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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.”

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Del Rio speaks about Young, the new look defense and return of the ice cream man uniforms?

Washington Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio Q+A

By The Sports Pulse

On what he’s seen out of DE Chase Young in the virtual meetings: 

“Well, it’s obviously a difficult time to kind of approach this. You’re excited to get your hands on your rookie class and really for us, as a first-time staff, get in and get working with all of our players. So we’ve not been able to do that in person, but we’ve done a great job, I think, of going through the meetings and going through the install and Chase has been doing what he’s supposed to be doing. He’s been paying attention; he’s been learning the system. For me, I just can’t wait to get going with him, but he’s doing all that he can right now as a member of our defensive line, a member of our Washington Redskins team. I think the sky’s the limit for him in terms of what he’ll be able to bring to us. We obviously have big designs, we think he’s a really good player, and we’re looking forward to getting him involved.”

On if Young can fit the mold of being a premier pass rusher:

“No, we haven’t seen him yet but I’ve watched enough tape. He’s going to be a real good player for us. And yeah, I’ve been very fortunate. My first year as a defensive coordinator at Carolina [Panthers], we had [Former DE] Julius Peppers. Obviously I go to Denver [Broncos] and we have [OLB] Von Miller. And then I’m in Oakland [Raiders] and we have [OLB] Khalil Mack. So when you have special players like that, very impactful players. In particular, if they’re about doing it the right way and everything that we’ve gathered in terms of trying to make the decision to take him where we did indicates that he’s a guy that loves football, that’s going to be a great teammate for us.”

On how the game planning aspect can change if Young becomes an elite player:

“Well I think the biggest thing is that he’s still just one player. But he’s one player that offenses have to deal with. It has an opportunity to create not only disruption and a problem in terms of how the offense feels with him, but also creates opportunities for others. It can in effect kind of raise the level of play throughout the defense. Obviously rush and coverage has to go together, and so you’ll hear me talk about that throughout the year. It’s not about just rush, it’s about rush and coverage and them going hand-in-hand. You’re going to need coverage to hold up so that when our defensive line does win, they can get there. You can have the best rush in the world but if you don’t have some coverage and make the quarterback hold it, it’s not going to be positive for you. They go hand-in-hand, but I do believe he can be impactful for us.”

On DE Ryan Anderson:

“We’re excited about him getting more opportunities. Looking at the film, he did some nice things. So yeah, we’re looking forward to getting Ryan involved. I agree with coach, we kind of look at it the same way. We think we have some depth in that group, and we’re going to try and get everyone involved. Obviously there will be some fierce competition for playing time and roles once we get started in camp.”

On LB Reuben Foster:

“I think he’s done a good job of trying to be involved in the meetings and we’ve approached it as though he’ll be there. Then we’ll see whether we get the clearance or not for him to actually go. In terms of the mental approach and in terms of his participation in the meetings, being up to date with the install, getting the coaching and all of that, he’s been on point with that. The part we can’t impact right now, is where he’s at with his rehab and whether he gets the clearance to go. But he’s working hard, doing all the things that he can with us in the virtual meetings and absorbing all of the information about what we’re going to expect out of him as a linebacker.”

On what he has stressed to the team in virtual meetings about improving communication:

“I mean a lot of little things. Part of it is really understanding the principles of the defense so that you can react as the offense deploys. The communication is huge. I think the understanding of what we’re going to do is huge. Then you have time when you’re merging and your alignment as the offense deploys, you’re able to recognize and get clues and share information pre-snap in terms of how you want to adjust and things. I think all of those factors are the things that we work on, that allow us to then be a defensive that does combine rush and coverage and is effective in getting quarterbacks off the field in 3rd down, and getting them into 3rd and long and then getting them off the field. That’s exactly what we’re talking about, being on the same page, making sure communication is sharp.”

On how he views the linebacking room and the traits he looks for in a linebacker:

“I think what we have isan interesting mix. I am excited to get them on the field and let them compete. We have a blend. We have some older guys. Obviously adding TD [LB] Thomas Davis and you mash that up with a guy like [LB] Cole [Holcomb] who played last year, was thrust into the lineup and got some valuable experience and showed some real speed and linebacking ability. Obviously, we added KPL [LB Kevin Pierre-Louis] as a free agent and he is flying under the radar, no one really talks about him. We are excited about letting him go and seeing what he can do. We know he is a dominant special teams player. When he was able to play, he played very well last year in Chicago. We are excited to see them all compete. Obviously, having [LB Jon] Bostic back and [LB] Shaun Dion Hamilton and those guys competing in the middle. There is a lot of competition throughout the roster. [LB] Khaleke [Hudson] we added in the draft. We have a group that is going to be very competitive fighting for playing time and fighting for roles. We will let that play out. I like the way they have been working with Linebackers Coach Steve Russ. He has done a great job in the meetings. Guys are very attentive and are working hard in understanding exactly how they are going to do things. They are going to be a key part of us when we talk about tying rushing coverage, the ability to fit the run, the linebackers are essential to that. We are going to count on them playing well for us.”

On the changes in the secondary and what his philosophy is going to be with the back end of the defense:

“First of all, I think [Vice President of Player Personnel] Kyle [Smith] and Coach Rivera have done a great job of giving us a chance. We looked at a lot of needs when we got here and talked about the wish list of approaching and filling holes on defense, giving us a chance to be competitive. I think we have done a really good job and they have done a really good job of giving us some pieces to compete with that will help us be successful in the fall. A large part of that happened on the defensive side and in the back seven. I talked about some of the linebackers just now in the back end. We were able to add corners in [Ronald] Darby and [Kendall] Fuller. Jimmy Moreland coming back and [Fabian] Moreau coming back. We have some guys that will be competing there as well. It will be a very competitive situation with guys in a competitive role. We added a safety in Sean Davis and we added to a group of safeties that were pretty productive players. Obviously you have Landon [Collins], [Deshazor] Everett and [Troy] Apke. We feel like we have a good group that is going to be very competitive. Right now, we are just trying to make sure we get everyone on the same page so we can play fast.”

On the best way to use CB Kendall Fuller:

“I think really, it just depends on how it fits and how it works when we get out there on the field. We have designs, obviously, to be flexible on how we approach it whether it is man-zones or what type of zones, true zones, we will determine that with the guys when we start playing and we start competing. Obviously, right now we are building the library and having guys understand our system. When we get a chance to actually work with them and compete against the offense to go through training camp and what not, then we will be able to see how far we can take it. For a guy like Fuller, he is obviously very versatile. He has played inside, outside, he has played all over the field. He was a versatile and valuable get for us and we are excited to have him.”

On how he has addressed the struggles with communication last year:

“We talked about that and there are a few things I would like to say, one being we want to spend a lot less time looking back and a lot more time looking forward. A big part of playing good defense is the ability to communicate and the ability to gather information pre snap and make any adjustments that you need to. That is all part of playing fast and being sound and solid. We are working hard at that. That was one of the issues that is apparent when you look at tape. I also believe this – in 2020, everyone here on defense, all the players and all the coaches, we all put our signature on what you see and how we perform. We are all responsible. I don’t think you could put it on any one person, I think it is a collective effort and I do believe it is very, very important and we will be stressing that from day one.”

On being able to coach with his son Luke:

“We are on opposite sides of the ball for sure. It is awesome that he is getting this opportunity. Obviously, he is excited for it. He has been around football his entire life. He loves ball and he has competed at the highest levels in college. It is awesome to have your son get a shot at something that he is passionate about. I am looking forward to that part. He is on the offensive side, so we are going to be doing some competing.”

On if there is one quality or trait that stands out to him that a defense must have:

“I think you have to be tough. The toughness part is not just physical. A large part of that is mental and that is where we are going to see a lot of growth. Defenses that play fast and are able to bounce back when they are discouraged or if they don’t get discouraged or a big play that you recognize. These are talented people in the NFL. They are going to make some plays from time to time. You have to be able to keep going and go to the next play. We will work hard at that in terms of mentally being tough and physically being able to tackle people. Typically, for me, when you look at defenses around the league when you are giving up explosive plays and getting hit with big chunk plays and giving up a lot of those, then you are typically not going to have a good unit. How do you minimize that? It really comes down to leverage and tackling. Those are some fundamentals that I believe in that we will be getting into. Then in terms of approach and scheme, there are a lot of different ways to do it. Where I have tried to do it wherever I have gone is take a look at what they have been exposed to and what experiences does the staff have. Then, we come up with what we are. It has been no different putting this defense together. I have done it everywhere I have been. You kind of grow that way and it is not like I come in throw a playbook down and say let’s go. It is a lot more involved and collaborative.”

On the transition to the 4-3 defense:

“Yeah it will be good. First of all, you have to understand we’re talking about how we deploy in base defense and we’re talking about base defense in today’s NFL, which is about a third of the game. Really you’re in sub packages, some form of sub packages where you’re playing against three wide [receivers] or more and you’re playing against that roughly 65-70 percent of that time. So we’re talking about a small percentage of the plays, but our overall approach is going to be more where they’ve been doing a lot of two-gapping and a lot of playing both sides of a blocker – we’re going to ask our guys to be more penetrating and disruptive. Our linebackers and secondary will understand how to fit off of that, so they’re going to have a lot more freedom in terms of being able to generate the beginning of a pass rush while we’re playing the run. It is kind of an aggressive approach to playing the run on the way to the quarterback and I think our guys are going to really like it.”

On Coach Rivera wanting a former head coach on his staff and if he has talked with Coach Rivera extensively about the defense and their shared vision:

“First of all, the head coach is involved in a lot of work. I think for him to surround himself with really capable people and guys that have been there, I did the same. I think it is wise to do so. I think it gives you an opportunity to delegate more and then he has asked for shared conversations for us to be able to bounce ideas and so I am doing that and I will continue to do that. Wherever I can help him and in any way that I can help him, I will do so. I think it is going to be a great working relationship. I have a lot of respect for Ron. We really have come along similar paths. We come off the West Coast, he was at Cal and I was at USC and we go in and have a long career and we both have careers as head coaches and defense and all that. Our roots go way back and I look forward to helping him in any way.”

On DE Ryan Kerrigan and balancing all the talent on the defensive line:

“You’re getting right to the part that is not so comfortable. You’re fired up for having all of these guys, but then they can’t all go on the field at the same time. So that is part of it, like being able to deal with that aspect of it, having guys understand, ‘Hey, you’re not going to play all the time.’ Or, ‘You’re not the starter.’ Those are things to me, that always get settled best with competition and once guys earn what they’ve earned I think everybody in the room pretty much understands that. But, that is definitely one of the things that I’m going to have to navigate. It is kind of like a basketball team not having enough balls to go around and you have a bunch of stars. But, it is good to have good players and we have good players in our front, guys that were well thought of coming out of the Draft and they were taken high and we should expect them to be really good players for us and be a really solid foundation for us to build around and that’s how we’re going to approach it.”

On if the competition at each position is emphasized in year one with a new staff or if that is a theme that needs to be carried over to sustain a successful program:

“I think the newness gives you a chance to give everybody a fresh start for sure and so that definitely comes in to play. I think the other part is that both Ron and I have been in this league for over 30 years, playing and coaching and I think we both understand the importance of competition. I know in my time as a head coach there were several times where we had a young player come into camp who was not highly thought of who all of a sudden everyday just competed his tail off and ended up making the team and created a role for himself. So, to me when you’ve seen enough examples of that you understand that what it comes down to is competition and ultimately we’re going to put a squad together and go compete on Sunday’s. So it is all about competition and that is really what the league is all about, you have to perform, it is a performance based business, you have to perform and those who perform the best play the most.”

On the players feeling refreshed working with the new staff:

“It is not surprising. There is a freshness to it, there is a newness to it, there is an opportunity, there is excitement and to me it is just about going out and taking advantage of your opportunities. The biggest thing we want to do is make sure we give an opportunity for each guy that is invited to our camp to come in and show us what he’s got and show us how he can help us and then if somebody is capable of doing something then we have to take advantage of that as coaches and make sure we put him in the right place where they can be productive. The other part about coaching is kind of keep guys out of positions that they’re not good at. It is like accentuate the positives and try and keep your guys out of situations that they are not good in and put them in more of the situations that they are good at. It has been a basic approach, but a fruitful one over the years.”

On his Twitter account and his approach to social media:

“I have fun. I’m not on all the time. I’ll come on, I’ll get off, I’ll pop in sometimes and lay something out there. I don’t really have an approach. I’m just enjoying and I like to follow and read people and gather information and just participate. My kids try and keep me in check. Don’t get their dad in trouble, so they don’t want me to go too far. But, I just try and have fun with it and when it gets uncomfortable or when it goes places I don’t want to go, I just get off.”

On how the players have stood out to him during the virtual meetings so far:

“There are just certain things that stand out, and you’re not really looking for it. Like I popped in here right at the buzzer, right? I went right in at 10 eastern time. A guy like [DT] Jonathan Allen, he’s on there 15 minutes before every meeting. He’s always early. Everybody has their own approach, and you kind of see personalities even through virtual meetings. I think I’ve been aware of some of those things. But in terms of really making your impression, I think it’s going to really come down to getting in pads and getting out on the grass and going to work.”

On if he views the game any differently after working at ESPN:

“One thing I was able to do was study the whole league and just kind of watch ball. And then having an informed opinion about it. That was beneficial, I think. The other thing, I have a real clear understanding of the work you all do and a greater appreciation for the media side of it, bringing the news and bringing truth to the fans. Not that I won’t get irritated if, let’s say you, write an article ripping me (laughs). I’m still going to be irritated by it. The reality is that there’s a business, you’re a conduit to it, to the public. I have a greater appreciation for that and the work that goes into being good at it. I spent a lot of time making sure my opinions were legit. That I had put film study behind it. That I talked to other people in the business so that I understood what I was talking about. So I have a greater appreciation for those who do it well.”

On his take on the all white uniforms for Week 1:

“No. Again, I wouldn’t read too much into it. It just sounded good. I thought I’d say ‘yes, sounds good Week 1.’ I’ll tell you what, if Coach Rivera or Mr. Snyder, if they want to know my opinion, they already know I’m in favor of white Week 1. But other than that, I’m going to leave it up to them (laughs).”

Jonathan Allen reflects on adjusting to public health crisis, expresses outlook for upcoming season

DMV product has uses quarantine time as opportunity to boost offseason training

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON — While the coronavirus pandemic has led to an unusual NFL offseason, Washington Redskins lineman Jonathan Allen has not let anything take his focus away from the high expectations he has for the upcoming season.

Ever since emerging as a formidable force at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., Allen has been a part of a winning culture. However, with the three seasons that Allen has competed for the Redskins, the team has a combined record of 17-31 with no postseason appearances. 

One of Allen’s primary objectives, along with his teammates and Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera, is to re-establish a winning tradition in the nation’s capital.

Allen said he first met Rivera as soon as Washington signed him as its new head coach.

“My first impressions, I love him. I love everything I’m hearing from him, I’m loving everything I’m hearing from other players and other former teammates,” Allen said of Rivera. 

“He seems like the type of guy that we need in Washington to help get this culture change and turn things around for the better.”

Allen, a No. 17 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has gradually improved in the professional ranks and is coming off his best season for the Burgundy and Gold. 

The 6-foot-3, 300-pounder ranked fourth on the team this season in tackles with 68, up from 61 for the 2018 season and 10 his rookie season. Allen has also recorded 15 sacks in his three years with Washington.

Even amid the public health crisis, Allen has made sure that he has remained physically active as local authorities have not yet lifted restrictions on public gatherings, OTAs, etc.

“I’ve been trying to do anything just to stay active and stay fit. I mean, I work out every day, but it gets pretty boring because usually, I mean, I get done with workouts by 12:00, and we have meetings from 12 to 2, so from 2:00 on, I’m literally doing nothing,” Allen said. 

“Just trying to do something to get out of the house and keep my mind sharp and just not get so bored because there’s really nothing to do out here.”

Restrictions and ordinances such as the stay-at-home orders resulting from the pandemic have left many athletes in positions of uncertainty. Still, Allen is confident the NFL season will be up and going in a timely fashion.

“Well, I mean first and foremost I’m definitely hoping to play the season which I think we will, I couldn’t imagine us not playing a season,” Allen said.

The former University of Alabama standout added that this lockdown provides the valuable time that he is using to enhance his training regimen and get ahead of the competition.

“I’m just trying to take this as an opportunity to get ahead of my competition in any way I can and make sure that I ramp up my training and make sure this is the best offseason of training that I’ve ever had, that way I’m in that much better shape come training camp. And that’ll just help me play that much better this upcoming season,” he said.

“I’m a firm believer of if you want to have a good season, you’ve got to have a good offseason. I’m doing everything I can to eat right, sleep better this offseason, just do everything I can to make sure I’m in the best possible shape. 

“And really just try to use quarantine as an opportunity for me to get ahead of the game and get ahead of my competition a little bit with how hard I’m training, so those are some of the things I’ve been doing.”

Allen quickly became a fixture on the defensive line at Alabama, where he amassed 152 tackles (44.5 for loss), 28 sacks and three forced fumbles during his career. 

He additionally earned numerous awards and honors and helped the Roll Tide to a national championship in the 2015 season.

Thus far, there have been several NFL personnel who, at one point, were diagnosed with the coronavirus, including New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and rookie receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden. 

While Allen is more than ready to get back on the field, he understands that safety is paramount and has embraced the process of adjusting amid the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I mean first things first; you definitely want to be safe. But as far as moving forward, I mean I have full faith in our medical staff, so I mean, it’s really what they determine and what the NFL determines is safe for us to move forward with,” Allen said in response to moving forward and playing this upcoming fall.

“That’s really all I can think about, and it’s just so much for one person to even try to comprehend that it’s not even worth it, you know? Just pray for the players that do have it and do everything you can to take the precaution to be safe.”

Redskins Rant – Tress Way a starting quarterback? Is this the real life?

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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 Keep it locked! 

Collins talks about acclimating in new and unusual work environment, thoughts of this defensive unit

Washington Redskins Safety Landon Collins Q+A

By The Sports Pulse Staff

On his adjustment to the new coaching staff:

“I mean I like the adjustments to the coaching staff. The coaches we had last year were really good. The ones that coached me and the defensive room were really good. The coaching staff now is very hands on. I like the details, I like the awareness of what’s going on, how people know exactly what’s going on. The fine details with them. When the motion needs to happen, if something were to change with the call or change within the formation that makes our defense change. Everything gets pinpointed, and that’s the best thing about the defense for me. Everybody’s going to have their job and know what their job is. If anything happens, they’ll know what to do within their job. That makes it easier for everybody to be on the same page. Everybody literally knows what everybody else is supposed to be doing. That makes it easy to communicate and be on the same page. We react faster. Everything is about split second reaction and inches. We just need that part to be very sound.”

On what he has been able to get out of the Zoom meetings with the defense:

“Everything. It’s like there is basically a team meeting. If we’re in the facility right now, we’d be going over installing the defense or we’d be installing whatever we’re installing, it’s the same way. We’re going through the same process that we’d do. The only thing we’re not doing is taking what we got from the classroom on to the field. That’s the only difference right now. It’s fairly easy. We ask our questions and we tell our group that there is no dumb question. There are no questions that we cannot answer. Today I had a question about a couple things because I wasn’t getting it. I was trying to picture it in my head and most of us players picture a lot of stuff in our heads. So when I was trying to picture it in my head, I didn’t see what they meant by it, so I just asked my questions until I got it down. Regardless of how long it takes, we have to get it down because at the end of the day, once football season starts or once we all start back up, we don’t know if we’re going straight into football or if we’ll have some time before we start. Those questions, those answers, how everything goes within the Zoom meetings, it’s fairly the same as if we are in a team meeting room.”

On if he has kept in touch with his teammates to make sure that everyone is staying in shape:

“Most of us post what we do on Instagram, so I know what everybody is doing. I follow everybody on Instagram, so I can just look up their Instagram and see that they’re working. But more than everybody knows right now since we don’t have OTA’s, don’t have everything going on, this is the time and period where everybody starts to work out because we won’t have mini-camp. Everybody wants to go into training camp at least in decent shape to play football because playing with your defense in a week or so from starting camp, it’s very, very tough as we all know. In saying so, having to text guys to ask them if they’re working out, no I don’t have to do so.”

On if he has had a chance to talk to Coach Rivera and what the team meeting with Rivera and the entire team on Zoom was like:

“That meeting was very stern and straight to the point. He was telling us his expectations of the team and where he wants to go with us and what he’s looking for once we all get together. It was very, very good. Very stern. Putting his philosophy in place and setting the tone to let everybody know what to look forward to and what kind of mindset to come in with this team. Personally with me and his text messages and what we’ve talked about, I think we’ve talked on the phone maybe three times. We text more than – I was surprised – we text more than we talk on the phone. It’s just like common stuff. Then if anything needs to be mitigated, he asks me for stuff. He asks me to be the leader I am and stuff like that. To give you a focal point, to always be myself and continue to be the leader that I am and keep doing it the right way. That’s kind of the gist of how we handle our stuff.”

On the defensive line’s potential:

“I think playing with the defensive front that we have with the veterans like Jon Allen, Daron Payne, [Tim] Settle, Montez [Sweat], [Matt] Ioannidis, all those guys are going to be able to teach Chase [Young] NFL football. He’s already a great athlete, so that’s going to be a dominant force that he already has within himself. Having those guys around him to teach him how to attack this, how to read that, how you can play this better in a professional league and getting out of his college form is going to be great. It helps us with having a great speed guy with Montez Sweat off the edge and how we have another physical guy like [Ryan] Kerrigan and getting Kerrigan some more rest time because we know when Ryan Kerrigan has rest legs, we know what he can do. That’s a big plus for us because we can always rotate him in and out, and they make plays. They make plays, and it makes it easier for us on the back, so we don’t have to cover for so long. By the ball not coming out fast, you’re not getting big gains. The ball is not going over our heads as DB’s [defensive backs]. That’s a major key for when we’re playing with a great D-line like that.”

On how his interactions with Coach Rivera have compared to his experiences with other head coaches:

“My experience with other head coaches, every experience with a head coach is different. It depends on the guys you have around. I think we have a fairly young team, a coach with a stern background coming in with a focal point of how he wants things to be run, just to give guys an attention grabber. The other coaches I’ve dealt with had an older group, so they didn’t really have to say much. Everybody just knew what was known to be done and it was already done because those guys were professionals and stuff like that. From there, Rivera is just a solid coach, from that point on he just [inaudible] he was about to get the job done. That’s why he said what he said the way he said it.”

On his thoughts on the changes in the secondary:

“The changes, we’ll see how they go. I like it. I watched [Ronald] Darby, I watched Kendall Fuller, I know how these guys play. I will watch Sean D [Davis]. It’ll be my first time. I have to look up his stats and talk to a couple guys from the Steelers to see how his attitude was towards everything and how he runs things just to get a background and stuff like that. These guys are great pickups by our team. I’m looking forward to it. I definitely will always miss Josh [Norman] and Dunny [Quinton Dunbar], but at the same time, we have to move on and we have to move on with what we have. I think the team has some great defensive backs that can be put around me and myself around them to make this thing work. I’m looking forward to that opportunity. It’s a blessing to me because I’ve watched these guys play and they play really good.”

On what he can do to help the younger players out during this virtual program:

“All I can do for these guys is just tell them that I am here. Open line of communication. Ask me any questions about the league if you have any just to give them knowledge. It is hard to give them knowledge when I am not around them even if they have questions. Usually vets tend to feed off what a guy is doing right or doing wrong if he has suggestions to give a guy in different aspects of the league and what he should do for the league. There is not much I can say over the phone to do that. All I can do is keep a line open. Our rookie right now, [S] Kamren Curl, I just have an open line with him. Any questions he has, I am here to answer anything. Don’t be scared. At the end of the day we have to be a brotherhood on the back end. If anyone has any questions, my lines are always open on offense or defense.”

On CB Jimmy Moreland:

“Jimmy was supposed to have seven picks last year. That was just off of athletic ability. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing in the game but at the end of the day he was all athleticism. I was like. ‘Wow, he is going to be special.’ Once he got it down and could see it before it happened, he could jump for a pick six. He could jump before the play. He just didn’t trust himself within his ability to do those things. That is just a rookie not being sure or seeing what they want to do and just going for it. I think he has the confidence now and the trust that he knows we trust him in his ability to do something, have his back and cover him. That’s how it is as a rookie. I saw things and didn’t do it because I was scared that a veteran was going to be mad at me. It’s all praise. We all try and make plays. I feel that way about Jimmy.”

On if the optimism around this season feels different than in years past:

“It feels different because of the coaching staff. We have changed the whole coaching staff and have switched the defense around. I can’t speak for everyone, but it was much needed. When I talk about concepts and rules, set in stone things that need to happen within a defense, this defense has it all.”

Washington Redskins strong safety Landon Collins (20) brings down Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) during an NFL game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField in Landover, MD. Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse

On if there are any specific examples that he can point to that makes him feel confident:

“No, the guys, just talking to them. Talking to the coaches and Coach Rivera, knowing who we brought in. These are coaches that all have coaching backgrounds that have all had great athletes that have made a killing with their team. From that aspect, it is going to be the same way. Guys have to literally buy in. If we buy in, you win. If you don’t, you are going to fight here and there. From that standpoint we are going to make this thing work.”

On if his approach to film study has changed at all:

“No, I think this is my fourth defensive coordinator. I have never changed my approach on how to study and how to look at what I am supposed to be doing because it is second nature to me. It is how you study the game and how you study the game within the defense. What I can and cannot do within the defense. I work hard and ask questions about it. I was in the meetings the other day and was asking questions if I could do this or do this. If this was to happen. Just finding ways to make certain adjustments within the defensive call to get an inch or a yard out of making the play. From there what I am studying, the defense and if I have to make the calls and adjustments to what is going on, I have to be really on point. Every formation has an adjustment to it.”

On his campaign to feed frontline workers and what his foundation has planned for the future:

“My foundation is going fantastic. We really didn’t end the campaign, we just wanted to move somewhere else with it. We were helping the nurses, now lets help the custodians that are cleaning up everything and the police officers that are on duty, stuff like that. We never have stopped yet, we just try and help more than one group of people. We just want to jump here and there for different groups in different communities and different parts of the cities. We don’t stop. I appreciate you bringing it up.”

On if he plans to incorporate any of his teammates in any future events:

“I am going to try. I want to see who is down there. Make sure they stay safe. The lesser people the better controlled the environment can be. I am not trying to bring the whole team, I just need maybe five. I am just going to see who is down there. I know [QB] Dwayne [Haskins Jr.] is down there, I think [DT] Jon Allen is down there. I know [DE] Ryan Kerrigan is down there, [DT] Daron Payne, [LB] Shaun Dion Hamilton. I have a couple guys down there that I can ask to come through, so yes.”

On the defense’s potential:

“I am looking forward to that. It reminds me of all the guys we brought in during my 2016 year in New York. Those guys are major pickups and they helped us tremendously and we had a crazy year. Having that big pickup with [DE] Chase Young and having those two corners brought in along with some solid safety help. I don’t see why we don’t have that breakout year that we want.”

On if he has any personal stories about how COVID-19 has affected him:

“No, I don’t have any. No one has caught the virus yet and hopefully no one does in my family. Knock on wood. I am praying to God no one does. I don’t have any stories about what is going on in the world in my personal life.”

On his concerns with getting back to playing football:

“I really don’t have any concerns. I just want to get back to playing. It is big on me. I just really want to play.”

On S Sean Davis:

“I heard great things. He is very fast and knows how to run the sky and make things happen. He has done a good job.”