September 13, 2020 will mark the official beginning of the Ron Rivera era for the Washington Football Team. There have been widespread perspectives on what the expectations for this year's version of the team should look like. There are a number of different viewpoints to approach this game from as a fan.
We all know the ever so optimistic "every year is our year" fan that is convinced that every little move is sending their squad to the Super Bowl.
Then you have the "just be better than last year” fan who just doesn't want to be the laughing stock of the division or NFL again.
We can't forget the "I'm just going to wait and see" fan that doesn't want to say either way because they don't want to doubt their team, but they are sick of being let down every year.
Fans in general have the right to expect the absolute most from their team whether that means expecting a Super Bowl, or simply winning your division. You are also entitled to expect the absolute worse. If you are a Washington fan, you may want to temper those expectations a little for Ron Rivera year one.
Washington finished the 2019 season 3-13, and with nowhere but up to go from a performance standpoint. I could dive back into all the football and non-football related issues the team had to deal with throughout last season, but who wants to relive that history? Being a realist though, this off season has been more of the same, but on a different level. Some of the major issues the team has had to deal with has been no fault of their own for once. I mean, I would certainly consider a global pandemic a circumstance beyond their control and it has put them at a disadvantage going into this 2020 season. After signing Ron Rivera as their new head coach, the Covid-19 pandemic hit disallowing all off season workouts and football activities, essentially eliminating any opportunity for the new head coach to analyze talent. You can't exactly figure out who can cover and who can tackle via zoom meetings and conference calls. Washington has only had training camp to implement a new defense and offense, and evaluate personnel. That's a lot to ask from a coach in his first year coaching the team.
Not only has Ron Rivera been dealing with pandemic restrictions and the non-football related issues surrounding the front office, he is also fighting his own battle as he was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. Rivera has already began treatment, but will still be coaching the team throughout that process. If that doesn't set an example for your players and coaches, I don't know what does. Rivera has always been known as a tough, no nonsense type of coach that believes in discipline and accountability. He is definitely practicing what he preaches by continuing to lead this football team when no one would question him if he said he needed to take a leave of absence in order to take care of his health first.
Some other things to consider going into Sunday's game, is Washington along with every other team in the NFL, has not played any preseason games. This means when they kickoff the season, this will be the first time Rivera will have the opportunity to see his team line up against anybody other than themselves. Fans shouldn't expect much offensively from a team running a brand new system and completely new personnel in five of the eleven starting spots; none of which are proven starters in the NFL. Washington's offensive line will most likely take a few games to click and get its communication together before you start to see them develop into being a formidable unit. Washington needs to hope the defense can be as dominant as expected to keep them in games early on in the season until the offense can get healthy, and find its stride.
The main thing the Washington can do to help themselves this season is to not beat themselves. That means they have to limit the number of penalties and unforced errors they accumulate, and not help the opponent by self-destructing. A lot of the issues the team had last year was their inability to overcome such circumstances where penalties continually kept drives going for the opposition. Those such drives most commonly resulted in points for the other team, or they stalled drives when the offensive unit was on the field. Washington is not dynamic enough currently where they can overcome such obstacles. In time, they may develop into that, but currently, they need to concentrate on having "perfect plays" because that will provide them with the best chance to be successful. Three or four weeks down the road, look for them to open up the playbook more and more as the offensive unit gets comfortable.
Rivera will have his work cut out for him Sunday, especially coming into the season with no fans and not feeling that energy in his first game coached at FedEx Field. At the end of the day, I honestly don't think Ron cares whether fans are there or not. I wouldn't have it any other way. This team will be much better coached this year. That is half the battle right there. Rivera will be focused on preparing the team the best way he knows how, and I feel comfortable saying that the product you see on Sunday may not necessarily be the most polished, but it will definitely look like they have been preparing, which is more than we have been able to say about this team in previous season openers. As you were...
Photo Credit: Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team