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A closer look at the Redskins’ position coaches: Offense

SB Nation logo SB Nation 5/22/2020 KyleSmithforGM
Ken Zampese looking at the camera © Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A fair amount has already been written about the Redskins’ various coordinators, with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio having been in the league for years, offensive coordinator Scott Turner following in his father’s footsteps, and special teams’ coordinator Nate Kaczor the only coordinator holdover from the prior regime.

This article will focus on introductions to the offensive position coaches, most of whom are new to the Redskins this season.

The defensive edition of this article can be found here.

Quarterbacks Coach: Ken Zampese

Experience: 21 years

Zampese has been around the NFL in a variety of capacities since 1998, serving as an offensive assistant, quarterbacks’ coach, and offensive coordinator. At one point, there was strong speculation that he wasn’t far from being tapped for a head coaching role.

In multiple cases, Zampese was described as an offensive “mastermind,” first in his time with the Bengals - where he was instrumental in shaping the teams’ offense for over a decade - and then in his stint with the Browns, where the team’s former OL coach, Bob Wylie chalked up Baker Mayfield’s rookie success to Zampese:

“Baker (Mayfield) likes Freddie [Kitchens]. There’s a good relationship there even though (former Browns QB coach) Kenny Zampese did all the coaching there.

Zampese should pair incredibly well with Scott Turner, as both are thoroughly grounded in the fundamentals of the Air Coryell offense, but both are also interested in innovating on its basic tenets in an ever-changing league:

“His expertise, his vision of the offense — any time you get an opportunity to put your hands on something you’ve been a part of, you get a chance to push it in new directions,” said Marv Lewis.

Of course, one of Zampese’s top responsibilities will be helping to groom Dwayne Haskins to lead the Redskins and develop his skills as an NFL starter, a role he served for Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, and Mayfield, among others.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field © Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Running Backs Coach: Randy Jordan

Experience: 17 years

Jordan has been the Redskins’ running backs coach since 2014, and was one of only a few coaches from the previous regime held over by Ron Rivera. Jordan hasn’t always had a lot of talent to work with: Alfred Morris, Rob Kelley, Matt Jones, Samaje Perine, and late stage Adrian Peterson have been his lead backs in DC. Despite that, in his time with the Redskins, he’s had two 1,000 yard backs (Morris and Peterson).

Given his perspective last year, he should be over the moon regarding the guys he has in the RB room in 2020.

“I’m going to tell you, I look over there and see 29, 26 and 25 — I said like, ‘Thank God.’

This year, Jordan has inarguably his most talented group of running backs since he joined the team: Peterson, Guice, Love, Gibson, McKissic, and Barber. If that group can stay healthy, it’s capable of a tremendous amount of damage both on the ground and through the air. Jordan finally has a full palette to work with.

Wide Receivers Coach: Jim Hostler

Experience: 20 years

Hostler has been a QB coach (2003, Jets; 2005-2006, 49ers), a tight ends’ coach (Colts, 2016-2017), an NFL offensive coordinator (2007, 49ers), and a wide receivers’ coach for numerous NFL teams. Most recently, he was passing game coordinator for the Packers in 2018 and wide receivers’ coach for the Panthers in 2019.

Last year, despite the Panthers’ 5-11 record, both Curtis Samuel and DJ Moore had career receiving years, a fact the WRs attributed to Hostler:

“Hoss, he did everything he could,” Moore told Panthers.com. “From the little details to even the minor, minor, minor details to make sure we were ready week in and week out. From the time he came in at OTAs to now, there’s been growth that both of us took. To have him in the room was something big this year.”

Hostler’s success with the duo was largely attributed to the fact that he focused on the fundamentals with the young WRs:

“It was outside of the game plan,” Moore said. “We never knew who was going to get the ball, but for him it was like everybody just know how to run your routes, be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, and just setting up the defender to get open.

And, that he was able to connect with the receivers on a personal level:

“I feel like we connected so well in the OTAs and through camp and everything that whenever he told us something we trusted him, and we believed everything he told us,” said Samuel.

Greg Olsen wearing a hat © David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Tight Ends Coach: Pete Hoener

Experience: 21 years

Hoener did previous stints as the tight ends coach with the Cardinals (1985-1986; 2001-2002), the 49ers (2005-2010), and the Panthers (2011-2019) before making his way to Washington with Rivera. During that time, he coached several Pro Bowl tight ends, including Delanie Walker, Vernon Davis, and Greg Olsen. Both Davis and Olsen have been effusive with praise for Hoener in the past:

“He is probably the best coach I’ve ever had, and knowing so much stuff is part of that,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “He knows anything you could want to want to know as a tight end.”

Olsen’s take:

Pete has been my coach every day since I’ve been here. He’s been unbelievable for my development. He believed in me and gave me a chance when I was kind of on the fence about whether I was going to be that next breakout guy or if I was going to be just another first-round bust, so to speak.”

Recall that before being traded to the Panthers for a third round pick in 2011, Olsen was a first round pick for the Bears who had spent 4 years putting up fairly mediocre numbers. Olsen blossomed under Hoener, with three Pro Bowl selections and two second-team All Pro recognitions.

But the Redskins don’t have an apparent Davis or Olsen on the roster, stirring considerable concern among fans. If they trust in Hoener, they should relax a bit. Hoener felt strongly enough about Logan Thomas’ athletic ability that he apparently worked in concert with Rivera to bring the converted QB to Washington to be a key part of the offense.

Offensive Line Coach: John Matsko

Experience: 28 years

Matsko has been an NFL offensive line coach since 1992, serving with a variety of teams, including the Super Bowl winning Rams during their “greatest show on turf” period.

“In the six seasons that Matsko was with the Rams, the team advanced to the playoffs four times and had two Super Bowl appearances. He was also with the Panthers when they appeared in Super Bowl 50 after a 15-1 regular season finish in 2015.”

Matsko helped nurture some pretty impressive offensive linemen in Carolina. Center Ryan Kalil (second rounder) was a multi-year All Pro. Andrew Norwell was taken as an UDFA in 2014 and groomed into an All Pro by 2017. Trai Turner, selected in third round in 2014, is now a 5 time Pro Bowler. And 2015 fourth rounder, Daryl Williams was named second team All Pro in 2017. And, Matsko’s connection to his guys seems to persist even after they’ve left his team:

“I’ll give it to you short and sweet. I still talk to him. I talked to him yesterday,” Turner said after a Jan. 23 practice before the 2020 Pro Bowl. “He’s a guy that I lean on heavily. He’s just a great coach and a great mentor to my career.”

Matsko took a bit of heat from some fans in Carolina for poor offensive line performance towards the end of his tenure there, but much of those difficulties appeared to be tied to injuries on the line, failing to replenish the talent pipeline through the draft, and QBs hanging onto the ball longer than they should have been. At the end of the day, Matsko is one of the more highly regarded offensive line coaches in the league and a great mentor for the young talent the Redskins have drafted in the last couple of years.

Final Thoughts

Several of the offensive position coaches came over with Ron Rivera from Carolina. Randy Jordan was the only holdover from the Redskins’ previous regime. Perhaps the most critical of the group, Zampese, has very little direct connection to Rivera (though he worked with Matsko in their time together with the Rams).

I absolutely love how highly regarded several of these coaches are by their former players. That sort of connection, even after the player has left them team, or the coach is on their way out the door, speaks volumes about the level of respect those coaches have engendered.

Jordan, nominally, has the most talented group of RBs to work with that he’s ever had. And, if they can remain healthy, I expect they’ll have the most scrimmage yards of any backfield he’s ever managed.

Zampese, Turner, and Haskins seem like a match made in heaven. If Zampese and Turner can continue working together to tailor their offense to their young signal caller, I could see the circumstances being right for this group to spur the next evolutionary shift in NFL offenses. There could well end up being a acclimation year in 2020, but long term, I envision the offensive future being quite bright in DC.

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