Leon Washington is a coaching intern for the Jaguars, and spends a lot of time with the running backs. He was born and raised in Jacksonville, is a graduate of Florida State University, and played 9 years in the NFL as a running back for the Jets, Seahawks, Patriots, and Titans. Washington holds the NFL record for career kickoff return touchdowns along with Josh Cribbs, is a 2-time pro bowler, and was named a first team all-pro in 2008.
Kerry Belkin: Leon, with a seasoned vet in Ivory and a second year guy in Yeldon, both of whom were in the top 5 in rushing last year, how do you maintain the balance between them?
Leon Washington: Well, first of all just having the players to come out here and give their best in training camp and not worry about how its going to go down during the season. Both of those guys have been playing football for a while, for a long time, especially Chris (Ivory) who’s been in the league for 7 years, and T.J Yeldon, in his rookie year had a nice start to the season. Having both of those guys is going to be critical for our offense to go out there and perform on Sundays. Along with Joe Banyard, Jonas Gray, and also Denard Robinson and Corey Grant. Getting all those guys ready, all those backs can do different things and they do them well. It’s going to be fun to watch them progress this year and get better.
KB: Both Ivory and Yeldon are locked in at the one and two spot, but what about the guys behind them? What have you seen so far?
LW: Well, everyone’s competing, that’s what you love, everybody’s competing but they’re all trying to protect the team and do better for each other. Denard’s been consistent, Corey’s been consistent, Jonas has been doing well as well, and then Joe Banyard, he offers a lot to the team. It’s good to have that competition at that position in the running back group. Guys are getting better so it’s going to be fun to see how it plays out.
KB: Expectations are high for this team, especially on offense. What are your expectations for this offense as we draw closer to the start of the season?
LW: Well, just respect the process. That’s what Coach Greg Olson has been talking about. We all know it’s a process to get better each and every week. It’s going to be a process for us to go out there and get better. My expectation is for us to get better each and every week. I don’t want to put any numbers out there or anything like that, but get better each and every week, if we do that, we’ll be fine.
KB: A lot of these expectations are predicated on the performance of the offensive line. With that said, there have been concerns regarding the line, what are your concerns?
LW: I don’t have any concerns at all, we’re just out here trying to get better. Coach Doug Marrone does a great job with that group, trying to get them ready to play on Sundays. It’s going to be one of those things that we’ve got to get everyone fit together, working together, develop our continuity, develop our communication along the line and we should be fine. The good thing about it is we’ve got guys out here competing in training camp and trying to get better at that position. It all works out together.
KB: As a running back, when there are struggles with the front five, how do you try and help the offensive line get better? What as a running back do you have to do?
LW: Well first of all as a running back, we have to stay consistent in our approach. No matter what the offensive line is doing, whether they’re struggling or not struggling, each and every week you come out with the same approach, starting off with your landmarks, starting off with your pass protection. Everybody works together because unlike defense, if one guy on defense messed up, somebody on defense could still make a play and make everyone look good. But if a guy messes up on offense, whether it’s the wide receiver, tight end, the running back, then the whole play is messed up. So, just doing our job and understanding that it all fits together and fits well.
KB: Given your long history in the NFL, what’s your advice been to the other running backs here?
LW: Take care of the small details, those are the things that count, those are the things that are going to get you the opportunity to make the big plays. When you’re coming in, you’re thinkings about your stance, your starts, your takeoff, the way you burst through the line, the way you pick up pass protection…The small details allow you to make the big plays and stay in this league a long time. All these guys are gifted, they can run the ball, they can catch it, but who’s going to pay attention to the details, that’s the big key.
KB: You’re a young guy, you could probably still play in this league. How do you get the players to look at you as a coach now as opposed to a peer, which they might still see you as?
LW: Just being consistent in my approach. The they see me in the building, me taking the game seriously, me taking my approach seriously. And also using what I’ve got, having the opportunity to be able to still move around, and run routes, and be able to run the ball and catch it, and kind of demonstrate the things that we want to see done. Not only can I tell those guys what to do, but I can also demonstrate what to do. That gives me an advantage in that aspect, and knowing as a player that I did things the right way, guys respect that.
KB: Last question, what advice have you gotten from a coach that you’re trying to pass on to these young players?
LW: Well it starts off with Coach Bradley, just having a genuine appreciation to impact people. You’ve got to be genuine about it, you can’t have any ulterior motive, you can’t have anything looking forward. Just be genuine with what you do, and be able to impact people in a positive way.
Leon is the founder of The Leon Washington Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to assisting low-income Jacksonville families with education, sports, and life skills. The goal of The Leon Washington Foundation is to establish programs in the Jacksonville area that will "enlighten, inspire, and educate underprivileged youths to live stronger, healthier, and more productive lives". To find out more about The Leon Washington Foundation, or to donate, click here.