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Chris Thompson sees improvement in Dwayne Haskins in ways the box score doesn't show

Chris Thompson sees improvement in Dwayne Haskins in ways the box score doesn't show

Dwayne Haskins' final stat line in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina was not eye-popping or overly impressive.

The rookie QB completed just 13 passes at a 54 percent clip with no touchdowns. Washington relied heavily on the run game, which ran for a season-high 248 yards, and their defense to bring home their third win of the season.

While Haskins' numbers don't stand out, the improvement and strides he's made in other aspects have been noticeable to many, including running back Chris Thompson.

Thompson returned to the field Sunday after missing five games with a toe injury. His return marked the first time he played with Haskins during the regular season; the last time the two took a snap together was in training camp.

The seven-year veteran joined The Sports Junkies on Monday and praised the improvement in Haskins' command of the huddle and understanding of the offense -- two things the Redskins are specifically looking for a development of during the remainder of the 2019 season.

"Just being in the huddle, I feel like he's taken more control," Thompson said on Haskins. "I feel like he's more calm out there. Everybody knows the story, he'd go out there and have a wristband [of the plays] and things like that. He's put more [pressure] on himself to not even want to use the wristband. He's just trying to learn everything."

Thompson pointed out Haskins' understanding of coverages and the ability to change pass protections at the line of scrimmage as one area he's drastically improved in.

Recalling back just two weeks ago, Haskins struggled in that aspect against the Jets. He was captured on video asking his offensive lineman on the sidelines "What can I do to help you?"

Two weeks later, the difference is clear.

"He was out there being able to flip protections to be able to protect himself. That's what I love to see," Thompson said. "I remember one time I was calling out the protection, I was saying it out loud. I was saying 'We need to flip this protection.' We had what we call a dummy count, and he walked up, switched the protection and put us in the right position for him to be able to get all six guys blocked up. That's the growth I've been seeing."

Although the play resulted in an incomplete pass, Thompson pointed out one sequence against Carolina that showed him a significant amount of progress in terms of the quarterback going through his progressions. On a third-down play, Haskins avoided multiple defenders in the pocket, kept his eyes downfield and found an open Jeremy Sprinkle for what would have been good enough for a first down.

The tight end dropped it, but Haskins's effort on that play did not go unnoticed.

"As playmakers, we continue to make plays for him, I think he's going to continue to get better and better," Thompson said. I love that extended play that he threw to Sprinkle. Sprink ended up dropping it. I think it was on a third-and-12 or something like that. Those are the steps I see he's been making and I can tell he's getting more and more comfortable with the game and the speed with everything out there."

Taking care of the ball is vital to success in the NFL, and it's something rookie quarterbacks usually struggle with. In the two relief appearances he had earlier in the season, the rookie threw four interceptions in his first 22 pass attempts. In Haskins' first three starts, he had three turnovers.

But in the win against Carolina, Haskins also did not turn the ball over, which is a step in the right direction.

"That's huge for sure," Thompson said on Haskins playing mistake-free football. "I think that has come with him just growing and being able to read defenses better. The more he gets these game reps, he gets to read and see things differently. I know he's putting all the time in to continue to progress and help us win these games and I'm happy for him and his team."

These are all small steps, but steps that the Redskins hope to look back on and be excited about the progress and maturation Haskins has made during a short amount of time.

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3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

Jack Del Rio spoke to the Washington media on Wednesday, his first public session with reporters since being named Redskins defensive coordinator on Jan. 2.

While the conference call came more than two weeks after the team's announcement, it was certainly worth the wait.

Here are the three most critical takeaways from what Del Rio discussed.

1) He has no interest in discussing potential

At one point in the call, Del Rio was given the chance to set expectations for his group and explain what kind of potential he sees. It was the kind of question he could've easily answered, using glowing adjectives and praising many players.

But he didn't go that route. In fact, he went the opposite direction of that route

"It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential," Del Rio said. "Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much. To me, it’s more about what we can get done and the work that we’re willing to put in and the idea that, ‘Look, we’re going to become a respected unit, OK?’"

That might've been the most compelling response from the longtime coach, and it's a mindset that people like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Landon Collins will surely appreciate.  

2) Teaching matters quite a bit to him

During one explanation, Del Rio brought up current Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Why? To illustrate how someone can grow and improve with the proper coaching.

Woodyard was with the Broncos when Del Rio took over as defensive coordinator, and according to Del Rio, people told him not to worry too much about the linebacker. Woodyard was merely a special teamer who "wasn't going to amount to much."

Del Rio dismissed that advice, instead focusing on bettering Woodyard's fundamentals, which in turn would help his confidence spike. That former Denver special teamer was recently on the field for Tennessee's playoff win in Baltimore and is now one victory away from a Super Bowl.

That's just one example that sticks out to Del Rio and proves how necessary it is to assist in the continuous enhancement of a pro's skills.

"For us, we are going to look to teach and develop," he said. "To me, we have players here that are maybe considered in a specific light and they will have the chance to change that."

3) He absolutely wants Ron Rivera's input

Del Rio and Rivera are both former NFL linebackers who seem to share a lot of the same ideologies about what they want in a scheme and in their guys. For that reason, he is more than willing to get input from Rivera on the 2020 defense's plan.

"It’s an inclusive process," Del Rio said. "[Rivera] wanted to be sure that I knew, ‘Hey look, you’re going to call it. It’s your defense’. I said, ‘Hey coach, I’d love to have you in there any time you have to be in there with us.’ It’s our staff. We’re going to work together. The first thing I said to the defensive staff at our very first meeting, ‘This is not me. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what we are, what we’re going to become.’"

Between Del Rio and Rivera, the franchise now has two leaders who each can point to plenty of past successes in building defenses. The thought of that pair working together and applying what they know in Washington should have fans feeling very pleased.

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3 critical takeaways from Scott Turner's first media session as Redskins offensive coordinator

3 critical takeaways from Scott Turner's first media session as Redskins offensive coordinator

It takes most Americans decades in the workforce before they find happiness in their job. Scott Turner turned 37 years old last August and landed his dream job last week. No wonder he's so excited. 

Redskins head coach Ron Rivera tabbed Turner as offensive coordinator and on Wednesday he spoke with reporters for the first time. His excitement for the new gig was palpable. 

"To be able to come here and be the offensive coordinator for this franchise is really awesome and something that I'm really excited about. So, on a personal level it is pretty cool," Turner said. 

Remember, Turner's father Norv was head coach of the Redskins during much of the 1990s, and Scott Turner lived in Northern Virginia from the age of 11 until he graduated high school. Those are his formative years, spent with the Redskins organization, and now he's the offensive coordinator. Most people would be excited. 

"It is really a dream come true to be back," Turner said. "It is pretty surreal, to be honest with you."

The homecoming story is great. It really is. But those good feelings are not going to score any points for Washington this fall. Coming home again won't gain a single first down. 

For Redskins fans that want to know the critical information provided from Turner in his first media session, dig in below:

1. Ready for Dwayne - Scott Turner made no secret that he's high on quarterback Dwayne Haskins' potential. Turner said he liked Haskins as a prospect coming out of Ohio State last year and he progressed well as a rookie, particularly late in the year with more opportunity. The new offensive coordinator also wasn't shy to tell Haskins he needs him to be the "most committed guy on the team" and that expectations will be high for the second-year signal-caller. Where Rivera gave relatively lukewarm praise to Haskins, Turner sounded all in on his presumed quarterback. 

2. Hold the linebackers - Turner talked about some similarities with his dad's offense, but things also evolve in pro football. The young coordinator said he intends to "use a lot of play-action pass" as a means to maximize Haskins' ability and generate chunk plays in the offense. The Redskins have playmakers too in Terry McLaurin and Stephen Sims. In 2019, Washington ranked 32nd in points scored and 31st in yards. There are only 32 teams. Turner must make this offense better, immediately, and watch Norv or Scott's offense in the past and know that play-action will be a huge component. Passing to the running backs likely will as well. 

3. Play to your strengths - For far too long the Redskins have tried to force players out of their comfort zones and into the Redskins strategy. That's not Turner's plan. "Right now, as a coaching staff we're really trying to get to know these guys. We have a little experience with some of them as far as like I was saying, evaluating Dwayne coming out of the draft. But, just really trying to figure out the pieces that we have on offense and then fit our scheme to our personnel and what they do well and not ask them to do stuff they don't do well. Now obviously we're going to push them and develop them to improve the things that they don't do quite as well, but we really want to develop our scheme around the strength of our players. So like Dwayne, you obviously see the big, strong guy who can stand in the pocket and really push the ball down the field." That sure sounds encouraging. 

Bonus - For years Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan seemed at odds over the Redskins run game. The play-action didn't work that well because the blocking scheme in the run game didn't mesh well with the run-fake looks. Now, with Turner and new offensive line coach John Matsko coming from the same principled staff in Carolina, expect much more cohesion between the pass and run game. That could help Haskins a ton. 

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