The running evaluation known as training camp has coach Ron Rivera looking for answers. Most coaches will say every position is a competition. Rivera means it. After all, a 3-13 season shows Washington needs some new blood.
Well, something old was something new when quarterback Alex Smith returned to the field on Tuesday after suffering a broken leg in Nov. 2018. Linebacker Reuben Foster was back after hurting his leg on the same field in May 2019 to miss the season. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan also returned after missing six games last year.
And then there's first-rounder Chase Young finally banging helmets. A defensive line ready to practice what it has been discussing on Zoom for months, though nobody touches the passers who isn't willing to leave on the next bus out of Ashburn.
Overall, Washington players are trying to impress Rivera, who isn't easily impressed. He wanted more speed from the unit during practice, something his predecessor lacked emphasizing. With the season coming fast on Sept. 13 versus Philadelphia, Washington has to sort out its lineup without any preseason games, so Rivera and staff will decide lineups off practices. That promises to be intense over the next few days, he said.
But like nearly all coaches, Rivera was watching his quarterbacks. Not just to monitor how Smith was doing with other players on the field after an offseason of just working with coaches, but how Dwayne Haskins was picking up the new system. It's the little things that fans don't see that Rivera is noticing about the second-year passer.
"Is their body keeping up with their eyes?" said Rivera of his three young quarterbacks in camp.
Turns out body language is everything to Rivera. Tells him who's ready. He speaks of eyes in one place but shoulders in another that need to cross over the body. That split second can prove costly in a game with a sack, turnover or incompletion. Bad habits, Rivera said, created in idleness without traditional offseason camps canceled by the COVID-19 shutdown are what coaches need to clean up right now.
It will come. The days will pass quickly enough. Rivera just hopes Washington is ready after they do.