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There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

There's one word to describe new offensive coordinator Scott Turner's offense in 2020

Ron Rivera's first free agency class with the Redskins consisted of just over a dozen players, many of which share this one specific trait: versatility.

On the offensive side of the ball, Washington added running back J.D. McKissic, who can both run in between the tackles and catch passes out of the backfield. Additionally, the team added a pair of offensive lineman, Cornelius Lucas and Wes Schweitzer, who both have experience playing multiple positions along the line. 

The trend of adding versatile players continued in the draft. The Redskins invested a third-round pick in RB/WR hybrid Antonio Gibson and followed that selection with fourth-round pick Saahdiq Charles, who played both tackle spots at LSU. The Redskins used another Day 3 pick on Keith Ismael, who played all three interior offensive line spots at San Diego State.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was asked this week why the team emphasized versatility so much this offseason, and the 37-year-old's reply was simple.

"I think you want to be as unpredictable as possible," Turner told local media via Zoom this week. "You don’t want the defense to know what you’re going to do. I think you do that with balance and everything like that."

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While that sounds ideal, being unpredictable is hard to do. The offensive coordinator explained that keeping opposing defenses on their toes requires a lot more than just mixing up pass plays with rushing ones. 

"Balance is not just run and pass," he explained. "It’s getting all five – you have five eligible receivers on every play – getting all five of those guys. That to me is what true balance is, using all five of those guys in the run game or pass game. So, guys that are able to do different things, it gives you more options of how you can use them and more things that the defense has to defend."

Outside of wide receiver Terry McLaurin, plenty of Washington's offensive weapons remain unproven at the NFL level. However, there's still plenty of optimism in Redskins Park about the team's skill position depth.

The Redskins had a pair of rookie pass-catchers emerge towards the end of last season, Steven Sims and Kelvin Harmon, and having another season alongside Dwayne Haskins should only help them. At running back, Adrian Peterson keeps chugging along, and if Derrius Guice can stay healthy, he has the chance to make a huge impact, too. 

Washington's offseason additions of McKissic, Gibson, and fourth-round pick Antonio Gandy-Golden, who the offensive coordinator specifically praised, all give Turner plenty of flexibility to be creative with the unit.

"We have guys that we feel like can fit those molds as far as just creatively getting the ball, not just like running back and receiver and we’re going to give a lot of people a chance and see how it shakes out," Turner said.

Too often last season, Washington's offense was extremely predictable, especially once interim head coach Bill Callahan took over. Callahan insisted on running the ball early and often; the Redskins ran the ball 58% of the time on first down, the sixth-highest rate in the league, according to Sharp Football Stats.

Many of these runs were unsuccessful, leaving Washington in plenty of third-and-long situations. Those down-and-distance situations are immensely hard to convert, but even more difficult with a rookie quarterback, which the Redskins had with Haskins last season.

There's only room for improvement for the Redskins offense as Turner enters his first season as the team's offensive coordinator. The unit averaged just 16.6 points per game a season ago, which ranked dead last in the NFL. Washington averaged just 274 yards of total offense per contest in 2019, good for 31st in the league, with only the Jets trailing them.

This season marks the first true offensive coordinator gig that Turner has had; he was promoted to the role in Carolina last December, ironically after Rivera was fired. With the Panthers, Turner had the luxury of running back Christian McCaffrey -- arguably the most versatile offensive player in the NFL -- to his disposal, as well as guys who can play multiple roles like Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore.

While the Redskins may not have a player like McCaffrey, the offensive coordinator has a plan for how he envisions Washington's offense to succeed in 2020, and it all starts with having players who can do multiple things.

"Versatility is so important because it’s uncertainty for the other side of the ball," Turner said.

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Three takeaways from Matt Ioannidis' media session, including his belief in the D-line

Three takeaways from Matt Ioannidis' media session, including his belief in the D-line

Matt Ioannidis virtually met with the local media on Friday. Here are three key takeaways from what was discussed with the 26-year-old.

1) He very much believes in the defensive line

When he had a chance to address reporters earlier this week, D-line coach Sam Mills III completely embraced the fact that his unit needs to take charge for the Washington Football Team.

"Let's be honest," Mills III said, "this room is supposed to lead this defense."

It turns out that Ioannidis sees eye-to-eye with his position coach.

"I share that sentiment," he said. "100-percent."

Ioannidis later described how he, Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Tim Settle, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan have to be the "tip of the spear" for the franchise this season. It's encouraging that they're so aware of that challenge, and it seems like that awareness could lead to tremendous success.

"This is a D-line group that I feel is highly capable," Ioannidis said.

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2) Chase Young is meshing perfectly

Asking every defender for their take on Young is becoming a tradition in these Zooms, and it was No. 98's turn on Friday to share his thoughts on the second overall pick.

"He fits in great," he said. "Right off the bat, mentally, I think he fits in the group, how we all gel together."

Over the past few years, Ioannidis has become particularly close with Allen and Payne. Together, those three are as serious and as focused as they come. Young would surely benefit from learning from those guys, and it sounds like he's well on his way to doing just that.

3) He's very conscious of the current pandemic

Ioannidis decided not to opt out of 2020 after really thinking it over and having extensive talks with his wife, but just because he's playing doesn't mean he is getting too comfortable. 

"I see it as my responsibility not to put myself in at-risk positions, whether that be places I'm in or what I'm doing in the facility," he said. "I hope that everyone shares that same thought process."

Ioannidis also gave a little insight into how the organization as a whole is approaching day-to-day operations during coronavirus.

"It's definitely been expressed in meetings and when speaking with our medical team," he said when asked about being careful.

There's so much excitement from many at the thought of the NFL commencing its season, but unless every athlete is cautious, the season won't last. Fortunately, Ioannidis isn't messing around. Hopefully he's not alone.

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Why is Ron Rivera different from previous Washington coaches? Kevin Sheehan explains

Why is Ron Rivera different from previous Washington coaches? Kevin Sheehan explains

In a recent media session, Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller discussed what head coach Ron Rivera has brought to the organization so far. Fuller, who had been in Washington during Jay Gruden's tenure in 2016 and 2017, harped on the importance of the culture being reset and the trust Rivera is instilling with every member of the franchise.

"Coach Rivera wants to trust us, and we want to trust him," Fuller said. "That's what we've got to build and that's what we're working on."

Fuller used the word "culture" numerous times, something that stuck out to Team980 radio host Kevin Sheehan. To him, the importance of fixing more than just the play on the field is something that is a crucial aspect of Rivera's job and he's glad to see that the head coach understands that.

“This is a good sign, because Rivera has come into this organization eyes wide open," Sheehan said on Washington Football Talk and Friends."He’s not naive"

“He wasn’t inheriting a team, he was inheriting an organization that needed a major culture change. We’ve heard him say it from day one and he’s gotta reshape a culture, not just a roster," Sheehan said.

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Addressing the problems that take place throughout the organization is something Sheehan believes past coaches have failed to do. Over the years, Washington has proven to be a franchise in need of a revitalization both on and off the field. Before Rivera, the people in power were not right for the job, according to Sheehan, because they were unaware that those fixes needed to be made.

"[Jay] Gruden didn’t care, he just wanted a job. I think Mike [Shanahan], and I love Mike, took big money and wanted to get back into coaching and didn't really know what he was getting into," Sheehan said. "I think Rivera knows he’s coming into an organization that has been as bad as any in sports with an owner that is really the issue. But I think he has come in eyes wide open.”

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With Rivera, a difference can already be seen. Since he signed on in January, the job has been anything but a smooth course. A name change and sexual harassment allegations have put Washington in the spotlight of the public eye for all the wrong reasons. While Rivera has stated he has no regrets joining the franchise, he's been asked to do a lot more than just help the team win a few more games.

Yet through it all, Rivera has helped try and solve any problem thrown his way. He was instrumental in the name change, and has vowed to fix the culture within the organization. He's not satisfied with just finding success on the field, as he wants the franchise as a whole to improve.

To Sheehan, that is exactly what the newest head coach in Washington needed to do, as it signifies a step toward consistency for the organization that runs deeper than just a record. In the end, that's what he believes Washington should be striving for. 

"Every NFL team can win and have a good season. The league is designed for that," Sheehan said. "But the best organizations have a culture that leads to sustained competitiveness and I think he recognizes that.”

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