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Questions facing Ron Rivera: What to do with Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers?

Questions facing Ron Rivera: What to do with Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers?

Whether left tackle Trent Williams will return to the Redskins in 2020 remains a major storyline surrounding the team, but new head coach Ron Rivera has two significant decisions to make about a pair of other players along the offensive line.

Both Brandon Scherff and Ereck Flowers, Washington's two starting guards from a year ago, are free agents. 

Scherff, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has been one of the Burgundy and Gold's best draft picks over the past decade. While the fifth selection was considered by many to be too high to select a guard, all Scherff has done is turn in three Pro Bowl seasons and establish himself as one of the best in the league at his position.

Flowers' career path has not gone as smoothly. He was selected four picks after Scherff in the 2015 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, as Big Blue expected him to be their franchise left tackle of the future. 

It did not work out.

Flowers was considered a major bust in New York and released midway through his fourth season with the team. He signed with Washington on a one-year deal in 2019 with the expectation of any production being an added bonus. But after a position switch from tackle to guard, Flowers became one of the most consistent offensive linemen for the Redskins and a surprise success story.

Now, Rivera has a big decision to make regarding the future of both Scherff and Flowers, whether to keep one, the other, or both.

The case for keeping Scherff 

When any team has one of the best players in the league at a certain position, they never want to see them walk away for nothing in free agency. Scherff is exactly that. 

In his five years with the Redskins, Scherff has finished three of them with Pro Bowl honors. He allowed just one sack a season ago. He excels in the run game, finishing the 2019 season with the fifth-highest run-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus among qualified guards.

There's also something to be said about keeping your homegrown talent. Scherff was drafted by the Redskins, and now Washington has the chance to ink the right guard for the rest of his prime. Sure, he may be expensive, but he's certainly deserving of the deal he'll get. 

Scherff's last two campaigns have ended prematurely due to injury, but he was very durable for the first three years of his career. His injury in 2018, a torn pec, was more of a fluke than anything. No. 75 missed the final three games of the 2019 season with elbow and shoulder injuries, ones he may have played through had the Redskins been in playoff contention.

Then-rookie Wes Martin filled in for Scherff to end the 2019 season. A fourth-round pick in 2019, Martin would likely be the starter if Scherff left. 

Guard isn't a flashy position, but it's certainly one necessary for having a productive offense. Losing an elite talent like Scherff would be very costly for Washington.

The case for keeping Flowers

With Scherff expected to command top of the market money, Flowers will certainly be a cheaper option for the Burgundy and Gold. 

Flowers has also proven to be durable throughout his NFL career, while Scherff has had two consecutive seasons that ended with a trip to the Injured Reserve list. Flowers only missed two games through the first three years of his NFL career and played all 16 games for the Redskins a year ago. 

There's also plenty of room for growth with Flowers. Remember, 2019 was just the first season Flowers played guard instead of tackle. That is a big difference. Having a whole offseason to focus solely on playing guard without having to worry about playing tackle could do wonders for him.

Also, while he's been in the NFL for five seasons, he's only 25 years old. By contrast, Scherff is 28, and the two were taken in the same draft class.

Flowers could still have a decade-plus of good football in him, and the Redskins would regret seeing him blossom elsewhere.

The case for keeping both

Guard isn't a flashy position, but a dropoff in talent is certainly noticeable when there is one. By keeping both, Rivera would solidify the position for years to come.

Both Scherff, 28, and Flowers, 25, have plenty of football left. Scherff's an established guard, one of the best in the game, and a three-time Pro Bowler. Flowers impressed in 2019, his first year as a guard, and has plenty of room for growth at the position. 

So, how would this work contractually?

The Redskins have multiple avenues they can take with Scherff if they want to keep him.

The first, of course, is signing him to a long-term deal. Scherff reportedly turned down a hefty extension during the 2019 season, one that would have made him the second-highest paid guard in the league. He's due for a big payday and deservingly so, but the Redskins can also push that off another year by placing the franchise tag on him.

By franchising Scherff, they will still pay the guard top of the market money, but for only one season. With a short-term investment in Scherff, they can allocate money to other needs they have on the team, and then revisit a long-term deal in a year from now, when the roster is expected to look a lot different. While Scherff would prefer the protection of a long-term deal, he stated in October he wants to be a Redskin for the rest of his career. 

Flowers likely won't command a lot of money. His deal shouldn't be too hard to work out, assuming the interest is mutual between the two. NBC Sports Washington's Julie Donaldson reported that she expects both guards to be back with Washington in 2020.

Former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden once devalued the position, practically saying a guard is not worthy of a first-round pick. Now, what personnel moves Gruden's successor does at the position will have a major impact on the Redskins offense of the near future.

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Kyle Allen was 'surprised' by trade to Redskins but thrilled to reunite with Ron Rivera

Kyle Allen was 'surprised' by trade to Redskins but thrilled to reunite with Ron Rivera

Kyle Allen was in his car on Monday, driving home from a workout when his phone started to ring.

The 24-year-old quarterback answered, and just moments later, found out he had been traded from the Carolina Panthers to the Washington Redskins. Allen, who started 12 games for Carolina a season ago, was not expecting the move at all, despite seeing the Panthers sign quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker in free agency.

"It's a shock. I wasn't expecting it," Allen told Redskins Nation. "I signed a contract with Carolina two weeks ago. But I know contracts don't really mean anything."

Over the 24 hours that followed after the trade, Allen started to process it all. He quickly realized how much sense the move made, and the situation he would be walking into in Redskins Park was something he was plenty familiar with.

Allen reunited with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who were both in Carolina the past two seasons. With the NFL offseason full of uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic, Allen has a ton of familiarity with Turner's offensive system. Although Rivera told a radio interview on Wednesday that the team plans to enter training camp with second-year passer Dwayne Haskins as the starter, Allen was brought in to compete with him, too.

"I got to think about it a lot the past 24 hours, and I'm excited to be back with coach Rivera and coach Turner," Allen said.  "The more I sat down and thought about it after the call, the more it makes complete sense. I think the continuity of the system, being with them before, the coaches, the need for that spot on the team, I think it's perfect. The more I think about it, the more I get excited about it."

The third-year passer has had plenty of twists and turns during his football career. As a true freshman at Texas A&M, Allen started 10 games for the school. But as a sophomore, the passer was forced to split time with another talented quarterback, current Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray. Allen transferred to Houston following the 2015 season (Murray would transfer as well), and was forced to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Allen started just four games for Houston in 2017 before being benched. Unhappy with his situation, Allen forewent his final year of eligibility and declared for the 2018 Draft.

Unsurprisingly, Allen went undrafted. But it was Rivera who gave him a chance to compete, bringing him into Carolina as an undrafted free agent. After injuries to both Cam Newton and Taylor Heinicke, Allen made his first career start in December of 2018, leading the Panthers to victory. After another Newton injury early last season, Allen emerged as the team's starter. Just a year and a half after going undrafted, Allen started 12 games for Rivera's club.

Once again back with Rivera, Allen could not be happier.

"It's awesome. It's incredible to play for Ron Rivera," Allen said. "I've told a lot of people, he's my favorite head coach I've ever played for, and I've played for my fair share."

Allen then went into detail about his respect for the Redskins head coach, and how Rivera gave him an opportunity when no one else did.

"He's always there for you. He's a player's coach," Allen said. "Wins or losses, he was always at my locker after the game, talking me through it, helping me through it. He always had that confidence in me, he always believed in me, and he gave me such a great opportunity. I was undrafted two years ago, and he saw something in me. Even after they cut me, he brought me back and gave me the opportunity to make a name for myself. Can't ask for anything more from him, he's been an incredible coach every time I've been with him."

Coincidentally, Allen's final game working with Rivera was against the Redskins, a Washington victory this past December. Rivera was let go by Carolina two days later. Now, they're back together.

"I'm not too fond of that memory, to be honest with you," Allen joked. "I'm glad I'm on the other side now."

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Rewatching 'All Or Nothing': Young Redskins will get their chances under Ron Rivera

Amazon Prime

Rewatching 'All Or Nothing': Young Redskins will get their chances under Ron Rivera

Pete Hailey is rewatching Amazon's All Or Nothing, a behind-the-scenes look at the 2018 Panthers, to learn about Ron Rivera and other key people who are now a part of the Redskins. Here's his review of episode four, "Look Good Play, Good."

After he was fired by the Panthers and before he decided to take over the Redskins, Ron Rivera studied a handful of Washington games to evaluate the team's roster. While doing so, one aspect jumped out at him in particular.

"For the most part, the way they play, the way they fought, some of these young guys didn’t know any better," the coach explained during his first presser back in January. "They showed up and they played hard. That was impressive to me."

Rivera has since reiterated that the Burgundy and Gold's collection of young and hungry talent was a key reason he chose to land with the Redskins. When you check out their depth chart, it's easy to see what he means.

Currently, the following players are all between 22 and 26 years old: Dwayne Haskins, Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Tim Settle, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Cole Holcomb, Montez Sweat, Terry McLaurin, Jonathan Allen, Fabian Moreau, Ryan Anderson, Landon Collins, Matt Ioannidis and Chase Roullier. 

Every name on that list figures to factor in to whether Rivera is able to right the Redskins. They better be prepared for that effort, too, because he's likely going to lean on them often, even through their mistakes. 

In episode four of Amazon's 2018 All Or Nothing show, which followed Rivera's Panthers, DJ Moore has a very forgettable afternoon (ironically, in a game at FedEx Field). The then-rookie fumbles twice, once on a punt and once after a catch, and those turnovers lead to 10 points for the hosts. In the end, Carolina falls to Washington, 23-17. 

Afterward, a reporter asked Rivera how he balances showing a struggling, unseasoned pro he's still on his side versus punishing that pro when he continues to slip up.

"This is all about building confidence," he answered. "DJ is going to be a part of what we do for a long time and we’ll stick with him."

It was a simple answer and one that hinted at a simple philosophy: If you're suiting up for Rivera, he's going to trust you to contribute and also stand by you if those contributions don't come right away, because he knows that could make the difference in the long-term future.

That should most excite those who want to see Dwayne Haskins succeed. A quarterback with little NFL experience such as Haskins is going to have days where the interceptions stack up and the yards don't. It sounds like Rivera will ride out those days in order to see the ones where Haskins breaks out.

It's a mindset that'll apply everywhere else, too. Whatever draft picks the Redskins end up with in April, some of the free agents he's already acquired and the rest of the 26-and-under group outlined above should be in line for lots of snaps and lots of chances to grow. The goal is that the majority of them will improve in that action and form the core Rivera so badly wants.

Of course, even a leader with as much time as Rivera has to correct a franchise will run out of patience. Plus, he's made a point to keep veterans like Adrian Peterson and bring in others like Thomas Davis to ensure there's a crew of established options to call on in 2020 — a season he'd no doubt like to end with a trip to the playoffs.

But realistically, the Redskins will enter 2020 coming off of a 3-13 campaign, meaning expectations should be modest at best. One thing fans can expect, though? Seeing young Redskins on the field in main roles every weekend.

Look for Rivera to prioritize building their confidence immediately in hopes of building a winner eventually. Year 1 could be a slog because of that, but the years that follow could very much be worth it.

Links to past reviews:

Episode 1: Rivera doesn't flinch after adversity hits

Episode 2: Rivera shows his feelings on distractions

Episode 3: Special teams truly mean something to Ron