Improving communication big challenge for Redskins defense, Del Rio says

Ben Krimmel
January 16, 2020 - 9:39 am

For the Washington Redskins defense, there is only one direction to go: Up.

And the first step for new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera in turning around the team's underperforming unit is identifying the problem areas.

“I think, certainly, we will develop those thoughts on where we feel our greatest needs are,” Del Rio said in his first comments to the local media Wednesday.

“Information that we have, strengths and weaknesses about the roster, I don’t care to make that public knowledge. I don’t think that really helps the Redskins get better at it. I think for us, we’ll attack where we feel we have needs and we’ll coach them up and look to be much better," he said. "I can appreciate you all wanting to know those types of things about my views on this team, but I don’t feel like it’s in the best interest of the Redskins to share that information. I think it’s most important for us to understand internally the strengths and weaknesses that we have and then attack them as we build the roster. I’ll leave that up to Coach Rivera; if he wants to share that kind of stuff with you, he can.”

What areas will the Redskins target? While he acknowledged there is "a lot of room for improvement," Del Rio played it close to the vest. However, he did say improving communication is a big challenge.

“That will be one of the big challenges and areas that has to improve. 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?’ or questioning. You can see them asking each other what's going on,” he said.

"The communication, the urgency in getting to the line, the urgency in getting the calls and communicating to each other, there was an issue there. Now, where it came from, it doesn’t really matter. Like blaming who is it? You want to blame players? You want to blame coaches? That doesn’t matter to me. For me, it’s about what we’re going to be. What we’re going to set our minds on being. How we’re going to approach it."

For Del Rio, communication and a sense of urgency go hand-in-hand.

“For me, that’s first and foremost: We have to know what we’re doing. We have to get lined up with some urgency so we have a chance to communicate about what the offense is trying to do, not just what our assignment is but what the offense is trying to do to us based on their formation, their tendencies, the down and distance, the different factors that we have," Del Rio said. "They’re giving us clues, and we don’t even have time to look for those clues if we don’t know what we’re doing to begin with. That urgency in that pre-snap portion of the game, I mean, that’s huge to me. It’ll be very important. We will need to be able to do those things so that we can talk about how we’re being attacked, not just how we’re going to line up and do our assignments. That’s just a function of playing good defense."

Del Rio won't have a shortage of talent to work with. The Redskins are expected to use the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft on edge rusher Chase Young, which would be the fourth-straight year the team has used a first-round pick on a defensive lineman.

But the new defensive coordinator doesn't put much stock in potential.

"It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential. Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much," he said. "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, OK?’ We’ve got to learn how to commit to doing what is best for each other and what is best for this football team.

“We have an opportunity. One of the things that I’ll talk to our guys about is: We set our agenda, OK? Nobody else. In our room, we’ll set our agenda. To me, there’s a mindset that’s a part of that. We’ll respect everyone. We’ll fear no one."

Of course, there is still a long way to go.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do," Del Rio said. "I mean, just understanding where we all belong so that we can play really fast. I believe in having a defense that understands where it belongs, that is accountable to each other, that plays hard, that plays fast, that plays physical, that plays tough. That toughness is not just a physical toughness but a mental toughness as well. We have a ways to go, and the communication is going to be important, and the understanding of how we all fit together is going to be important."

"We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

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