Greg Manusky is hardly the first new NFL defensive coordinator to promise a more aggressive, attacking approach to play-calling. But Manusky, named in January to succeed Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, had a novel way of illustrating his basic concept to reporters this week before teeing off for the Ryan Kerrigan Leukemia Golf Classic at Lansdowne Resort.
Asked how his defense would be more aggressive, Manusky, a former linebacker with 12 years’ NFL experience, started by reviewing the role of defensive backs, who, he explained, “play from distance and vision.” Then he recapped the linebackers’ stance, five yards off the line.
Suddenly, Manusky thrust his massive, round head about a centimeter from a reporter’s nose and growled: “Our linemen, it’s like they’re right here! Makes you feel uncomfortable!”
And he broke into a devilish grin “We might not win a game,” he said with a chuckle, “but we’ll sure beat the crap out of a lot of people!”
If making opposing offenses uncomfortable is the new rallying cry, Kerrigan can’t wait to get started, mindful of the gutting completions that sustained far too many drives on third-and-long last season.
“We obviously had our struggles last year defensively, no doubt about it — especially on third down,” said Kerrigan, a two-time Pro Bowl honoree, of the Redskins’ 28th ranked defense.
Kerrigan said he loved seeing the Redskins invest their top three picks on defense in the recent NFL draft and couldn’t believe that Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, regarded by many analysts as a top-five pick, fell to Washington at 17th. And he loved the second-round selection of Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson — “dude can really get after the passer!”
Though the full squad won’t start on-field work until May 23, Kerrigan said he has been struck by the amount of pressure Manusky intends to install in the defense, based on what he has seen on paper.
“You look at the install sheets for when we’re installing our defense, and you see a lot of lines going forward,” said Kerrigan, who’ll be among the front five said. “That’s a cool [thing] for a guy that plays up front because it’s going to allow us to hopefully play in the backfield a little bit.”
Kerrigan led the Redskins’ outside linebackers with 11 sacks last season. Trent Murphy added nine, and Preston Smith contributed 4.5. With the addition of Anderson and the expected return of Junior Galette, Kerrigan thinks the outside linebacker position should be a strength of team this season.
Inside linebacker Will Compton said he’s bullish about the entire defense and senses a new energy with the influx of the new rookies and free agents vying for starting jobs.
“You’re excited to play for [Manusky] and learn the new scheme,” Compton said. “But there’s always an energy when you bring in a lot of young guys, especially on the defensive side where there will be a lot of competition and battles. You can tell guys are really into it. Really serious.”
In Manusky’s view, the combination of eager rookies and seasoned veterans gives the Redskins defense the raw material for success this season. “The players that are in that room that we have, we have to win with ‘em,” Manusky said. “And we will win with ‘em.”