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Position Battles: Montez Sweat locks a starting spot, but what about Cole Holcomb?

Position Battles: Montez Sweat locks a starting spot, but what about Cole Holcomb?

Many starting jobs will get decided in training camp, but for a number of Redskins rookies, May and June provide an opportunity to make a case for playing time and practice reps later in the summer.

Offensively, Dwayne Haskins leads the way, and the attention. Fans want to watch every snap from the 15th overall pick to see when his career as Redskins QB1 starts. Elsewhere on the offensive side of the ball, Wes Martin has a strong chance to start at left guard too. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Montez Sweat actually has a chance to be the best Redskins rookie in 2019 despite being Washington's second first-round pick. 

A freak athlete with a strong track record of production in the SEC at Mississippi State, Sweat looks like the instant starter at outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Third-year pro Ryan Anderson could and likely will push Sweat for competition, but the rookie's speed should prove the difference. 

Not only does Sweat look like an immediate starter, but he also looks like he could be a contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The talent is that real. 

Further down the rookie class, however, nothing looks as clear on the defensive side of the ball. 

After the gruesome Reuben Foster injury last week, all of a sudden fifth-rounder Cole Holcomb becomes an important part of Greg Manusky's 2019 plan. Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton project to start, and Josh Harvey-Clemons will likely keep his nickel backer role, but after that? It's Holcomb and recently signed Jon Bostic on the depth chart. Holcomb has serious speed, that's what got him drafted, and if his instincts can catch up to his legs, maybe he could push for a significant role beyond special teams. Don't expect that early in the year, but don't count it out as the season progresses. 

The Redskins made 10 draft picks, but only four of them were on defensive players. Beyond Sweat and Holcomb are a pair of seventh-rounders in Jordan Brailford and Jimmy Moreland.

Brailford has a chance of making the team, but he's not coming close to starting. Kerrigan, Sweat, and Anderson will be way ahead of him on any depth chart. 

Moreland won't start, but could push for playing time quickly. Some Redskins talent evaluators believe he can quickly adapt in a slot cornerback role in the NFL, and if he shows that in camp, he could push for snaps. As of now, Josh Norman, Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau would all be way ahead of Moreland. In addition, Greg Stroman, Danny Johnson and Adonis Alexander all have one year of experience too, but that doesn't guarantee they're ahead of Moreland after a few weeks in Richmond. 

One other rookie to keep an eye on: undrafted safety JoJo McIntosh. The team has a need at the spot, and he was a highly capable player at the University of Washington.

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Ron Rivera has spoken to Quinton Dunbar, hopes he shows up to OTAs 'ready to roll'

Ron Rivera has spoken to Quinton Dunbar, hopes he shows up to OTAs 'ready to roll'

It's been a wild month for Quinton Dunbar.

The Redskins cornerback first requested a trade on Feb. 10, citing the team would not commit to him long-term. Dunbar then walked back on that request two days later, saying his request was blown out of proportion and he just wanted to know where he stands with the Redskins new regime. But after the team reportedly declined to engage in conversation about the matter, Dunbar told ESPN's Josina Anderson he still wants out of Washington.

Dunbar enters the final year of his contract, one that includes no guaranteed money.

Ron Rivera addressed local media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Wednesday for the first time since the Dunbar news broke, and the new Redskins head coach said he spoke to the cornerback and they "had a great conversation."

Despite Dunbar's requests, Rivera expects the cornerback to report to the facility on April 6, when the team begins Organized Team Activities (OTAs). The cornerback previously told NBC Sports Washington he didn't plan on reporting to OTAs without a new contract.

"I know what he has said, and we won't know until April 6, but the hope is that he'll come in ready to roll," Rivera said. "He is under contract."

Rivera expressed the need to continue having an open dialogue with Dunbar and making sure the two of them are on the same page moving forward.

"I do understand his point of view," Rivera said. "It's something just he and I need to continue to talk about. He is a quality player in this league and he's a solid football player."

Since taking over as the Redskins head coach in early January, Rivera has preached identifying which of his players will be part of the team's core. Dunbar, who emerged as a quality cornerback a season ago, could certainly fit that bill.

Dunbar led Washington with four interceptions in 2019 and finished the No. 2 ranked cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Injuries are a concern; he's missed 14 games over the past two seasons, but he's been very productive when on the field. The once wide receiver turned cornerback is due for a bigger payday, one he's certainly earned.

Rivera said Dunbar is certainly a player that could be a core guy for Washington, but admitted he's still evaluating everyone through the first few months he's been on the job.

"I think he's a guy that most certainly [could be a core guy]," Rivera said. "The thing is that I hope everyone understands, I don't know this group of guys. I really don't. You've got to be able to go out there and assess the talent. Whether they fit what you want to fit. At the end of the day, I think everyone has to understand that, come together and show everybody whether you fit or not."

Whether Dunbar remains with Washington for the long haul is unclear, but the 58-year-old head coach is going to make him prove himself to the new regime.

"I'm going to sit down with him and explain to him where I see you, and that I would love for you to come out and show me," Rivera said. "That's what I would like to do."

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There's one game from 2019 that really showed Ron Rivera what Dwayne Haskins could be

There's one game from 2019 that really showed Ron Rivera what Dwayne Haskins could be

In his first two months on the job as Redskins head coach, Ron Rivera has no doubt binged Dwayne Haskins film like a hot, new show on Netflix.

It would be safe to bet that Rivera has watched every game and every throw many, many times, as he tries to figure out Haskins' ceiling and whether he can help Rivera reinvigorate the Redskins. And out of all that tape, there's one Sunday that especially stands out.

It's not either of the passer's early relief appearances, where he had to come in for Case Keenum halfway through a matchup and struggled. It's also not his breakout efforts versus the Eagles or Giants, afternoons where he put together by far his best stat lines.

The one start that really proved to Rivera what Haskins could become was actually Washington's 19-16 November win over the Lions, where Haskins went 13-of-29 for 156 yards and a pick. Those numbers aren't great; in fact, they're really rough. But they aren't what Rivera noticed.

"The thing that excited me about the Detroit game was the fourth quarter, the two drives where he had to score," Rivera told reporters at the Combine on Wednesday. "He was very calm, he was very calculated, he showed his poise, he showed his leadership. And he put them in position to win a football game."

"That's what you want from your quarterback, is a guy that gives you a chance to win, a guy that can you help you win," the coach added. "You can win because of him and you can win with him."

Those remarks from the 58-year-old represent easily his most effusive praise of the 2019 first-round pick. In his previous assessments of Haskins, Rivera has been fairly complimentary, but nothing more. On Wednesday in Indy, however, he sounded more positive and got more specific about No. 7.

"I see some progress, from the time he started the Detroit game to the very last game he played in," Rivera said. "You look at those things and you say, 'Man, there's some growth there. There's some potential for a young man to be the type of player that he can be.'"

Rivera isn't tied to Haskins, or really any other player on the Burgundy and Gold's roster for that matter, but Rivera's best path to success likely includes a Haskins-led offense for the next few years and maybe more.

The coach sounds like he wants to bring in other options to battle with the second-year pro, but it's not like the franchise can invest crazy money in the position. They are meeting with Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, though, interactions that could be simple pre-draft posturing or, perhaps, much more. If they somehow end up in D.C., Haskins would almost definitely be out, yet that's an outcome that feels far-fetched.

So, it appears as if it'll be in Rivera's best interest to keep developing Haskins into that finisher he saw against the Lions, because the talent is obviously there and few things in the NFL are more precious than a QB on a cheap deal.

Even still, Rivera made sure to remind Haskins that he's not the man quite yet. Could he be? Absolutely. Is he? It remains up to him.

"He's got that type of potential, but he's got to grow into it," he said. "Nothing will be given. He's not anointed... I'm expecting him to come in and compete and work, and we'll see what happens."

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