and big money spending in the secondary. It hasn't mattered. The defense has still struggled. 

Enter Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio.

The new head coach and defensive coordinator have long and accomplished backgrounds in the NFL with long and established track records of succesful defenses. So that should transform the Redskins terrible 2019 defense into a fearful unit in 2020, right?

Not so fast, at least according to Del Rio. 

"I’d say it can be better. Obviously, 32nd in third-down defense, 32nd in yards allowed, I mean just 32nd in things, towards the bottom of the league in several categories," Del Rio said in January of the Redskins defense. "So, there’s a lot of room for improvement. It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential. Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much."

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The potential of the Redskins defense should get a quick boost in 2020 by a schematic switch to a 4-3 base defense. That should focus first-round picks Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan on rushing the quarterback rather than coverage situations like has happened in the past. It also allows first-round picks Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen to play traditional defensive tackle roles. 

That's right, the Redskins defensive front boasts five first-round picks, including Young who went second overall last month, on top of playmaker Matt Ioannidis and emerging piece Tim Settle. 

Still, Del Rio doesn't want to hear about potential. He wants to hear about production. 

"Everyone has talent. You go across the league, there is a collection of college all-stars that play in the NFL. To say we have talent, sure we do. I think everyone does," Del Rio said. "I think you collect talent and you go through the process of trying to acquire as many good players as you can, but ultimately, it comes down to us as a unit doing all we can to help get the ball back to the offense."

The Redskins defense really struggled in 2019, as Del Rio laid out. The unit was historically bad for much of the season on third downs. 

Things should be better, certainly, but there are still major question marks in the secondary and at linebacker. Depth is an issue too.

Washington fans should be excited about the defense, and particularly rookie Chase Young. But it would also be wise to listen to Del Rio - there's talent, but every team has talent. It could take some time to build a fierce defensive unit, and the Redskins have a long way to go to get there. 

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Cutting preseason games won’t hurt or help Dwayne Haskins - here’s why

Cutting preseason games won’t hurt or help Dwayne Haskins - here’s why

The NFL intends to cut the preseason by two games this year, meaning the Redskins will play just two exhibition contests instead of four.

For many players, particularly undrafted guys or fringe roster candidates, losing preseason games is a big deal.

For Dwayne Haskins, it’s not.

The reality is starting quarterbacks don’t play much in the preseason, especially in the first and last weeks of the preseason. Well, those are the exact games the NFL cut out of the August schedule.

In the first preseason game, Haskins likely would have played the first series. Maybe two series. Maybe.

In the fourth preseason game, Haskins wouldn’t have played. Undrafted rookie QB Steven Montez likely would have started that game and gotten the chance to play all four quarters, fully showcasing his skills for coaches to make a decision about if should get a practice squad spot.

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Each coach handles preseason differently, but a normal plan for Haskins would be to start and play the first quarter of the second preseason game and start and play the first half of the third preseason game. That can still happen.

In fact, the Redskins could give Haskins more snaps in either the second or third preseason game to make up for the lost action in the first preseason game.

Whatever the amount of preseason work Ron Rivera wanted to give Haskins, he can still get it.

What will be interesting is how much work Kyle Allen gets. Washington traded for Allen this offseason, and the former Panthers quarterback already knows new offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s offense from their time in Carolina.

If Haskins underwhelms in training camp and there is an actual QB battle, maybe the lack of preseason games could become an issue. That scenario seems unlikely though.

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Training camp will be vital for Haskins as he hasn’t had any organized practices with the new Redskins coaching staff. He needs that work and he needs to impress the new coaches. Coronavirus canceled nearly the entire NFL offseason.

But training camp is very different than preseason action. For Haskins, this training camp is about installing the offensive gameplan and figuring out the new scheme. Preseason games are usually haphazard without full rosters on the field and lots of penalties. The attempt is to simulate regular season football, but regular-season football just cannot be simulated. 

The reality is if the Redskins had their full preseason schedule, Haskins would probably play about three quarters in four games.

Now, there are only two preseason games, but still plenty of time to get three quarters of action.

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Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

Redskins Superlatives: Two tremendous leaders earn the Most Likely to Become President Award

This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will be handing out Redskins Superlatives as they continue to preview the 2020 season.

Next up: They give their Most Likely to Become President Award to a fan favorite and the franchise's newest leader.

JP's pick: Terry McLaurin

There is nothing Terry McLaurin can't do and he's got my vote for president should he ever decide to run. Beyond the breakout rookie year, the precise route running and his blazing speed, McLaurin talks like a 10-year veteran.

This offseason has been hard for everyone, but McLaurin explained things better than most: "Football is what I love to do. I can’t think of a better blessing in my life to be playing the game that I love. When you get through the course of such a long NFL season and you get to the end, it’s like man, I’m ready for that break. That burning desire is still inside of you to continue to get better and continue to improve. Now with us having a new staff, we’re just all looking forward to being on the field again. I feel like sports is something that this country needs as well. The camaraderie of it, the togetherness that it brings."

Put McLaurin on the ballot — but ideally after a 15-year career with a whole lot of postseason success.

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Pete's pick: Ron Rivera

JP and I didn't go to school together — that's because he's a LOT OLDER than me — but if we did, it would've been a surprise if we ever got an A-plus on the same assignment. In fact, it would've been a huge surprise, and perhaps an impossibility.

But in this instance, we're both getting an A-plus. He nailed his pick, and I'm nailing mine. 

Ron Rivera hasn't been with the Redskins long, and due to this unusual offseason, the media hasn't gotten to hang around him much in person, aside from his introductory press conference in January and some time at the Combine. 

Even so, we have still talked to him plenty on Zoom, and in all of those instances, I've been floored by his leadership, his intelligence and his perspective on everything, both football-related topics and topics that relate more to life overall. 

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At this point, I'm pretty much convinced every company or group in the world would be better with Rivera involved. He's fair, he's level-headed and he simultaneously gives and commands respect. 

For now, Rivera's just in the running for an NFC East title, but if he ever sets his sights on running for office, he'll have one mediocre blogger on his side.

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