Every week during the regular season we get an opportunity to talk with the opposing head coach via conference call. This week it was Washington head coach Ron Rivera. I also scanned the Washington media websites and the Washington team website to see what else players and coaches are saying about this week's matchup with the Lions Sunday at Ford Field.
Here's what they had to say:
1. Alex Smith will start at quarterback Sunday vs. Detroit just three days before the two-year anniversary of his life-threatening leg injury.
"For me, (I'm) kind of going full steam ahead," Smith told washingtonfootball.com. "I'm not thinking about any of that other stuff going on with this opportunity. I am so thankful for it. I am going to make the most of it."
Smith is a career 94-66-1 when he starts with 194 touchdowns and 104 interceptions.
View photos of the starters for the Washington Football Team.
2. Why does Rivera think the future is so bright in Washington? He said his team has 28 first, second and third-year players who are key contributors this year. That's a lot of young players getting great experience, and it should bode well for Washington's future.
3. One of those key young players is running back Antonio Gibson, who leads Washington with 391 rushing yards (4.3 average) and five touchdowns. He's also caught another 22 passes. Rivera said when he was evaluating Gibson coming out of Memphis he immediately reminded him of his former running back in Carolina, Christian McCaffrey. Gibson can run the ball and catch it out of the backfield as a great route runner. That's pretty high praise from Rivera, comparing him to McCaffrey.
4. Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday that Rivera has become a close friend and mentor of his over the years. Rivera feels it's important for the older established coaches to help the younger guys along.
"I was fortunate that I had some veteran coaches reach out to me and really help me along the way and that's all I'm trying to be is a sounding board for those guys," Rivera said. "Because sometimes it takes a little bit to get your footing. It's not easy. You are 1 of 32 and there's a lot of pressure inside and a lot of pressure outside and sometimes you just need a friendly ear.
"Matt's one of those young guys I've respected. I've seen the guy have a lot of success in his career. He's worked his butt off to get to where he is today and you want to see all those guys succeed."
5. Washington has one of the better young defensive fronts in football. Detroit will have to be very good upfront along the offensive line to keep those guys off quarterback Matthew Stafford. In studying ways to help get his guys get to Stafford, Rivera said Lions center Frank Ragnow stood out to him. Rivera said Ragnow is the type of player every coach wishes he had on his team.
6. Rivera and Washington selected Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the second overall pick. Watching and studying Young in the pre-draft process, Rivera also saw a lot of Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who the Lions took with the next pick, third overall.
"He's a dynamic football player," Rivera said of Okudah. "The young man has a chance, he really does, to be one of the really good ones in this league. He's got the size, stature ... (he's) smart, understands the game, got a skill set and he's just going to get better."