Entering the 2019 NFL season, the Washington Football Team had numerous talented pieces on defense, leading many to believe the unit would thrive.
That did not happen, and instead, it ranked in the bottom portion of the league. A large number of yards were surrendered, and teams converted third downs with ease. Though one person cannot be solely blamed for the struggles, former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky took the bulk of the criticism as many believed the system was too complicated and flawed.
With Jack Del Rio now in charge, the hope in Washington is that his 4-3 scheme would play to his unit's strengths and simplify assignments so players can make a difference on the field. According to Washington Football Team safety Landon Collins, that's exactly what is happening.
"The defense is not as complicated, it’s very simple. He lets us play football within the defensive scheme," Collins said to NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay. "With that being said, we play off each other and if something is being done and something doesn’t seem to be working, we go over it, make adjustments to it and we fix it from there.”
In the initial sessions of training camp, Collins has found the nature of the new scheme beneficial to not only his play but to his fellow defenders as well. With a major focus on attacking upfront, the safety has seen the talented pass rush have their skills maximized, while the secondary patrols the other levels of the field.
With all parts moving as one and in a simplistic style, Collins believes every player on defense will have a chance to make an impact in 2020.
“I like the new scheme. It gives us a variety of different things," Collins said. "Out front it gets to rush like it needs to rush, and then we fill out the back end and everybody eats. It’s really smooth.”
Besides having a knack for knowing how to get the most out of his defense, Del Rio has become known for quickly flipping the success of his unit. When he joined the Carolina Panthers as defensive coordinator in 2002, the group finished as the second-ranked defense in the league. The next season, he took a Jaguars unit that ranked 20th the year prior to sixth in his first campaign as head coach. Similar success followed with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.
Now in Washington, Del Rio's defensive knowledge and the team's talented group form a recipe for a similar result in year one. Collins is optimistic that will come to fruition, as he did not hold back when stating what he expected from the defense in 2020.
“A big turnaround."