This past Wednesday, Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner held a Zoom Conference interview with local reporters to preview the upcoming season.
Hosted by Redskins.com, he spent about 25 minutes touching on topics such as the development of Dwayne Haskins, the competition at the receiving position, his faith in the coaching staff, and the importance of versatility.
Now my five biggest takeaways.
On Competition at the Receiver position:
“I’m excited about it. What we tried to do is create competition and bring in quality players to create competition. They might not be flashy names, but that’s not necessarily the best route to go either. The beauty of this is that we don’t have to play anyone until September 13th. We don’t have to set our line-up today at any one of our positions. Let those guys practice. Let these guys go, and we will play the best players.”
My Takeaway: It was pretty apparent that Turner viewed the receiving room as “young” and that playing times and roles were still to be determined. He referred to Terry McLaurin as a valuable contributor in the “traditional” receiving role, and it was clear that he viewed McLaurin as the best of the bunch. But, he also hinted that he’s excited about Antonio Gandy-Golden and Antonio Gibson. He shared that these players have high upside, and he appreciates Gibson’s versatility. He referenced Gibson’s ability to play 80% of his reps at the receiving position in college as a strong point. I got the impression he had a few tricks up his sleeve when it came to Gibson’s usage.
How important is it to have at least one veteran in the Receiving Room?
“I’ve never got caught up in that. I just want the best players possible. I don’t care if they are rookies or tenth-year guys. We want competition. We want the best guy. Whoever gives us the best chance to win, we’ll put them out there. Sometimes, yeah that is a veteran, they may have a little more savviness and played in more games, but that is not a requirement in my eyes.”
My Takeaway: All offseason we have heard two guiding principles to the Redskins Rebuild. Versatility and competition. And this echoes that. What I liked about this response was that it’s clear that there won’t be deference to veterans. Whoever performs the best will get on the field. This hasn’t always been in the case in DC. Many times there have been veterans who have taken up valuable minutes due to contract politics or front office nostalgia. It’s clear that this coaching staff is rolling out open competition across the board, hoping that it brings the best in his players.
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“I don’t think you ever at this point in people’s career you attempt to rebuild someone completely. A lot of play in this league is confidence. Obviously you have to have the skillset, and we believe that Dwayne does. But this league is highly competitive and humbles everyone. I think what he did that last month of the season allowed himself to believe ‘hey I can do this and I can play in this league’ “
My Takeaway: Turner came off as a supportive coach and cognizant of Haskins’ standing in the league. Meaning, he realizes that Dwayne has talent, but needs to be fostered and supported. In an answer he shared later, he talked about Haskins’ raw talent and the ability to release the ball in tight spaces (compact pocket). He also talked about Dwayne’s ability to launch it down field with minimal effort. It’s clear that Turner is going to take the teaching role with Haskins and try to establish confidence. Something that may have been lacking last season.
On the Coaching Staff:
“We got a really good group of coaches on this staff. I’m familiar with the majority of them, we were together in Carolina. And what they are first is that they’re teachers. They all know this offense like the back of their hand. So what I try to do is delegate to them and let them spend their time with their guys to teach them.”
My Takeaway: It is clear that the camaraderie established in Carolina has trickled north into Ashburn. Some have criticized the Redskins organization for becoming “Carolina North” but there is something to be said about continuity and consistency. Coach Ron Rivera has preached a unified vision, and it is comforting to hear that Turner feels the same way. He suggested that he would give his coaches the autonomy to lead, while he would bounce to each position group periodically to support them. Having knowledgeable coaches, with a consistent message, should allow for the young offensive players to absorb the playbook easily.
On the Importance of Versatility
“You want to be as unpredictable as possible. You don’t want the defense to know what you are going to do. Obviously you do that with balance. Balance is not simply run and pass. It’s getting all five eligible receivers involved in every play. That to me is what true balance is, using all five of those whether it is in the run game or pass game. So guys that can do different things, gives you more options in how to use them and more things for defenses to defend. That’s where versatility is so important. It’s uncertainty for the other side of the ball”
My Takeaway: As most coaches in the NFL, Turner seems excited to deploy his skill-position players in various sets. He at first came off coy, saying “I don’t want to give things away,” so it’s clear that he has some creative concepts up his sleeve this upcoming season. I’d imagine he’s most excited about Gibson, and Steven Sims Jr. Both of these players can be motioned in-and-out of the backfield without losing much in terms of skill-set. I’m interested in seeing which running back will receive the majority of the passing targets. The past two seasons Christian McCaffrey caught over 100 passes out of the backfield. My early guess would be Derrius Guice and Antonio Gibson.
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George Carmi is an editor/contributing writer to FullPressCoverage.com or @FPC_Redskins. He is a native of the DC metropolitan area and is an avid fan of DC Sports. A former journalism major at the University of Maryland, his focus is now in public education. His earliest memories consist of Darrell Green, "The Posse" and Super Bowl XXVI. Follow him on twitter @Gcarmi21