From noon to 2 p.m., Jonathan Allen sits in meetings that would normally be held inside the Redskins’ practice facility. These days, though, the Redskins defensive lineman is like everybody else working from home for the past few months: He logs into Zoom.
Once he’s there, Allen is responsible for learning a new playbook. The 25-year-old is relearning the ins-and-outs of Washington’s 4-3 scheme — a system he said he hasn’t played in since high school. He’s getting to know Sam Mills III, his new defensive line coach.
The changes take some getting used to.
“It’s definitely weird,” Allen said.
But even though they’re limited to working together remotely, Allen and other Redskins coaches and players say they have made progress installing coach Ron Rivera’s system. Rivera addressed Washington as a team for the first time last week to relay expectations. Position coaches and coordinators are also teaching X’s and O’s in the meetings.
For Allen, the biggest adjustment is the new terminology. For the first three years of his career, Allen had defensive coordinator Greg Manuksy and defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. But new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has his own language players need to pick up.
The concepts, Allen said, are similar. It’s how those concepts are discussed that’s different.
“I feel like the hardest thing with football is, a lot of the terms overlap from college to NFL, from different NFL teams,” Allen said. “It’s really just the overlap in terminology and just getting used to the new scheme, the new roles and just everything.”
Safety Landon Collins noted the new staff’s attention to detail. He called them “very hands on” as they explain every role within the defense and how the pieces fit together. Collins said it should help build cohesion, which will in turn, allow the Redskins to play faster on game days.
Within the meetings, Collins said he finds himself asking lots of questions.
Del Rio will be Collins’ fourth defensive coordinator in six seasons, dating back to the safety’s time with the New York Giants. Collins said he’s learning what he can — and cannot — do within this particular scheme.
On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Scott Turner figures to implement an offense aimed at attacking down the field and providing multiple looks to keep defenses off guard. Adrian Peterson once played in a similar system in Minnesota under Norv Turner, Scott’s father. But that was years ago, and Peterson is now studying a new offense in Year 14.
Peterson, though, said he’s able to tell the running back has a “really big role” in the offense.
“They’re going to ask us to do a lot of things, we’re going to have multiple backs on the field at times as well,” Peterson said. “Just going over and learning offense right now has been exciting to see.”
There have been challenges with the remote setup. Allen said it was hard to learn specific techniques through a Zoom call. Peterson admitted it’s tougher to get a “true feel” of how things are going to be in the next few months when players aren’t allowed to meet in-person. And of course, the Redskins can’t immediately go from the classroom to the practice field to apply what they’ve learned, like they would in normal circumstances.
But ultimately, Collins said he doesn’t see an insurmountable hurdle. If the team was in Ashburn, they’d still be going over the same concepts in meetings.
“Regardless of how long it takes (to learn the playbook), we have to get it down because at the end of the day, once football season starts or once we all start back up, we don’t know if we’re going straight into football or if we’ll have some time before we start,” Collins said.
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