“Kind of random,” Allen said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “I didn’t really expect to get traded. … Interesting experience. But just talking to coaches, talking to Ron, I think the expectation is to come in and compete for the [starting] job. I think that it’s an awesome opportunity.”
The Redskins’ quarterback strategy seems to be this: Bet long-term on Dwayne Haskins, last year’s No. 15 draft pick, and stash Allen as an insurance policy. It’s a pertinent plan especially now, given that the novel coronavirus pandemic is threatening to curtail NFL teams’ offseason activities. If Haskins is affected by the limited amount of time to learn a new offense, Allen’s familiarity with the system and new offensive coordinator Scott Turner can provide a smooth stopgap.
The Redskins have confidence in Allen because he filled a similar void last season. When star quarterback Cam Newton got hurt, Allen started 12 games, completing 62 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. The Redskins flustered the second-year signal caller during their 29-21 victory in Week 13, which turned out to be Rivera’s last game with the Panthers.
When describing the culture Rivera will bring to the Redskins, Allen thought back to the moment Rivera told the team he had been fired.
“There was not a dry eye in the room,” Allen said. “Everyone had a ton of respect for him. He built that culture. . . . [In Washington], there’s going to be a mutual respect between all the players and the coaches.”
Thomas Davis, a linebacker who signed with the Redskins this offseason, echoed those sentiments during his introductory conference call. He will, in a way, play a similar role to Allen as a fellow former Panthers player tasked with helping his new teammates learn Rivera’s system. He understands his role will be to provide veteran leadership, and he believes that will be half the battle.
“There are great players on this team,” he said, adding they just needed to be better coached to reach their potential.
For Allen, competition is nothing new. He has been in uncertain quarterback situations since college. At Texas A&M, he bounced in and out of the starting role in his first two seasons, including an awkward battle with current Arizona Cardinals starter Kyler Murray, last year’s No. 1 draft pick. Allen doesn’t know Haskins beyond the handshake they shared after last year’s Redskins win, but he brushed off the idea it might be awkward to get to know each other while competing. They have texted since he joined the Redskins, Allen said, and understand this is a business.
The new quarterback framed his experience as a positive. Turner’s system is based on concepts his father, Norv, used in his lengthy NFL career, which included a seven-year stint as the Redskins’ head coach, so the calls are long and complicated. There are “tons” of formations and concepts and plays. Allen inhaled the scheme when he got to the Panthers — saying plays in front of the mirror, going over them every night, repeating them anytime, anywhere — and he didn’t feel confident in his ability to run the offense for four to six weeks.
“The continuity with the system is huge for me, and I think it’s going to be big for the team, too,” he said. “If we don’t have a lot of [organized team activities] or don’t have OTAs at all, it gives at least someone on the team a chance with experience in the system to be able to teach it to the other guys and the offense.”
Allen doesn’t know most of his teammates. He doesn’t have a team-issued iPad yet, so he hasn’t been able to watch video, and he didn’t know his new wide receivers except for “breakout star” Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims Jr. He has been honing his own game in Orange County, Calif., since Feb. 1, with a crew including New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
This is Allen’s usual offseason program. The coronavirus hasn’t really affected his training, beyond finding a local home gym when his regular one closed down. It has left him in a routine of waking up at around 9 a.m., training until 1 p.m. and, if there’s no film study, filling the time. He, Darnold and Allen have played cards, watched movies and poured time into the new Call of Duty video game.
“It’s pretty boring right now; I’m going to be honest with you,” Allen said Tuesday afternoon after finishing a workout. He sighed, seemingly thinking about how time is all running together. “We’ve got the rest of the day with absolutely nothing to do.”