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NFL Combine creates relationship opportunities for Redskins, other quarterback-needy teams ready to fall in love 

NFL Combine creates relationship opportunities for Redskins, other quarterback-needy teams ready to fall in love 

INDIANAPOLIS – “As the quarterback goes so goes your team. That's been the mantra for a while in the NFL.”

Attribution for this quote goes to Bengals general manager Duke Tobin on the first full day of the 2019 NFL Combine. Any coach or executive speaking in front of dozens of media members or having a candid chat on the side would say the same. 

The smell of desperation might be a turn-off, but it beats the stench of losing or non-contending regular seasons that come with a QB hole.

For all the national headlines – Is Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray big enough for the NFL? – and local interest – Who takes snaps from center for the Redskins next season – or the general buzz that comes with the game’s most important position, there’s some critical information worth understanding: NFL teams are not in love with the 2019 quarterback class.

“It doesn't appear to be necessarily as deep at the very top of the draft,” Tobin said Wednesday during his media availability.

“We’re still in the process of studying [the 2019 quarterbacks]. We’ll keep looking at them. I think that there are a lot of people excited about next year’s class,” Broncos general manager John Elway said days after addressing Denver’s quarterback woes by unofficially acquiring veteran passer/short-term solution Joe Flacco.

That the 2019 class follows a year where teams were thirsty for the available options does not help their cause.

“Nothing against this year’s quarterback class, but last year’s class was unique,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “It was really like the 2004 class… because there were probably three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in that class with Ben (Roethlisberger), Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers. Not to say the [five] drafted (in the first round) last year will be Hall of Fame players, but it was a unique class. I think I’d appreciate what that class is and we’ll see where this class goes.”

With that attraction baseline established, let’s add the following: For desperate organizations, even the flawed prospects appear like an oasis in the desert.

Unless Murray’s official height (5-foot-8?) and weight (190 pounds?) have evaluators thinking of the Lollipop Guild*, the Oklahoma star lands in the first round if not firmly inside the top 10 selections.

(* Update -- They do not. Positive measurements for Murray)

Evaluators generally praise Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, the odds-on-favorite as the first QB drafted, yet acknowledge the one-year starter likely would slot fifth in the 2018 draft class.

Accuracy concerns exist for Missouri’s Drew Lock, inconsistency with Duke’s Daniel Jones. Both enter the Combine with mixed valuations, yet could easily land among the Day 1 selections.

Every team needs a quarterback and will crawl on their hands and knees through the desert searching. After all the college games and post-season observations, it’s the NFL Combine where teams solidify their review and in some cases define their level of desperation.

“Very few (quarterbacks) have it all, and you better have the first pick in the draft if a guy has it all,” Tobin said. “(Otherwise) you have to choose the deficit that you want. Are you willing to put up with a little bit of lack of size, a little bit of lack of mobility, a little bit of lack of arm strength? You have to kind of prioritize what you want your team to be and then draft to that at that position for sure.”

Others are unsure which traits are most desirable in 2019.

“There could be guys that physically can throw the ball better than anyone in this draft. Could run faster than anyone in this draft, but I don’t know if those are the critical factors that they are,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. 

“Everybody is trying [find an answer], and those are a lot of times subjective things you’re trying to get to in an objective decision.”

Perhaps no projected first-round quarterback in recent memory defines the push-pull aspect more than Murray. The dynamic two-sport athlete chose football over baseball for legitimate reasons. His arm strength, accuracy and foot speed are impressive. Many of his traits blend perfectly into the modern NFL where pockets move and mobile quarterbacks are desired.

However, man, couldn’t he be a bit taller?

“Like the rest of the league, I think the kid is fascinating,” draft analyst turned Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said of Murray. “It’s kind of where are we going as a league at the quarterback position. Is he too small? Is he dynamic? I think we’re all trying to figure him out. I think all 32 teams in the league are trying to figure out the entire position.”

The Redskins’ evaluation of their quarterback unit must produce migraines. Alex Smith’s horrific leg injury last season likely eliminates their best option for 2019. His $20.4 million cap hit remains. Head coach Jay Gruden may believe Colt McCoy works for a season. Not many others agree.

Acquiring a veteran free agent eats into Washington’s limited salary cap space. Drafting a rookie requires patience for an organization that last made the playoffs in 2015. For Haskins or Murray, it may mean trading assets to move into the top-5.

Whatever the plan, the Redskins need a big play. Maybe they fall in love during the Combine process or become desperate enough to overlook flaws. Regardless, the same rule applies: As the quarterback goes, so goes your team.

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Kyle Allen expects his system knowledge to be a major help with Redskins

Kyle Allen expects his system knowledge to be a major help with Redskins

Quarterback Kyle Allen was traded to the Washington Redskins one week ago, but has yet to make an appearance at Redskins Park. He's been training in California since February, and due to the coronavirus pandemic, it doesn't seem like he'll be headed to the nation's capital anytime soon, either.

For many players that are entering their first season with an organization, they likely feel like they have some catching up to do. In most cases, there's a new playbook to learn and new teammates to meet. But for Allen, he likely knows the Redskins offense better than any other player on the roster.

The Redskins cleaned house this offseason, hiring well-respected head coach Ron Rivera as the organization attempts to change its culture. Rivera, who coached Allen the past two seasons in Carolina, hired Scott Turner as the team's offensive coordinator. Scott, the son of former Redskins head coach Norv Turner, also coached in Carolina the past two seasons, and worked directly with Allen as the Panthers QB coach before taking over as offensive coordinator last December.

Although he's with a new team and a new city, Allen's familiarity with Turner and his offensive system is something the quarterback believes will benefit the Redskins significantly.

"I think the continuity of the system is huge for me," Allen told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. "I think it's going to be good for the team, too. If we don't have a lot of OTAs, or OTAs at all, it at least gives someone on the team experience in the system and to be able to teach it to other guys in the offense and relay what the coaches are saying."

Since Rivera took over as the Redskins head coach in January, he's preached bringing in competition for rising second-year passer Dwayne Haskins. After trading for Allen, the head coach stated in a radio interview last week that he intends to enter training camp with Haskins as the starter. But Haskins certainly have the gig given to him, as Allen will get the opportunity to compete for the job.

"I think the expectation is to come in and compete for the job," Allen said. "I think that's an awesome opportunity."

Allen explained that he has yet to meet Haskins, but is excited to get to know him and compete with the quarterback. The new Redskins signal-caller explained that just because they are fighting for the same job, that doesn't mean they can't have a great relationship with one another.

"We've been doing it our whole lives," Allen said on competition. "We've been doing it since we were in high school, trying to compete against different guys. At the same time, you get to meet a lot of really cool people in the process. In Carolina, Cam [Newton] and Will [Grier], we're all competing for different jobs, but we all came out with great relationships. You spend a lot of time with these people, you might as well have a great relationship."

As a rookie, Haskins started just seven games. The passer displayed flashes of potential, but had plenty of growing pains. Just as Haskins finally seemed to be hitting his stride late last season, an ankle injury prematurely ended his rookie campaign.

The Ohio State product is entering his third system in as many years and would have benefitted significantly from the extra reps that come during OTAs and mini-camp. It's no secret that entering his second season, he needs as many reps as possible.

With those offseason programs in jeopardy, Allen's experience in Turner's system could give him an edge on Haskins come training camp. Allen explained that Turner's offensive system is not easy to pick up on, but once it's learned, there's plenty of potential within it.

"I think [the system] takes a decent amount of time to really learn and grasp on to," Allen said. "I think it's evolved a lot over the years. It took me like a solid month, month and a half before I really felt comfortable out at practice and going through the plays. It's tough to grasp at first, but once you grasp it, it's really fluid. You can really maneuver it in different ways to help the team out. I think it's a really good system and Scott has a good idea for what he wants to do with it."

Allen isn't anywhere close to a finished product, either. He's 24, entering his third season in the NFL, and just 14 months older than Haskins. While he may not be the Redskins first option at quarterback right now, he'll likely get the chance to put his own stamp on the organization, one way or another.

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Now back with Ron Rivera, Thomas Davis aims to help Redskins reach their potential

Now back with Ron Rivera, Thomas Davis aims to help Redskins reach their potential

Like plenty of others, Thomas Davis looks at the Redskins roster — one that features Adrian Peterson, Terry McLaurin, Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan and many more similar names — and sees the talent. However, Washington is coming off of a 3-13 campaign, one that all of those guys were a big part of.

So, what must the team do in the future to have their record match the potential that is often talked about? Davis, who recently signed with the franchise, gave his thoughts on Tuesday.

"It's all about practice habits," the veteran told reporters during a conference call. "You start to create your identity and who you're going to become and what you're going to be in practice. So you just have to change the way that you practice. You've got to make practice harder than the game. That's something that we've done under Coach Rivera for a long time and it's shown."

Of course, Davis will have the chance to do that under Rivera again in Burgundy and Gold. The two were together in Carolina from 2011 to 2018 before the former went to Los Angeles in 2019, and the 58-year-old's presence with the Redskins was a major factor in Davis' decision to join the organization.

"He’s not a coach that beats you when you’re down," Davis said of Rivera when asked what makes him so special. "He’s not a coach that, if you make a mistake or you go out and don’t have a particularly good game, he's not that coach that's going to be the guy that dog-cusses you. He's going to do whatever he can to uplift your spirits and make sure that he's motivating you to be better the next game."

As of now, it sure looks like the 37-year-old will slot in as a starter on Rivera and Jack Del Rio's defense. That's an idea that thrills him, too, considering some of the players who'll be doing work in front of him when football picks back up.

"Not only the front four," he said. "I kind of look at the top six or eight guys, I feel like they're all capable of going out and completely wrecking a game. As a linebacker, you want to play behind guys that are capable of doing that. That allows you to be free, that allows you to be able to make a lot more plays and that was a huge factor going into it."

Davis, who's going into his 16th season as a pro, anticipates making an impact in areas outside of the final box score, too. While he's with the Redskins — however long his tenure may be — he wants to teach those around him, because that's what older defenders did for him when he was just getting going.

"It's all about giving back and pouring it into the lives of these guys and getting the most out of them," Davis said.

So, Davis will have the opportunity to suit up for Rivera again, elevate the Redskins and mentor the NFL's next wave over the course of his stint in Washington. There's one more reason he's agreed to grind through another training camp, preseason and at least 16 more games, though, and it's the simplest of all: He knows he can.

"I didn't want to retire this season," Davis said. "Just go until you feel that you no longer want to do it anymore or that you no longer can do it anymore. After playing with the Chargers this year and adjusting to that style of defense that they played, and being able to be productive in what was asked of me, now I'm trying to go into a new system and show I can be productive in that."

With his track record, it wouldn't be wise to doubt that he can.

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