It is drilled into football players early in life that defense wins championships. But winning a game still requires points.
The Washington Football Team mapped out one path to that success last weekend, as each of the team’s five scores came on a drive that started in opposing territory.
Whether that’s sustainable long term remains to be seen. Sunday’s game against Arizona will offer a much tougher test against a Cardinals offense that likely will be one of the league’s best statistically this season.
Washington coach Ron Rivera doesn’t want his offense pressing, though. He understands the group’s limitations and is emphasizing process over result.
“There’s a lot of new bodies — a lot of new faces at wide receiver, new faces at tight end, at running back. We’ve got a young quarterback,” Rivera said. “So we may have to win that way for a while.”
He said quarterback Dwayne Haskins could start lighting it up, but wants to make sure any developments happen within his system, not as a shortcut to success.
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“I just think, again, it’s with hard work and these guys understanding what we’re asking of them and trusting the process,” Rivera said Monday. “We have a chance to develop. Who knows? Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but it is a process, as I remind the players, that we’re going through.”
Asked to elaborate on Thursday, Rivera again mentioned next year as a reasonable expectation for when the offense can get rolling.
“It’s going to take a while before we get to where we want to be,” the coach said. “We’ve got a ways to go. You probably really won’t see it or get a feel for it until really next season.”
On the other sideline, Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury has had his adjustment season, and the early returns were positive to start his second year as the Cardinals knocked off defending division champ San Francisco.
Kingsbury and Rivera spoke this week about how in the new NFL, with significantly reduced practice times, it’s important to have a dynamic quarterback.
That doesn’t mean a true mobile quarterback, but one able to make a play outside the pocket, something Kyler Murray has shown.
“I just think the game’s evolving that way because of the defensive lines and because of the lack of time you have with the quarterbacks,” Kingsbury said. “There used to be quarterback schools and we used to have so much of an extended offseason to develop the guys. It’s just not there anymore.
“So I think, just the ability to extend plays with your feet, the ability to get out and make plays, because the D-lines in this league are just ridiculous. You can’t expect to block them and hold up consistently. So, if you’re not a [Drew] Brees or [Tom] Brady getting the ball out on time, at the right place 100 percent of the time, then you better have some athleticism to extend plays.”
“The game has changed,” he said. “It’s changed tremendously. I’m not sure if you’ll ever truly see the drop-back passer coming out like they used to.”
Now Rivera has to determine whether Haskins can be that player for Washington. Week 1 offered a glimpse of both players — rushed throws that missed their targets, and big plays that kept Washington alive.
Those hoping for instant returns will leave disappointed. Rivera remains committed to a methodical development of his offense.