Captain Ron Rivera is confident the 2022 NFL season is approaching


Ron Rivera has confidence – confidence in the process and in a list he thinks he can rival.

Just a year ago, when Washington opened a training camp in Richmond, the coach expressed a mixture of hope and concern about the start of the new season.

Sure enough, his team for 2020 had early success with a playoff appearance and a top-tier defense. He had Chase Young Player of the Year, Alex Smith Back Player of the Year and the courage to beat the odds. But last year, Rivera wondered if his team had the maturity to build on its success, and work even harder, to understand that it couldn’t pick up where it left off.

Rivera’s anxiety persisted throughout the season, as if he knew beforehand that his team would face poor health (more than two dozen players and eight coaches had gone down the NFL’s coronavirus protocols) and a personal tragedy that would wipe out any goodwill that arises from a string of victories. .

So far in 2022, much remains the same – on paper. The leaders turned to the other veteran quarterback, finding more help in the wide receiver and running back, fortifying the offensive line and adding small pieces at the tight end and in the secondary. But they are faced with questions at full-back, questions about the depth of the defensive line and of course the never-ending question of whether everything will work out this time.

Rivera’s confidence comes from the team’s experiences late in the 2021 season and a belief that his players can make “big steps” in his third year as their coach.

Maturity level, more than anything else, [shows] “These guys are ready to take responsibility for everything,” Rivera said during a phone interview from California this month. “…In the past year going through this whole thing, my biggest concern has been maturity. And having gone through what we’ve been through… I kind of feel like this group of guys is ready to make a move.”

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Rivera claims he doesn’t feel any extra pressure in the third year.

He said, “Not after the first year.” “And then not after what we went through last year. She thinks about what we went through in two seasons and says, ‘You know what? Whatever happens happens. But as long as we work hard, play hard and do our best, we’ll see what happens. And we’ll let the chips fall where we can.”

Last year, the Washington football team lost then quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after only 16 times to a thigh injury and turned to Taylor Hynek the rest of the way, except for the one game started by Garrett Gilbert because Hynek contracted the COVID-19 virus. Washington lost six of its first eight games, recovered in four critical games, and then lost both star defenses, Montez Sweet and Young, to injuries. It also lost most of its defense due to coronavirus issues; Deschazur Everett shared the safety pain, who was the driver in an accident that killed his longtime girlfriend; And I shared in even more pain when Sot’s brother was murdered. Washington struggled to deal with it all, as evidenced by the in-game fight between its two-star defensive tackles in an explosion in Dallas.

But Rivera, while still irritated by the belief that his players were not valued enough to weather the unusual circumstances, also believes those circumstances have brought his side closer – and may have set the tone for this season.

“We had a bunch of guys going through some real life, and it was tough,” he said. “It was difficult for a lot of players, and for us, we are still trying to change and develop who we are and find our guys, and we will continue that process. …

“Because we’re a young team, and we had to play a lot of youngsters, we had to go through a lot… and we’re still holding on – and that gives me confidence.”

Confidence comes, in part, from the skill center that players have added. It also comes from their defensive potential and from the veterans who brought them up front.

In the past, Rivera has cited his third season with the Carolina Panthers in 2013 as reason for optimism with the leaders. After two losing seasons in Charlotte, the Rivera Panthers finished 12-4 in 2013 to win their league and finish second in the league in points allowed and distances allowed. Drafting the all-professional quarterback, Cam Newton, was the biggest puzzle piece, but rounding the line up to protect and surround the playmakers was a priority.

Those priorities followed Rivera to Washington. This off season, after trading for quarterback Carson Wentz — and taking his fully guaranteed $22 million salary — the leaders signed veterans Andrew Norwell and Trae Turner to replace Brandon Sheriff and Eric Flowers. They drafted wide receiver Jahan Dotson in the first round, and added a strong comeback in Brian Robinson Jr. In the third round they found Cole Turner, a 6-foot-5 narrow tip with a large fishing radius, in the fifth round. They then welcomed future Curtis Samuel who returned from groin and hamstring injuries and re-signed star Terry McLaurin, and are hoping to return Logan Thomas and Young from knee injuries soon. (Thomas, Young and quarterback Chase Rollier will likely start camp on the physically incapable list as they continue to recover, but Samuel is expected to do just fine.)

“If we can maintain our health with our offensive line, get Logan ready soon and some of these guys are in a tight position to develop, if Terry continues to be the player he is and we get Curtis and Diame in good health. [Brown] Grow a little, cam [Sims] He contributes the way we think he’s capable and Jahan is the player we think he can be, we feel like we have a good skill set there,” Rivera said. Then if Carson can go out and make good decisions and let his sport play for him, I think we can be someone to take on.”

Among the most important factors, Rivera added, are the blueprint and ensuring leaders get the best of their talents.

“Do we put these people in the best position to succeed? It always comes down to that too, and that’s the thing that we have to be very aware of, because we have a good group and we have some skilled players, but we don’t know how good we can be yet.” ,” He said.

Having at least 10 attacking linemen with a lot of experience is also important, Rivera said, as he helped the team last year, when injuries forced him to move between five positions. He also said retaining key players like McClurin and defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Thomas has long been a priority.

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We found a good number of [core players]Rivera said. “I don’t think we have all the pieces. … This training camp is going to be very important for us to see where some of our players are. Have they developed? Did they get to where they want to be? Going into this, there were a lot of question marks. Obviously. That we’ve had to change a lot of our thinking now that we have Carson. My thought process has changed with her, about who we are and who we can be.”

And of course, adding a midfielder whose skill set fits the chart has been a priority for years. Wentz will start ninth for Washington since Rivera arrived in 2020. Having been traded by the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts in back-to-back seasons, Wentz comes with plenty of unknowns, including whether he can help revive a franchise that has been in the doldrums During most of the past two decades.

Rivera, once again, has confidence.

“I know a lot of people don’t give us much credit for that or give us any hope of doing well this year, which is a good thing,” he said. “But we will fight. We will show up and give everything we are.”

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