Redskins Rant – RG3 speaks about power struggle in Washington, Haskins receives high praise

Redskins Rant – Featuring Daniel Kucin Jr. and Sean Farrell

Don’t forget to tune in at 5 p.m. every week on Monday for Redskins Rant, and be sure to see all of our content at http://www.thesportspulse.com. Keep it locked! 

McLaurin speaks on past, present and future goals

By The Sports Pulse Staff

Photo by Michael Smith/The Sports Pulse

Q+A with Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin

On how he is managing the virtual offseason:

“Well this has been very different. This being my first full offseason, you kind of go in there with a mindset knowing what to expect, but then it doesn’t necessarily go that way. Nobody could have planned for this to happen. It’s actually kind of ironic, I’ve been working out since the Wednesday after the Super Bowl and at the time I felt like it was a little early to be starting to work out from what I was hearing from other people, but it actually worked out in my favor because before everything got shut down I had two full months where I was working out, running routes, trying to improve the things that I set out to improve on in the offseason. It’s been different, it’s been an adjustment, but I feel like in the pros you have to be able to prepare for everything, that’s why you’re a pro. I feel like our team has been working really hard individually and trying to come together in Zoom calls and just try to be as prepared as possible. Me personally, I just want to make sure that I continue to run routes, lifting some, but mainly just making sure I’m running a lot because getting back to Ashburn when we come back for camp that’s what I’m going to be asked to do, run a lot of routes and get right into it. We don’t have any time to waste.”

On what motivated him to start working out right after the Super Bowl:

“I took the first month off, I didn’t really do anything in the month of January, it had been a long year basically from the Rose Bowl to that last game where we played against Dallas. But I just felt like it was time for me to just take the month off, get my body right and just get back to it. I felt like I still had a lot of things that I was continuing to try and improve on. I felt like I didn’t have any time to waste. Really what was a contributing factor as well was just thinking of playing football for a full year and then getting right into training for my rookie year. I knew my body could handle it, but at the same time I just wanted to get some time off and then jump right into it.”

On what he wants to improve on this year:

“Just continuing to attack the ball. I kind of expected press coverage to be tough in the NFL, but those are really what win games I feel like, when you have a receiver that can win those one-on-one battles, so continue to try to dominate catching the ball, contested catches. And just continue to make sure my feet are clean, continue to make good habits the way I run routes, the way I come out of my routes, the body language I’m giving to the quarterback. And then just the mental side of the game with just studying myself, seeing what tells I’m possibly giving because now teams have a full year of film on myself so some of the things that I may have possibly been doing in the past may not work as easily. I just try to continue to focus on what I can control and not get complacent. While I’m happy with what I did last year, it’s done and over with and I’m excited to get started for 2020.”

On QB Dwayne Haskins Jr.:

“[QB] Dwayne’s [Haskins Jr.] looked great. I’ve been here working out with him in Virginia the last month or so and he looks really cut up, he’s slimmed down. He’s having fun again. I feel like a lot was thrown at him his first year and I’m not making any excuses for him at all, but I feel like just his focus is great right now. Physically, mentally, his personal life, he’s cleaning some things up as well. He’s ready to prove himself right really and just be the leader and the quarterback that this franchise needs and deserves, and he knows it’s going to come with work and dedication, but he’s taking the right steps. He’s just not worried about throwing with no opposition right now – that’s not really too hard – but he can’t wait to get back when we get with our teammates and seeing some other teams this season and being able to showcase what he’s been working on this whole offseason. He looks really good and I’m happy for how far he’s come.”

On how his life has changed since breakout his rookie season:

“That’s a really good question because the attention is different for me. When you play at Ohio State you get that type of attention, but I was kind of the guy who just did the dirty work, stayed behind the scenes and made plays when they presented themselves. Now, I’m kind of in a role where last year I was expected to do a lot and I welcomed that, I really felt like I was prepared for that, but the media requests and the attention is just a little different. I’m trying to come out of my – I wouldn’t say it’s a shell because I say I’m an extrovert – but just getting used to kind of being possibly a voice for your team and being one of the leading young players is very intriguing for myself. I just try to take it in stride, be humble, not be complacent with what I’ve done because there are so many things I feel like I can still do to get better and help our team, so with a new staff my mentality coming into camp is to prove it like I tried to do for Coach [Jay] Gruden and our staff last year coming in with a day one mentality trying to learn as much as I can and just being a guy who can take that next step and somebody that can continue to be depended on this upcoming season.”

On working out with teammates WR Kelvin Harmon and WR Steven Sims Jr.:

“I don’t really try to get into being the alpha per se, but I know I try to set a good pace to our workouts and things like that, try to go first when we’re running routes, try to run the routes right, try to set the right example for the guys that we’re throwing with and just try to make it look good. Trying to make [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] feel as comfortable as possible is my main objective. Just making sure I’m coming out there with a focused mindset with what I’m trying to do to get better. I feel like when you go out to workout you should have a plan for what you want to get done, what you want to accomplish and you shouldn’t just be out there just doing things, so I try to visualize coverages, I try to visualize plays. We have guys that are out there that are kind of shadowing, giving us looks. Just trying to take the next step in really honing my game, but [WR] Steven [Sims Jr.] and [WR] Kelvin [Harmon] look great. I can clearly see the improvement that they’ve made in their games and I’m just excited to be a part of that group. Whether people see me as the alpha or not, I just want to be a guy who is a guy who can dominate and help this team.”

On where the receivers may line up in the offense:

“[Wide Receivers Coach Jim Hostler] and [Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner] have expressed where they’ve possibly seen me playing the X, but they don’t want me to get so bogged down in just,  I’m going to play the X and I won’t play the Z or even the slot. I’ve been trying to learn it all conceptually and I feel like that gives our team versatility, I feel like it gives me versatility and it’s something that I feel I can handle mentally just learning conceptually this new offense. It’s not too hard, they break it down pretty easy for us. The next step is just getting out there and doing it. I feel like I learn well taking notes and doing the Zoom meetings, but getting out there and physically getting the reps, the good reps and the bad reps is what’s really going to make me fully comfortable in this offense. I’m excited to play wherever they put me, to be honest. X is kind of like your boundary receiver, your one-on-one guy. Your Z is kind of like your flanker who moves with the formation and your S is like your typical slot, he can move anywhere as well. In this offense, which is nice, I can be the ‘X,’ but really I’m the Z in a certain formation, so that versatility is really important for what I think Coach Turner and our offense is trying to get done this year.”

On how learning this offense is different:

“The details of each system is obviously different, the way they may call a route, the depths, the way they teach it is possibly different, but I just try to focus on the details. I feel like if you can have a big picture awareness you can learn almost any offense. If you focus on just one position when a coach tells you that you’re going to play this position and that’s all you focus on, well if you get in a two-minute situation you could end up on the opposite side of the field where you’re playing the X like I said earlier, but you’re really the Z in the formation. That’s why it just helps to learn conceptually, that’s what I’ve found that’s worked best for me over the years and I just want to continue to learn as much as I can.”

On organizing workouts with teammates:

“In Ohio State, it was a lot easier because we were still all on campus for the most part. In college, you maybe get three or four off-weekends typically in a whole year, so you’re pretty much around each other to throw. Now when you’re in the NFL and the season is over with, you have really no ‘obligations’ until you get organized practices started. [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] tried to get in contact with us pretty early, we had plans of possibly going to South Florida, rent out an Air BnB and just be all together and run routes. Obviously, coronavirus hit and those plans went left, but I’ve been in Indy for a while and I was training early in Florida, but I wanted to come back to Ashburn and get connected with Dwayne and the other receivers. He’s been hitting us up really all offseason and it’s just everybody’s schedules and with the virus and things like that we wanted to make sure first of all that we were all going to be safe and healthy, and then we could find a time that would work, so it’s been great so far.”

On WR Kelvin Harmon and WR Steven Sims Jr.:

“[WR] Kelvin [Harmon] is moving really well. He has a great burst in the way he’s running his routes. His feet are clean, he’s always had really good hands. When we’re connecting on deep balls, usually everybody kind of expects me being the fast guy I’m going to hit on them all and things like that, but Kelvin’s timing has been great and he and [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] are really building that chemistry. With [WR] Steven Sims [Jr.], I feel like he’s probably made one of the biggest jumps to me personally because of how clean his feet are. He’s always been fast, he’s always been quick, but sometimes he possibly would slip, so whatever he’s been working on – I know he’s been working with D-Rob, the receivers coach – but you could really tell his feet are so clean and the way he’s running his route his stems looks the same. I’m really excited to see him flourish in an offense that can showcase his versatility inside or out. ”

On if he has changed anything about his process in the last year:

“I try to come in with a mentality of ‘I can’t afford to lose,’ in a sense that when you’re seen as a number one receiver or a guy that’s heavily depended on, you can’t afford to lose too many reps. Obviously, the other guy on the opposite side is really good, so you really got to train your mind, train your body to win all the time in everything you do. I feel like I try to train that way, I try to run routes that way, I try to visualize that way and in the mental side of the game just studying yourself and your opponent. And just being open to criticism as well. I feel like [WR] Steven [Sims Jr.], [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.], [WR] Kelvin [Harmon] and any of the other receivers that we’ve thrown with have given me possible tips and I’m open to all that. I feel like that’s the only way you can grow and get better, so coming into this year I’m still trying to take that same approach, but I just continue on to be that guy that on third down there’s no confusion who the ball is coming to and make the defense still try to stop it. That just comes with work, that comes with timing and I feel like we can possibly develop that.”

On Offensive Coordinator Coach Turner:

“I’ve had two separate private conversations with [Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner], one when they first got hired and another about a month ago when we kind of broke down how things were going. He checked up on how I’m liking the offense, do I have any questions, so it’s been a real team effort. If we have questions, I feel like we can come to our coaches and ask because it’s just so different for everybody. I feel like the biggest thing that stands out about this offense and what Coach Turner wants to do is they just want to push the ball down the field and have some explosive plays, spread teams out. Obviously, we have some great backs at our disposal, so I know they’ll be incorporated in, but a lot of our concepts and a lot of this offense is downfield throws and that’s what I feel like can really help with a quarterback that throws the ball like [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] and the receivers that we have, not just including me, [WR] Steven [Sims Jr.] and [WR] Kelvin [Harmon], but with the other receivers that we have I feel like this could be a very receiver-friendly offense. We just got to make sure that we’re keyed into what we need to be doing on every play.”

On what he makes of the protests:

“Obviously, with everything going on in this country, the spotlight that this is taking during the coronavirus, not all eyes are on it. I feel like it’s just terrible that something like that had to happen for people to put more focus on it now. This has been going on for years. I felt like until the people who aren’t affected are as passionate and care about those who are, then there can’t be change. Just the fact that we have black athletes and actors and actresses and I feel like they’re celebrated across the country for the most part, but do people really appreciate their black women and black men at the end of the day? First and foremost, I’m a black man and at the end of the day this football thing will be over, and I’ll have to raise my family and raise my kids in a world that I hope is inclusive that’s built on equality. But racism still exists and we can’t hid from that, but the way we can move forward is we’re having those conversations. People who know what it’s like to be in those situations are educating those who do not. And those who do not know what it’s like to be Black or be in those situations are empathetic enough to understand that they may not know what’s going on, but they’re willing to help and be part of the solution and not the problem. And that’s what we need more of as a country. I don’t want to be somebody who’s sitting down here just talking like I have all the answers because I don’t, but I do know what it’s like to be a Black man and the importance that it has to me and where I come from, and I just want to live in a place where everybody can be comfortable being who they are and don’t have to look over their shoulder about any type of injustice. That’s kind of how I feel and going forward I want to be a part of any solution that I can.”

On returning to football after an eventful offseason:

“Football is what I love to do. I can’t think of a better blessing in my life to be playing the game that I love. When you get through the course of such a long NFL season and you get to the end, it’s like man, I’m ready for that break. That burning desire is still inside of you to continue to get better and continue to improve. Now with us having a new staff, we’re just all looking forward to being on the field again. I feel like sports is something that this country needs as well. The comradery of it, the togetherness that it brings. Hopefully as long as everything is safe and the health professionals we trust immensely, and we’re very thankful for them by the way, the way they protected us and kept us on the need to know with this virus. I’m just excited to get back playing football with my teammates and my coaches.”

On how he feels going into the 2020 season:

“I do feel really great actually. I’m between about 208 and 212 [pounds] around there, I try to stay at 208. I mean I feel great, the way I’m running my routes, the way I’m catching the ball, I feel like the chemistry that me and [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] have right now is really great. People automatically assume because we played in college that it was automatically going to click, but we’re learning a new offense and we’re going to adjust it to the NFL. We didn’t use that as an excuse, we just tried to continue to work, continue to learn and grow. I feel like we’re just pushing each other as well as our other rookie classmates, and we’re just going to try to put our best foot forward, and just work hard and not say too much, but just work and let our play do the talking. I’m really excited to get back to football because now, I won’t have to hear about the rookie year anymore, we kind of just move forward, and look forward to hopefully a very successful 2020.”

On if he is his biggest critic:

“I’m definitely my biggest critic for sure. I’d like to think so. One thing I learned in college from [Ohio State Wide Receivers] Coach [Brian] Hartline, which was very beneficial because he played at this level, is, you know when you’re practicing and you’re playing, you know what’s a good route, you know what’s a good rep, you know your to do list is checked off on every single rep. I try to do that in practice and running routes in games. Just trying to continue to push myself to newer heights, newer limits. I don’t try to put numbers on it like hey, I plan on having done this many yards, this many catches. Just being a guy who’s productive. Whatever that means for our team, that’s what it means. I also want to be a guy who can be a dominant receiver in this league. I don’t shy away from that, that’s a type of expectation I have with myself. That’s the type of preparation I’m preparing for. Lord stays the same, I stay healthy. The only solidified goal I have for myself this year is just trying to play every game, being out there for my team, and trying to make the plays when they depend on me. I’m really looking forward to taking that next step, and seeing what it’s like being a guy that’s probably more focused on my defenses, how I have to adjust my game and continue to be successful.”

On having another veteran receiver on the roster:

“I trust anybody who our front office and our coaching staff believe that can help our team win. That’s what I’m about first and foremost. I’m coming from a college where, your not necessarily going to be a thousand yard receiver and have 80 catches and things like that. You have to learn to make the most of your opportunities and when you get them, and then be a part of like a team atmosphere. The offense and the team’s success is more important than your own individual success. If the coaches and our front office feel like they can bring in somebody that can help our team, I’m all for it, it doesn’t change my mentality at all. I’m still expecting myself to come in here and be a receiver that’s very productive and accountable, and somebody that we can trust to make a big play. I’m excited, I feel like we have a very young nucleus of receivers, even with the rookies coming in, and it’s kind of cool to see that this new staff isn’t allowing us to try to take shape and take mold for this offense.

On veterans he has worked out with this offseason:

When I was in Florida at Marino’s training facility, I worked with a few. [RB] LeSean McCoy, [New York Jets RB] Frank Gore was really big for me, just to see a guy like that who is obviously older in the late part of his career, walking hall of famer, it’s kind of like being around [RB Adrian Peterson], to be honest. Being around a guy like Frank Gore, the way he practices, the way he attacks the work outs, he doesn’t take any reps off. It really, I’m a guy like that, but it even pushed me even more, to see a guy like that who’s on the tail end of his career but just being so productive and working so hard. That’s kind of a goal of mine coming in the offseason as well, being around some NFL guys, some NFL vets, whoever I can be around to kind of be a sponge and soak up whatever knowledge they have. It was cool being around guys like him and I feel like I learned a lot. He actually even invited me to come back out in the summer, I don’t know if I’ll make it back down there, but just to earn his respect in such a short amount of time, that’s the stuff that I take pride in.”

Allen, Davis Sr. reflect on reuniting with Rivera and expectations in Washington

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON — Within less than a week, it became known that Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera would rejoin veteran Thomas Davis Sr. and youngster Kyle Allen.

The two played under Rivera while he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. On New Year’s Day, Rivera was hired as Washington’s head coach. Throughout the eventful NFL free agency signing period, the Redskins made several adjustments to bolster their roster heading into the 2020 season. 

Davis and Allen expressed their excitement reuniting with Rivera along with expectations in Washington. 

“It’s definitely going to be exciting reuniting with Coach Rivera, I understand how he likes to operate, how he likes to do things and what he expects of us as players,” Davis said.

“It’s a lot different playing for Coach Rivera because he’s a guy that played the game. Whenever you play for a coach that played the game, they understand what guys are going through. They listen more, and they adjust the schedule more, they understand that at any given point in the season it’s not about tearing guys down, it’s about uplifting your players and that’s something that Coach Rivera has been really good at.”

The 37-year-old is approaching his 16th season in the NFL and feels obligated as a veteran to mentor younger teammates and lead by example. By doing so, Davis believes he can help Washington’s talented roster play to its maximum capabilities.

“When I first came into the NFL I had a bunch of veteran players that definitely did a great job of showing me the way, so here I am going into my 16th season, and it’s all about giving back and pouring into the lives of these guys and getting the most out of them,” Davis said.

On March 17, Davis signed a one-year deal with the Redskins. Rivera and Davis spent eight years in Carolina and made a Super Bowl appearance in 2016.

Allen played his first two NFL seasons for Carolina after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the franchise in 2018.

On March 10, Carolina announced that it signed Allen to a one-year contract reportedly worth $585,000. However, the 24-year-old soon learned of a change of plans on his way home from a workout on March 23.

Allen received a phone call that he was being traded to Washington, where he would not only join Rivera again but was reunited with Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner, Carolina’s quarterbacks coach for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins and Allen will likely compete for the starting spot.

“When they traded for me, it was kind of random. I didn’t push to be traded, and I just signed a contract in Carolina two weeks before. Interesting experience, but just talking to the coaches and talking to Ron [Rivera], and I think the expectation is to come and compete for the job,” Allen said. 

“I think it’s an awesome opportunity, and I think it’s cool to be back with the coaches who run a similar system. So, we’ll see and I’m going to take advantage of my reps. In Carolina, when I was the fourth string two years ago and got three reps in training camp. Now with more reps, I’m taking advantage of them.”

The Scottsdale, Ariz., native said he was able to get in some solid joint workout sessions with New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen while remaining mindful of social distancing mandates in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Davis, a three-time Pro Bowler, spent his first 14 years in league with the Panthers before being traded to the Los Angeles Chargers for the 2019 season. Davis had a productive year in LA before being released from the team on March 13.

While on the Chargers, Davis totaled 112 tackles (65 solo), his highest total since posting 123 (85 solo) with Carolina during the 2013 season. 

Davis said he isn’t sure what his role will be in the defensive system, but will use his knowledge and leadership qualities to contribute in the best way possible. 

“I don’t really know what it’s going to be, there are a lot of things that are going to play out in particularly seeing what happens with the draft, seeing how training camp goes,” said Davis, the 2014 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

“We’re going to all go in and we’re going to compete and we’re just going to figure out what’s going to happen from there.”

Also, Davis said he liked the new playoff rules, which will follow a 14-team format and an extra game as opposed to the 12-team format of the past, in accordance with the league’s new collective bargaining agreement. 

“It just makes it more competitive. It adds more teams in, and it allows teams that are hot late in the season like the Titans to be able to make a run, a team that might not normally be in the playoffs, are getting that opportunity, so I like it,” he said.

Allen started 12 games last season after a Cam Newton injury in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay and won his first four starts. After the Panthers returned to action after a bye in Week 7, they lost the remaining eight games of the season to finish 5-11 overall.

The 6-foot-3 quarterback said he is ready to take on the challenge that lies ahead and anticipates working with guys like receivers Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims Jr.

Allen is happy to reunite with Davis, and values the leadership the linebacker brings.

“He’s [Thomas Davis] a great locker room presence. He’s a great dude. We definitely missed him last year in Carolina,” Allen said. 

“I can’t even tell what year he is, but he’s been in the league for a long time and he understands leadership.”

In 2018, Allen played in two games and completed a combined 20 of 31 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. Last season in 13 game appearances, he tallied 303 completions on 489 attempts for 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions with 255.5 yards-per-game average.