Jack Del Rio knows defense. Whether you’re talking about his time as an All-American at USC, his Pro Bowl career as an NFL linebacker or his illustrious coaching resume, Del Rio has a legacy as one of the great defensive minds in recent football history. As the new defensive coordinator of the Redskins, he and head coach Ron Rivera look take potential and turn it into production.
“To say we have talent, sure we do. I think everyone does,” Del Rio told reporters on Wednesday. “I think you collect talent and you go through the process of trying to acquire as many good players as you can, but ultimately, it comes down to us as a unit doing all we can to help get the ball back to the offense.”
Cohesion is something the Redskins defense has desperately lacked in the last few years. Despite investing multiple first-round draft picks on guys like Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Ryan Kerrigan and signing others like Josh Norman and Landon Collins to huge free-agent deals, Washington’s defense has continuously ranked in the bottom ten of the NFL in most key statistics.
“32nd in third-down defense, 32nd in yards allowed, I mean just 32nd in things, towards the bottom of the league in several categories. So, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Del Rio continued. “To me, it’s more about what we can get done and the work that we’re willing to put in and the idea that ‘look, we’re going to become a respected unit, okay?’”
In addition to the players not performing to expectations, much of the blame for the defense’s shortcoming have been put on former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Despite possessing premium secondary, linebacking and defensive line talent, Manusky’s units finished in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed per game during his tenure as the Redskins’ DC.
Pre-snap confusion was one of the biggest issues for the defense under Manusky. A lineup full of blue-chip players isn’t effective if guys are unsure of what their assignments are. Del Rio recognizes that issue and knows it’s something that has to be fixed if he hopes to turn the unit around.
“When you’re watching the tape, there are countless examples of right before the snap, where players are not in a good position – knees bent, focus on the offense. They’re kind of turned to each other, looking around like what are we doing or questioning. You can see them asking each other what’s going on.”
Although talent is not the only thing that matters, having more of it is never a bad thing. The Redskins will likely have the chance to add a supremely talented player with their second-overall pick in Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. But fans shouldn’t hold their breath if they’re hoping to get any insight on Washington’s draft plans, according to Del Rio.
“The evaluation of the draft prospects will be ongoing. I think it is way too premature to start talking about it. Honestly, I am not going to be providing my evaluation for the world anyway.”
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