At a certain point the noise becomes an echo, and after a while, it just goes unheard. That's the best way to describe the chatter in the last few years talking about the Redskins defensive potential.
The team invested on defense with first-round draft picks up front and big money spending in the secondary. It hasn't mattered. The defense has still struggled.
Enter Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio.
The new head coach and defensive coordinator have long and accomplished backgrounds in the NFL with long and established track records of succesful defenses. So that should transform the Redskins terrible 2019 defense into a fearful unit in 2020, right?
Not so fast, at least according to Del Rio.
"I’d say it can be better. Obviously, 32nd in third-down defense, 32nd in yards allowed, I mean just 32nd in things, towards the bottom of the league in several categories," Del Rio said in January of the Redskins defense. "So, there’s a lot of room for improvement. 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."
The potential of the Redskins defense should get a quick boost in 2020 by a schematic switch to a 4-3 base defense. That should focus first-round picks Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan on rushing the quarterback rather than coverage situations like has happened in the past. It also allows first-round picks Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen to play traditional defensive tackle roles.
That's right, the Redskins defensive front boasts five first-round picks, including Young who went second overall last month, on top of playmaker Matt Ioannidis and emerging piece Tim Settle.
Still, Del Rio doesn't want to hear about potential. He wants to hear about production.
"Everyone has talent. You go across the league, there is a collection of college all-stars that play in the NFL. To say we have talent, sure we do. I think everyone does," Del Rio said. "I think you collect talent and you go through the process of trying to acquire as many good players as you can, but ultimately, it comes down to us as a unit doing all we can to help get the ball back to the offense."
The Redskins defense really struggled in 2019, as Del Rio laid out. The unit was historically bad for much of the season on third downs.
Things should be better, certainly, but there are still major question marks in the secondary and at linebacker. Depth is an issue too.
Washington fans should be excited about the defense, and particularly rookie Chase Young. But it would also be wise to listen to Del Rio - there's talent, but every team has talent. It could take some time to build a fierce defensive unit, and the Redskins have a long way to go to get there.
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