The eight players who make up the Washington Football Team's 2020 draft class are a part of a wave of rookies who have experienced an offseason that's been unlike any other.
Chase Young, Antonio Gibson and the rest of Ron Rivera's first haul of selections with the franchise didn't get any minicamps or OTAs this offseason. They've been learning through computers and phones instead of through their facemasks and on-field reps since joining the NFL in April.
Only recently have they set foot inside of the Ashburn facility, meaning the next month and a half is all they'll receive to prepare themselves for their first pro action. That's not how the schedule is supposed to unfold.
And yet, Rivera still won't be scared to lean on them come Week 1, as he anticipates sticking with his go-with-the-young-guys-approach that he's had throughout his career even in these unusual circumstances.
"I’m not going to sell any of our rookies short," Rivera told the media on a Tuesday Zoom call. "I think some of them have come out and done the things that we expected them to do. They’ve caught our eye, they’ve caught our attention and now the big thing will be how do they handle the rest of it?"
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Rivera, who continues to come across as someone more interested in finding solutions to problems as opposed to excuses to use in light of those problems, is treating Washington's training camp as his own, condensed offseason.
He explained Tuesday that he's instructing his staff to act is if they're currently in OTAs. The earlier portion of camp is going to be devoted to the teaching of base fundamentals that would normally be focused on in May, and then, when the pads come on, the rookies can test those basics out against their teammates.
"I do like the way the ramp-up period is," Rivera said. "Going through these phases and kind of simulating the growth. ... Each time, it’s just another step and another step as we gradually go forward to determining who our team’s going to be as we get into the first regular season game."
Rivera was specifically asked about Saahdiq Charles and Antonio Gibson, two picks who could really factor in on offense, and how they're progressing so far. The coach labeled Charles as a "big, athletic, strong" lineman with "a lot of talent" and called Gibson a "very bright young man" capable of handling what might be a host of responsibilities this season.
"It’s going to be real interesting to watch how they develop and grow," Rivera said of the group overall.
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That process may actually go smoother this August, at least according to Rivera. Typically, first-year players can suffer fatigue about two-thirds of the way through camp because of the "overwhelming effect of all the material" they're given. Rivera thinks that's "going to change" in 2020 because the draftees should be feeling fresh and yearning for instruction and work.
Yes, the rookies must keep improving as September nears. Rivera is clearly fine with praising them now, but the true compliment will come if he slots guys like Gibson, Charles and Antonio Gandy-Golden into major roles when Week 1 arrives.
But while some coaches may use this offseason as a reason to not feature their newest additions, Rivera's holding firm. He's planning on rolling out his top 11 on offense and defense, regardless of age and experience. That's yet another simple Rivera idea Washington should benefit from.
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