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Know how you’re stressing about what the Redskins have at tight end? Ron Rivera isn’t

Know how you’re stressing about what the Redskins have at tight end? Ron Rivera isn’t

No team in the NFL spent more money on tight ends than the Redskins did a season ago. And for a multiple reasons, few teams received less production from their tight ends than the Burgundy and Gold in 2019.

So entering the offseason, new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera knew they would need to upgrade the position unit. The Redskins released Jordan Reed in February and Vernon Davis retired earlier this offseason, the need to add at least one, if not two, tight ends, became extremely vital in free agency.

Many expected the Redskins to be major players for former Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper. But just minutes into the free agency legal tampering period, the tight end reached a four-year deal with the Cleveland Browns that made him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

While Hooper told SiriusXM in an interview that his decision came down to Cleveland and Washington, Rivera shot down the idea that the Redskins were truly in the mix for the 25-year-old pass-catcher.

"The Austin Hooper thing is we really weren’t in it as much as it’s been portrayed by a lot of people," Rivera told local media during a Zoom conference on Tuesday. "The truth of the matter is he set the market as far as tight ends were concerned, and that’s something we most certainly weren’t prepared to do. We wanted to get into it, but again, once that money climbed very high and very quickly for him and good for him, we decided to move on."

The Redskins signed two tight ends in free agency -- Logan Thomas and Richard Rodgers -- to much shorter and cheaper contracts than the one Hooper received in Cleveland. Neither one is a flashy signing, and it's unlikely either one of the new tight ends will match the production of Hooper's with the Browns.

Thomas is a converted quarterback-turned-tight-end who had a career-high 16 receptions for the Detroit Lions a season ago. But Rivera and tight ends coach Pete Hoener saw something in Thomas that reminded them of longtime Panthers great at the position.

"It’s one of those things that in the system you love to have a guy with Greg Olsen type of ability, who is a primary ball catcher, a guy that goes out and finds the hole, finds the crease, can separate when the ball is in the air at the right time, and that’s one of the things that Greg Olsen did very, very well for us," Rivera said. "You know Logan Thomas is a guy that we see some glimpses of that type of athletic ability."

When Olsen was released by the Panthers earlier this offseason, Rivera wanted to bring the veteran tight end to Washington. Olsen took a visit to Redskins Park but ultimately decided to play in Seattle with Russell Wilson.

But for Rivera to compare Thomas to Olsen, someone who was a team captain for the Panthers and a major part of Rivera's success in Carolina, is high praise for the new Redskins tight end.

"Pete Hoener, our tight ends coach, felt very strongly about [Thomas'] abilities, mostly because he thought he was a very smart and savvy football player." Rivera said. "He's a tremendous athlete and he’s just learning and getting the position right now. Remember he is a converted quarterback, a guy that has a skill set that is a little unique because of his understanding of the way offenses work."

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Rivera also has high hopes for Rodgers, someone who always "had a good game" against the Panthers when Rivera was in Carolina.

Over the past four seasons, Rodgers has a total of 43 catches for 438 yards. He's had multiple injuries, too, playing in just eight total games since 2017. His best season came in 2015 with Green Bay, where he was a trusted target of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"We brought in Richard Rodgers, a guy that has had success when he was in Green Bay playing with Aaron Rodgers," Rivera said. "I got to know Aaron a little bit and one thing Aaron always thought that this was the kind of guy who was a safety valve, a go-to guy, that just knew how to get himself open in position. He’s another guy that we just feel that can come in and compete and be a part of what we’re trying to do."

So while the Redskins didn't add the flashiest name in free agency, the new Redskins head coach is confident that both Thomas and Rodgers will be welcome additions to the football team. Both are expected to be used a bunch, too.

"This offense is a multi-personnel offense, we’re not going to just sit there in 11 personnel, three wide-receivers or ten wide-receivers, we’re going to go back and forth," Rivera said. "We’re going to go with one tight end, two tight ends, three tight ends type of offense, so having multiple tight ends on your roster is going to be very beneficial to you so these guys we all believe are going to fit. We like the guys that were here to begin with. And again, we look forward to getting them ready."

The Redskins could still add another tight end to the group during April's draft, too. But when asked about that possibility, Rivera reiterated that he's pleased with what the team has done to address the position and said the Redskins may be wiser to use that pick on a different position.

"Well it is a position we like," Rivera said. "Can we target them? Yeah, we could, but we also feel that there are some other positions in this draft that are available that would really fit some needs for us as well. Again, all options are open to us when it comes to each of those rounds that we’re picking in."

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Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

The Redskins drafted Chase Young with the second overall pick and reality dictates that the rookie will take snaps away from veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan.

That could actually be good news for Kerrigan.

For the first nine years of his NFL career, Kerrigan never missed a game. That’s incredible. In 2019, his streak of 139 straight starts ended as a concussion and a heel injury forced him to miss four games.

Expected back fully healthy this fall, the question now becomes what will Kerrigan’s role be in a crowded group of pass rushers that includes Young as well as 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat.

"You're fired up for having all of these guys, but then they can't all go on the field at the same time," Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said about his glut of pass rushers. "So that is part of it, like being able to deal with that aspect of it, having guys understand, 'Hey, you're not going to play all the time.' Or, 'You're not the starter.' Those are things to me, that always get settled best with competition and once guys earn what they've earned I think everybody in the room pretty much understands that."

Here’s the thing - even at 31 Kerrigan keeps himself in elite physical shape. He’s two years removed from a 13-sack season and in three of the previous four seasons he registered at least 11 sacks.

Even though he logged just 5.5 sacks last year, the four-time Pro Bowler can still play, and in the new defensive scheme Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera intend to deploy, Kerrigan can play to his strengths too.

"We're going to ask our guys to be more penetrating and disruptive," Del Rio said. 

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For the first time in his career Kerrigan likely won’t be the focal point of the Redskins defensive front. In fact, with Young, Sweat, Ryan Anderson and a gang of talent rushing from the interior like Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, Kerrigan might be a bit of an afterthought.

That’s a great place for him to be.

Focused just on rushing the passer and without being asked to chase running backs and tight ends downfield in pass coverage, Kerrigan can play to his strengths. And strength is his strength.

"The other part about coaching is kind of keep guys out of positions that they're not good at," Del Rio said. "Accentuate the positives and try and keep your guys out of situations that they are not good in and put them in more of the situations that they are good at."

If offensive tackles are constantly dealing with the speed and athleticism of Sweat and Young, then Kerrigan comes in for clear passing situations with his patented bull rush and rip move, the results could be formidable.

Of course 2020 has also become a contract year for Kerrigan. The previous regime might have already worked toward an extension, but Rivera has been clear since his arrival in January that things will be run differently.

It’s possible with consecutive first-round picks spent on pass rushers that Rivera does not consider Kerrigan part of his long-term rebuild. The opposite is also possible, that Rivera will want Kerrigan around for the long haul as a third-down pass rusher and veteran leader for the team. Kerrigan doesn’t say much but he works extremely hard on the practice field and in the weight room. That has a lot of value.

Questions for 2021 aren’t important yet. Kerrigan can go out and prove Washington needs him next year with solid play this year.

There will be fewer snaps, that’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be production.

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Redskins' Chase Young among NFL players featured in video requesting league condemn racism

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Redskins' Chase Young among NFL players featured in video requesting league condemn racism

Following the murder of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, many around the world have made their voices heard about the racial injustices in America. That includes athletes of all sports, along with their respective teams and leagues.

However, some statements came across as disingenuous due to the vague language and misunderstanding of what the protests are truly about. The NFL released a statement Saturday expressing condolences to the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, but it didn't touch on the racism that black Americans are constantly faced with.

Frustrated with that notion, several players teamed up to release a video voicing what they want to hear from the NFL on the matter.

Posted on Giants running back Saquon Barkley's Twitter, the message featured some of the biggest names in the sport. Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr. and others all shared the common messaging of wanting the NFL to explicitly address the racism and problems the country currently faces. Redskins rookie Chase Young was also part of the statement.

The video begins with the players wondering what it will take for the league to seriously commit itself to change in the future, feeling the current statements were inadequate. 

"What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?" the players said.

"What if I was George Floyd?" the players asked.

Those questions were followed up with the realization that their standings as professional athletes don't separate them from those who have been victims of police brutality. 

"I am George Floyd, I am Breonna Taylor, I am Ahmaud Arbery, I am Eric Garner, I am Laquan McDonald, I am Tamir Rice, I am Trayvon Martin, I am Walter Scott, I am Michael Brown Jr., I am Samuel Dubose, I am Frank Smart, I am Phillip White, I am Jordan Baker," they said. 

Then, the players submitted their call to action for the NFL. They will continue to peacefully protest, and demand the league shows support and solidarity right alongside them. No more cookie-cutter statements, but an admittance of past mistakes and accountability for the future.

"On behalf of the National Football League, this is what we, the players, would like to hear you state: 'We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,'" they said. '"We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.'"

A powerful and moving message, the stars of the NFL made one thing clear: It's time for the league to make real change. They will no longer accept the bare minimum, and instead, demand support and action.  

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