And while the Redskins weren’t exactly last among the NFL’s 32 teams in total yards allowed (finishing five spots higher at 27), Del Rio’s point was clear: Washington’s defense was a mess in 2019, and despite a belief around many in the league that the unit has a lot of potential, he thought it played poorly.
“Potential really doesn’t matter,” Del Rio growled. “It doesn’t amount to much.”
Wednesday’s call was the first time Del Rio has spoken publicly in Washington since he agreed to run Ron Rivera’s defense Jan. 1, and while he said he was still trying to design a new scheme and evaluate the players he has inherited, he also was open in his frustration with how disorganized last year’s defense appeared — especially when he was asked about the lack of communication among the players during games.
“That will be one of the big challenges and areas that has to improve,” he said of the communication problems. “All you have to do is watch the tape. 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 at each other, like, questioning. You can see them asking each other like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
Del Rio, who will switch the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme, went on to describe the “clues” opposing offenses give defenses before the ball is snapped, saying you can pick up the play’s intent by the way players stand or the way they move in the seconds before the play begins. He considers this time sacred, the moment when defensive players can assess what is coming and potentially adjust.
This is why he sounded so disgusted by the confusion the Redskins suffered as they got set last year.
“We don’t even have time to look for those clues if we don’t know what we’re doing to begin with so that urgency in that presnap portion of the game, that’s huge to me,” Del Rio said. “That will be very important so we have a chance to know how we are being attacked, not just how we’re going to line up.”
Rivera, whose background is on the defense, has put this Redskins group in Del Rio’s hands. And despite the frustration Del Rio expressed after watching last year’s defense, he also sounded some notes of optimism.
“This is a good group,” he said. “I’m excited about the opportunity to teach and develop these guys. I think there are some proud people in this building who want to get this thing going the right way.”
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