“One game at a time, one game at a time,” Manusky said of his approach. “That’s about it.”
The Redskins rank 25th in the NFL in total defense this season, down from 17th in 2018 after having ranked 21st in Manusky’s first season in 2017. It’s a disappointing result for a team that expected to be led by its defense. Many of the team’s defensive players have cited inconsistency as the biggest issue plaguing the unit. As an example, Washington allowed 30 points per game over the season’s first five weeks but just 15 per game over the next three.
“As far as us, what we need to do to take a step forward, it’s definitely consistency,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “That’s the biggest thing. When everyone’s on the same page and everyone’s doing their job effectively, we have success, and I feel we can do that against any offense. The games where we give up 30-plus points and just can’t do anything, it’s guys not being on the same page. It’s not a talent issue. It’s not a trying issue.”
Injuries certainly took their toll this season. The defensive backfield was particularly hard hit, and even ironman outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan landed on injured reserve. The struggles of highly paid cornerback Josh Norman, who has been benched for much of the season, were also a factor.
But there has been criticism of the team’s defensive scheme as well, particularly how frequently Manusky has dropped pass-rushing outside linebacker Montez Sweat, a rookie first-round pick, into coverage. After a 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans last season, safety D.J. Swearinger Sr. called out Manusky’s play-calling; Swearinger was cut from the team two days later.
Manusky pointed to injuries and inconsistency in a short evaluation of the defense Thursday, but he said he has been able to remain focused throughout this challenging season.
“That’s the way it was when I was with Marty Schottenheimer and when I played for him,” Manusky said. “Same thing, one game at a time. … As a former player, you’ve got to perform well. As a coach, same thing. You’ve got to perform well.”
There have been positives in the defense’s performance this season. Both Manusky and interim head coach Bill Callahan pointed to the play of the defensive line as a bright spot — Washington’s 43 sacks rank ninth in the league. And despite the likelihood that Sunday’s game at the Dallas Cowboys could be Manusky’s last with the franchise, there remains support for him in the locker room.
“The hardest part about the NFL is not taking anything personal,” Allen said. “Taking your feelings out of it. It’s a business at the end of the day. I love Greg Manusky, and I would love more than anything for him to stay. But I’ve got to take my personal wants out of it because it doesn’t matter in this situation.”