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Digging deeper into Ron Rivera’s press conference comments at Tuesday’s OTAs

What’s the coach saying? What’s he not saying?

NFL: Washington Commanders OTA Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always found press conferences by head coaches fascinating — for what they say, what they don’t say, and what seems to be at the top of their minds.

Tuesday brought us an opportunity to listen between the lines a bit when Commanders head coach Ron Rivera handled questions from the local reporters at OTAs.

I don’t want to try to cover everything he said (it was a pretty long media session), but I do want to discuss a few things that I heard (or didn’t hear) from Riverboat Ron.

Let’s start with #10.

Curtis Samuel

Ron Rivera was asked if he feels he can “close the book” on Samuel’s groin injury. Ron’s immediate response sounds very upbeat, and might well put most fans’ minds at ease:

“I’d like to believe we can. I thought he’s done a great job with his rehab program this year.

That sounds almost like Curtis is all better now.

But Ron had more to say about Curtis Samuel.

We think he’s a guy that, as he continues to progress and gets healthier and healthier every day, there’ll be some good things for us with him in our offense.

He’s done a great job with his rehab program this year...hopefully it’s gonna continue to trend up.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Suddenly, I’m not feeling so optimistic about Curtis Samuel’s health.

  • “I’d like to believe we can [close the book on his groin injury]” (you’d “like to believe”??!!)
  • “as he continues to progress and gets healthier and healthier every day” (so, he’s not fully healthy yet??)
  • “hopefully it’s gonna continue to trend up” (We’re still hoping for the groin to trend up?)

I’m not sure what that sounds like to you, but to me, it sounds like a receiver who barely saw the field in 2021, and has had 4 additional months since the end of the season to recover from a June surgery, and still isn’t quite right.

Yes, we’ve seen him running, but he was running on the side field a lot last year, too.

Color me concerned.

Absences from OTAs

Montez Sweat

I saw some commenters earlier who were unhappy about Montez missing OTAs. Here’s what Ron had to say:

As far as Montez concerned, he had personal thing he was taking care of. We expect him back tomorrow.

Back tomorrow? Okay. No problem (damn, almost typed “no Sweat”).

Cam Sims

Cam had a personal thing, family. I think he’s having a baby. So, he’s excused as far as that’s concerned.

Having a baby? Sounds like an acceptable excuse. Excuse accepted.

Chase Young

Chase for the most part is working with his rehab. He has met with the doctors; they formulated a plan. He’s completing that right now. We will have him here eventually and I believe the next couple weeks he’ll be here.

The only reason this is any issue at all is because of what happened last year, so there’s a bit of skepticism that’ll probably hover around #99 for a while. Ron left a lot of wiggle room with “eventually” and “I believe the next couple of weeks”.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Given CY’s injury, he gets full benefit of the doubt, but Ron could have easily put this to bed with more forceful language. For now, I’m prepared to believe that Chase is working on a good rehab plan and will be in Virginia when the time is right.

Terry McLaurin

Terry, obviously, we’re working through with his contract. I’m not gonna get into specifics about that. We’ve had communications with [Terry and his agent]. We’ve been working with them. It’s just a matter of time.

This sounds okay, but there are things I’m not hearing him say:

  • “We’re close”
  • “We’ll definitely get something done”
  • “Terry is as eager to get the contract signed as we are so he can get in here and get to work”

It could be that a deal is imminent, but the things I’m not hearing Ron Rivera say on 24 May have me feeling a little tense. I’m not really worried about the ticking clock yet, but I am slightly twitchy about the level of non-committal in Ron’s language.

NFL: Washington Commanders OTA Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I’m still more confident than not that Terry’s deal will get done, but every day of field work that he misses, and every passing day will be a bit like sand passing through an hourglass, shifting the weight of concern from quietly confident to actively panicked. Hopefully, we’re not left waiting until July...or longer.

C’mon Ron. The sooner, the better.

UPDATE: And then there’s this — Daron Payne

About the running backs

I think for the most part, it’s going to be by committee. Some of the things that we did in Carolina we’re trying to emulate, you know, we had a good two back system. We had, [Former Carolina Panther RB’s DeAngelo] Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and we had Fozzy Whittaker as a change of pace, third down top of guy. Well, you look at what we have right now, you can say we have the same thing.

So I just feel that, you know, it’s one of those things that you’re going to go with, who’s hot, who’s rolling, you know, who’s doing the good things. And then you’re going to have to spell that guy. I mean in this league today, you know, you just can’t have one primary back. You’ve got to have a plethora of them. And we just feel it’s a very good room right now.

I think this is great!

This is not a coach who sounds like he is “out” on last year’s guy, but a coach who never wants his running game to miss a beat.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Football Team Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

I think the coaches will want to keep all 4 backs if they can, though the roster realities may mean that Jaret Patterson doesn’t make the cut to start the season. We’ll know more when we get to the end of August, but I think the idea of (at least) Gibson, McKissic and Robinson sharing the load and backing each other up is the right direction to be moving.

I hope that Patterson sticks with the team, either on the 53-man roster or PS, but I also liked what I saw from Jonathan Williams last year, so I’m not panicked about which guy is the #4 back in the group.

Offensive Line

There’s one message that Ron Rivera has not wavered on in his 3 seasons with Washington: offensive line depth is critical. More specifically, Ron has been clear that he wants 10 hog mollies on his 53-man roster at all times.

I like the depth that we have. One thing we wanted to do consciously was we wanted to have at least 10 guys that were veteran savvy guys that have played on the field for us. We like that minimum of 10 men depth. We’ll try and keep as many of those guys as we can.

Photo by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders

So, who would seem to be the ten guys?

  1. Charles Leno = starting LT
  2. Andrew Norwell = starting LG
  3. Chase Roullier = starting C
  4. Trai Turner = RG (starter or backup)
  5. Wes Schweitzer RG (starter or backup + b/u C)
  6. Sam Cosmi = RT
  7. Cornelius Lucas = Swing Tackle
  8. (probably) Saahdiq Charles (backup G + #4 OT)

I think the final two spots on the regular roster will most likely come down to 3 guys: Tyler Larsen, Keith Ismael (two centers who can play guard if needed), and rookie Chris Paul, who will likely be an NFL guard who can also provide depth at OT (similar to Saahdiq Charles).

I imagine the team will try to keep 2 or 3 OL on the practice squad, with the odd man out between Larsen, Ismael & Paul being joined on PS by the 2 guys with the highest ceiling or greatest flexibility.