Questions facing Ron Rivera: What are some actual, realistic expectations for Year 1?

Peter Hailey
NBC Sports Washington

The mood, tone, vibe and whatever similar word one can come up with has totally changed around the Redskins since Ron Rivera has taken over, and that's encouraging. It's way more fun being excited about a football team than being ashamed to wear its gear in public or looking back on how it was selling tickets for $4 in 2019.

So, to the folks who are all the way back in on Washington, enjoy it. Revel in it. Talk some trash with other NFC East supporters. Maybe pick up another Burgundy and Gold shirt or a cover for that driver.

But also remember: This could take a while. After all, the Redskins have the worst Super Bowl odds for next year and are coming off a season where they went 3-13 while rolling out the most pathetic offense in the sport and a defense that was only slightly less pathetic.

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So, what are some actual, truly realistic expectations for Rivera's first go-round on the sidelines? 

Well, in terms projecting the team's straight-up record, that's always a difficult task, and one that becomes more difficult when there's a new leader at the helm. But just keep in mind: If Rivera was to double the franchise's win total, they'd end 2020 at 6-10.

A 6-10 mark would be unsightly and result in yet another missed postseason - but it would also signal huge progress. All year long, it'll be necessary to maintain the perspective of just how much Rivera has to fix and just how dreadful things were before his arrival. Anything .500 or above would be a minor miracle.

That said, it's definitely not too much to ask for to see some serious improvement on the field, especially on defense.

Between Rivera and new coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Redskins defense now has two proven guys calling the shots (which is two more than they had in 2019). Between how that'll impact a group that has some highly-regarded pieces and a needed scheme change, the unit should do far better than finishing 27th in points per game allowed.

As far as the offense, that's a little more dicey. Dwayne Haskins has the inside track at starting, but his new head coach isn't fully committing to him. Trent Williams may be back, but he also may not be. Aside from Terry McLaurin and Adrian Peterson, there aren't many reliable skill players for Scott Turner to work with. 

Despite those questions, Turner and Rivera need to instill their philosophies, give their quarterback more help and make the operation better. The Redskins were the only squad to score fewer than 17 points per contest in 2019. Expecting them to boost that number somewhat is totally reasonable. 

Then there are smaller things fans can absolutely demand to see be cured in the first campaign of the Rivera era.

For a while now, the Redskins have started the first and second halves of games slowly. It'll be on Rivera to have his players more prepared at kickoff and help them adjust at halftime.

For a while now, the Redskins have allowed their opponents to dictate the flow of a particular matchup. It'll be on Rivera to ensure the opponents are forced to react to the Redskins, instead.

And for a while now, the Redskins have failed on third down, whether they're possessing the ball or trying to get it back. It'll be on Rivera to sharpen that crucial area.

Overall, expectations for Rivera's full tenure can be major, considering the reputation he has and the power he's been given. Expectations for Year 1, however? They need to be kept in check to a certain extent.

Even so, wanting the Redskins to be a more professional organization and perform more consistently on Sundays in 2020 is more than appropriate. Let's see if they can take the first few steps of what will hopefully be a long climb upward.

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Questions facing Ron Rivera: What are some actual, realistic expectations for Year 1? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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