Ron Rivera plans to get away. With the team’s OTAs done, the Washington coach will go on vacation after he gets another scan to make sure he’s still clear of cancer.
“So far, so good,” Rivera said Saturday at Joe Gibbs’ “Youth for Tomorrow” charity event.
Washington has six weeks until training camp, so Rivera has a chance to rest up. But when he returns, there are unanswered questions. Here are the biggest question marks surrounding Washington’s roster following mandatory minicamp:
Who will emerge at free safety?
Washington’s trouble in finding a solution at free safety extends far past Rivera’s tenure with the franchise. Just last year, Washington cycled through options trying to find an answer. Troy Apke, the Day 1 starter, was a mess and eventually benched. Deshazor Everett played well, but got hurt. Jeremy Reaves showed promise, though is still developing.
Will it be better this year? At the very least, the competition may be the most competitive on the roster. During minicamp, Everett got the majority of first-team reps, but don’t discount Bobby McCain — the 27-year-old who Washington signed last month after the Miami Dolphins released him.
McCain, who’s on a one-year contract worth $1.4 million, popped throughout the three days. He grabbed a total of three interceptions, two off of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Despite McCain’s playmaking, the race should be very much up in the air. Everett and Reaves have done well when given the opportunity, and there’s also a possibility that Kam Curl could shift over once Landon Collins is incorporated back into the fold.
“We have some really good candidates for that position,” defensive backs coach Chris Harris said. “So I’m excited to see how the thing plays out.”
Speaking of safety, what will Landon Collins’ role be?
Eight months removed from a torn Achilles tendon, Landon Collins was still limited to individual drills during minicamp. He’d stand by Harris in team drills, taking mental reps as the play developed.
But when Collins returns, the coaching staff will have to determine where Washington’s highest-paid defensive player will fit in. In a recent interview with the team’s website, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said Collins will remain a strong safety but the team plays the majority of its snaps in sub packages, typically with an extra defensive back or linebacker on the field. Washington uses a “Buffalo nickel” package, in which a linebacker or a larger defensive back drops down in the box.
Last season, that role was filled primarily by Curl. This year, Rivera said the team is looking at second-year linebacker Khaleke Hudson for the job but also reminded that Collins served a similar role when healthy last year, too.
“if you got a chance to put the best two safeties out there and a post safety, you’ll feel pretty good about the things that you’ve been doing mixing it around,” Rivera said.
Washington could still turn to Curl for the job, as it determines the best fit for all of its safeties in training camp.
What’s the receiving pecking order?
Washington will have tough choices to make later this summer when deciding what receivers to keep when trimming to 53 players. Will they retain five or six? Last week, Washington cycled through a flurry of receivers — and it was clear just how much talent that the team has at the position this year. Even those like Antonio Gandy-Golden and Kelvin Harmon — two noncontributors in 2020 — had moments.
The top three options are clear: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and third-rounder Dyami Brown. Then, Washington has two or three to keep from the following: Adam Humphries, Cam Sims, Dax Milne, Steven Sims, Isaiah Wright, DeAndre Carter, Tony Brown, Gandy-Golden and Harmon.
“We have a legit number of guys that can make a football team in the NFL and there’s going to be some tough decisions for us at the end of the day,” receivers coach Drew Terrell said.
Will Jonathan Allen’s extension get done?
Defensive Jonathan Allen is in the final year of his contract, and Washington would like to give him a long-term extension. The two sides are in negotiations, and Allen said last week he hoped that an agreement would be reached before training camp.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that it will get done. Just ask Brandon Scherff, entering his second year on the franchise tag. Allen is set to make $10 million in 2021.
“I’ve always had the dream and goal of playing for one team my entire career, and I really want to do that,” Allen said. “I understand this is a business, and I’m not going to make a decision one way or another. Both sides are talking.”
How many spots on the offensive line are up for grabs?
The answer is likely two: Left guard and right tackle. Both spots seem to have a bit to go until a starter is determined. At minicamp, Wes Schweitzer got the nod over Ereck Flowers at left guard, while Cornelius Lucas got the reps over Sam Cosmi at right tackle. There are reasons, however, to believe that could flip by the end of training camp: Washington traded for Flowers in April and drafted Cosmi in the second round.
Washington is looking to improve upon a unit that gave up the second-most sacks in 2020 with 50.