Ron Rivera has many tasks ahead of him as the new head coach of the Redskins — like, oh, making them relevant after decades of problems as well as winning back the countless fans who have slowly purged the Burgundy and Gold from their lives — but one of the more immediate ones is identifying his core group of players.

These are the guys Rivera will build his roster around, mold his schemes for and make the pillars of his plan. And while he recently told the Redskins Talk podcast he's not ready to publicly discuss that group yet, the rough outline can be picked out from the outside.

At the top of the list is actually the guy who sat down next to Rivera on Redskins Talk last week before the Super Bowl: Terry McLaurin.

McLaurin believes getting used to Rivera will be a "smooth" process because both of them value fundamentals, toughness and a team-first approach. Rivera then pointed to McLaurin as the precise kind of person he wants more of in his locker room. So, they're already aligned mentality-wise and, by the way, McLaurin was a stud as a rookie and looks like a future superstar.

The rest of the offense, though, is fairly bare.


One would like to think that a first-round quarterback who's entering his second season in the NFL would be a definite centerpiece for the future, but Rivera has stressed over and over that Dwayne Haskins will have to compete to start in 2020. Whether that's just a coach trying to establish a certain atmosphere or he's really serious remains to be seen, but it makes it difficult to count Haskins as a surefire member of Washington's core.

At running back, Adrian Peterson has the track record and the personality worth building around, but he's going to be 35 years old by Week 1. Derrius Guice, meanwhile, has obvious talent but he hasn't been healthy yet as a pro.

Then there's the offensive line, where Brandon Scherff is a free agent and Trent Williams is someone Rivera's certainly interested in keeping — yet who knows where Williams' head is at. This time last year, both linemen were two of the Redskins' 10 most key figures; now, their futures are completely undecided.

As for the rest of the pass catchers, Steven Sims might be Rivera's second-best option behind McLaurin. Regardless, there's a giant need for more weapons at receiver as well as tight end.

The defense, at least, has more for Rivera to work with.

Rivera and Jack Del Rio's defensive line is home to Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Tim Settle. Those four were at the front of an under-performing unit a campaign ago, but the hope is they'll be better-coached plus better-suited in the 4-3, thus leading to more production.

On the edge, Montez Sweat came on late as a rookie and absolutely has the physical characteristics to contribute at a high level. Across from him, Rivera will have to decide if Ryan Kerrigan is a core player or someone worth potentially moving on from.

At linebacker, defenders such as Cole Holcomb, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Jon Bostic can all help to some extent, yet none of them can be considered unquestioned starters. It's an area that will have to be addressed in March and in April for sure.

Landon Collins and Quinton Dunbar, on the other hand, are unquestioned starters and definitely qualify as difference-makers at defensive back. Yet that's just one-half of a secondary, meaning Rivera has more work to do there, too.  

So, that leaves Rivera with, what, eight or so names to make up his core on offense and defense? In a sport where 53 people are required, that's not a large amount.

Now, there are ways for that group to expand in the coming months. The team should be able to pursue plenty of free agents if they choose to, and Chase Young or another top draft choice will instantly join the likes of McLaurin, Ioannidis and Collins whenever that prospect arrives.

Still, for anyone looking to illustrate the uphill climb Rivera's facing with the Redskins, this is one very simple way to do it.


The truth is, while he's not prepared to pinpoint his core yet, it won't take him long when it's time for that process to begin. But as the man leading the franchise's new "coach-centric" approach, it'll be up to him to grow it, and fast.

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