Jack Del Rio wants Washington’s defense to develop a team mentality

Washington Football Team practice

For the Washington Football Team to fare better in 2020 than most are expecting, its defense is likely going to have to become formidable, if not downright dominant.

Chase Young and the rest of the pass rushers must turn the opposing backfield into their own Airbnb on a weekly basis. The linebackers will need to hold their own in coverage and help plug holes in the running game. And the secondary will have to take advantage of rushed passes when the front breaks through and maintain its structure when it doesn't.

Coordinator Jack Del Rio, though, isn't embarking on this season with the attitude that his unit has to lead the franchise, telling the media on Thursday he doesn't "really look at it that way."

Instead, the experienced coach is focusing on far more basic principles in the lead-up to Sept. 13's opener, which he hopes will net those standout results. 

"For us, it's about developing a mentality," Del Rio said in a Zoom press conference. "Each guy understanding where he belongs and how it fits, how it ties together, how you impact your teammates. You want to be a positive impact on your teammates. And so I don't want us doing anything more than that."

That type of boiled-down, let's-undercomplicate-as-opposed-to-overcomplicate style might be just what Washington's defense needs, especially after sputtering under Greg Manusky and a scheme that was labeled as an unnecessarily complex one.

Now, Del Rio himself had no desire to look back on what his predecessor did, but that doesn't mean this story can't.


Some of the main gripes with Manusky were his general adherence to the 3-4 system, his insistence that players like Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat spend some of their reps dropping back to defend the pass and overall poor communication that led to not everyone knowing the call by the time the ball was snapped. 

With Del Rio at the helm, however, it sounds as if those issues will largely disappear, thanks to the more basic rules he's focusing on. With all of this talent, after all, why bog it down? 

"We don't need to try and do extra," Del Rio said. "We need to just do our job, and job number one for your defense is to not let the opponent score, and job number two is to get the ball back for your offense as early as possible.

"Guys are going to know what to do and they're going to go there fast and we're going to tackle when we get there. Those are the things we're focused on and that's what we're all about."

These kinds of messages come out of lots of NFL training camps each year, but Del Rio is someone worth believing in, simply because his track record backs up his words. His résumé shows that he's an established mind that maximizes his groups when he's a coordinator, especially early in his tenure.

So, sure, this side of the ball in Washington was supposed to break out in 2019 — and then it broke down. It's going to be Del Rio's job to ensure that doesn't happen again in 2020, and while he's previously discussed how much he hates talking about the prospect of delivering over actually delivering, he even allowed himself to get a little boastful on Thursday about what's to come from his guys.

"I think the fans can be excited about us getting beyond potential and beginning to perform," Del Rio said.

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