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Washington Football Daily 9/9: Ron Rivera Is Focused On Starting Strong In The NFC East

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Ron Rivera surveys practice. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The 2020 season is here, and we'll have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.

Stay up to date with "Washington Football Daily" which comes out every weekday evening.

Here's what you need to know:

THE LATEST

Washington has not won a divisional game since Oct. 28, 2018, and that's something head coach Ron Rivera wants to change.

Rivera knows how important playing well in one's division is in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers sat atop the NFC South for three consecutive years from 2013-15 and advanced to at least the divisional round of the playoffs in each season when Rivera was leading the team. In 10 seasons under Rivera, the Panthers finished in at least second place five times and made the playoffs in four of those seasons.

With the Philadelphia Eagles -- the reigning NFC East champions -- coming to FedExField on Sept. 13, Rivera see an opportunity to build momentum for the rest of the year.

"Remember, they're the standard now," Rivera said. "The thing that we have to do is understand that this...is the measuring stick. You want to win your division; you've got it beat teams like this."

The Eagles have been one of the NFC East's top teams for the past three seasons. They have won the division twice in that span and won Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots. Rivera said in May that playing the Eagles in Week 1 will be "a good measuring stick" for where Washington is as a team, and he reiterated that point again Wednesday. If Washington can win its division, he said, then it can start building on that success.

"You look at as, 'I've got to win my division first. Then who is the gold standard for the conference?' he said. "That's the gold standard that you have to beat. If you can do that, now who's the gold standard for the league?"

Rivera has plans on winning a Super Bowl while coaching in Washington, which means the team would need to get past the top teams like the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs -- last year's Super Bowl winners. But he wants to take care of the division first, and that starts Sunday against the Eagles.

"There's so many measuring sticks. I think it's one step at a time, so you've got to be realistic. To me, it starts with the division. If you can win all the games in your division, you give yourself a chance and then you go from there."

QUICK HITS

Washington will have a committee of starters at running back: When Washington released its unofficial depth chart Tuesday, the team placed J.D. McKissic as the starting running back. McKissic, who Washington signed via free agency in March, impressed coaches during training camp with his ability as a runner and pass-catcher. Rivera doesn't want people to put too much stock into McKissic's placement on the depth chart, though, saying the running back spot is going to be by committee.

"If all of a sudden [offensive coordinator] Scott Turner decides to go with 12-personnel or 21-personnel, you're going to have a different running back. You could have someone else in there instead. It could be any of those guys that's on the 53. He calls whatever group he wants. That's really going to be who the first running back will be. So, it could be any of those groups, just so you guys know."

Logan Thomas is developing as a blocker: Washington was high on Logan Thomas when he was signed in free agency, and so far those expectations have paid off with Thomas listed as the starter on the unofficial depth chart. Thomas has turned into a reliable target for Dwayne Haskins Jr., but Rivera said he wants a complete tight end who can perform as a receiver and run blocker. Turner said Thomas is still learning certain aspects of the position, but he has seen progress from the former quarterback.

"It's not like anything that's a lack for effort, just technique. He's working to get better at it with...the best tight ends coach in the league in Pete Hoener. He does a great job with those guys every day working on that. All three of them -- but especially Logan -- have really improved in that aspect."

Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins Jr. grew closer in the offseason: Haskins and Terry McLaurin's connection in training camp was obvious every day. The two have always been close, dating back to their days at Ohio State, but that bond grew stronger when they spent part of their offseason together in Ashburn, Virginia. McLaurin feels like he and Haskins matured over the summer, and they're making the extra effort to help each other improve.

"If we see something [watching film], or if we see something even in practice...we'll talk it through. As long as you're having that constant communication with your quarterback, I feel like there's no sense of confusion and there's clarity on both ends so it's easier to execute."

INJURY REPORT

Check out the injury report for Washington's game against Philadelphia, HERE.

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