New Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry faces plenty of challenges taking over a defense that ranked 20th in total yards and 29th in points allowed per game. Here are five of them:
Doubt. While a lot of players didn’t know much about Joe Barry (those I talked to did not), they will be able to find his stats online or in any story written about him. Some will talk to friends who played for him. And, like anyone else, they’ll have questions on whether the disaster in Detroit when he was defensive coordinator in 2007-08 was on him or something else. It’s natural. If they don’t trust in him right away, then that doubt will intensify. Players say they know when a guy can coach or when he’s trying to B.S. them, and it’ll be evident early. Based on what I've heard about Barry, my guess is they will like him (not just as a person, but as a coach). But this will take more than just the offseason; they can believe in him but that belief will need to be renewed once the actual games begin. And, will they be excited to play for him? We won't know that for a while.
The other units. Yes, that means special teams and offense. Dallas was supposed to have a horrific defense. However, it was spared by an offense that not only possessed the ball but scored touchdowns. Suddenly, a group without much talent played better than expected. (They helped themselves by creating 31 turnovers.) But the Redskins have turned the ball over a combined 65 times the past two seasons, topped only by the New York Giants. (Washington was 23rd in creating turnovers during this stretch with 45.) Meanwhile, after kickoffs, only Green Bay’s defense faced worse field position on average. Redskins opponents started an average of 74.5 yards from the end zone. Washington’s defense isn’t strong and it’s made worse when the offense turns it over and the special teams gives up yards.
Rebuild. The Redskins’ defense needs an infusion of talent -- that alone will not solve all issues just like you couldn’t blame all the failings of the past solely on the players. If there was a wish list of what they needed, it would include two safeties, a corner, an inside linebacker, a pass-rushing outside linebacker and two defensive linemen. They won’t find all of that in one offseason, but the point is there will be turnover. And when you have turnover, you need a coach who can grind and displays energy as Barry does. What else he has remains to be seen.
Implementing his scheme. The Redskins have used a 3-4 as their base defense the past five years and that’s not expected to change. But Barry will also use elements of his 4-3 past, including from his days using a Tampa 2 in which the middle linebacker covered deep middle. The Redskins have an inside 'backer who can run deep and cover in Keenan Robinson. San Diego used more one-gap technique with its 3-4; the Redskins would use both one- and two-gap. In their base they were mostly a two-gap, which would force the linemen to play more lateral and let linebackers make plays. In a one gap, the linemen’s first step will be upfield. With the change in personnel and a new coach, there's always an adjustment.
Finding coaches. Clearly Barry is talking to potential assistants, but nothing has been made official. He’s had plenty of time to try to assemble a group considering he was the first person Washington interviewed. You don’t interview without an idea of what coaches you’d want on your staff. But, for now, the only thing we know is that line coach Jacob Burney and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker will not return. That leaves Barry needing to find at least two coaches. There’s still no official word on the fate of secondary coach Raheem Morris or inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. When you make changes at coordinator, you know there will be more changes among the assistants. With a decent number of defensive coordinator changes around the league, it’ll make it tougher to perhaps build a strong defensive coaching staff. The only name I’ve heard attached as a person of interest is linebackers coach Reggie Herring.