New coordinator, additions give Redskins' defense a boost
New Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky tells his players he doesn't have a crystal ball to always know the right play to call, yet before stepping on the field they have an idea what to expect.
''A lot of pressure,'' linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. ''You look at the install sheets for when we're installing our defense, you see a lot of lines going forward.''
Beyond just blitzing more, Washington's defense should be more aggressive under Manusky with the additions of rookie lineman Jonathan Allen, linebacker Ryan Anderson and veteran defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Throw in the signings of linebacker Zach Brown, safety D.J. Swearinger and defensive linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, and there's an excitement about the Redskins defense being much better. The unit was ranked 28th in the NFL the past two seasons.
''We've made a lot of great changes, upgrades - everything,'' middle linebacker Will Compton said. ''There's a different energy because you're excited to kind of play for (Manusky), learn the new scheme, the new verbage and all that. And there's always an energy, especially when you bring in a lot of young guys.''
Allen was a first-round pick and Anderson a second-rounder out of Alabama as the Redskins focused on defense with four of their first five picks, taking UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreau and Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson later in the draft. It's that kind of infusion of talent that should pay major dividends after little was done last offseason to upgrade outside of the signing of cornerback Josh Norman.
As important as Norman was in helping the Redskins get to 8-7-1, they struggled on third down and in the red zone, missed the playoffs, fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry and promoted Manusky from outside linebackers coach to seek immediate improvement. As coach Jay Gruden said when asked about being patient as the defense came together, ''I don't think patience is in the dictionary here.''
The pressure is on to be better now.
''We obviously had our struggles defensively last year, no doubt about it, especially on third down,'' Kerrigan said, referring to the league's worst 46.63 percent conversion rate. ''It's good that we were able to add some guys like Allen and Anderson who can get after the passer and hopefully we can, as a result of that, get off the field a little better on third downs.''
Barry was criticized by players last season when he rushed three on a crucial fourth-down drive in Detroit, a game the Redskins lost. While the Redskins were less than aggressive at times last season, there's reason to believe the high-energy Manusky won't sit back this year.
''Nobody that has certain blitzes that, `Oh he's going to blitz more because he's got these blitzes.' It's not that,'' Compton said. ''It's just calling it a little bit more.''
With the Redskins starting organized team activities Tuesday, it was the first chance for the veteran defenders to get a taste of Tomsula and Manusky, who worked together in San Francisco. Manusky said Tomsula brings ''toughness,'' Gruden said Tomsula's knowledge knocked his socks off and Allen found out about the 49-year-old position coach's expertise at rookie minicamp.
''He's everything you can think of,'' Allen said. ''I can't even imagine what we can get into this year.''
Players are a big part of that potential, but Manusky is back as a coordinator after stints with the 49ers, Chargers and Colts because the organization believes he can turn the defense around. Not a shy guy on the practice field, Manusky brings a quirky personality that should translate well.
''I like having fun,'' he said. ''I like guys around having fun, being in the meeting having fun. Because it's that humor sometimes that keeps them wanting more.''
It's now Manusky's job to get more out of the defense.
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