D.J. Swearinger made waves last week after a tough loss in Dallas when he said the Redskins often don't take practice seriously enough.
Given a chance to back off the comments a few days after the game, Swearinger didn't. In fact, he explained exactly what he meant.
"I just feel like when we’re in certain preparations — when it’s Friday, when it’s Saturday, when it’s time to lock in and really be focused in — I feel like it’s a little bit too much playing," Swearinger said on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program (via The Washington Post).
Leading up the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, the Redskins only held walkthroughs because of the limited practice time. Typically, walkthroughs might not have the same crispness of practice, as the players go through their motions at a snail's pace to zero in on the details of a play.
"Any time the coach is saying something, that means business. When we have our walkthroughs on Saturdays, I feel like it’s a joke," Swearinger continued.
Well, surely, the Redskins coaching staff would disagree.
Ends up, they don't. In fact, some of the joking around is on purpose.
"We had the walkthroughs last week. It was a short week having about an hour of a walkthrough or 50 minutes, it take a little bit of a toll. Their concentration level is not going to be focused for 50 minutes. But overall, we try to have a little bit of fun doing it," Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said this week.
Manusky explained that he played in the NFL for 12 years, and he learned during that time that it's effective to mix in some humor during practices and walkthroughs. He also explained that it's tough for some players to maintain their attention span.
"From an attention span, I think it is like 20 or 30 minutes from a player's perspective being in the meeting. After that, it kind of just overwhelms you a little bit and you're mind starts to drift," Manusky said. "But overall, I think that attention-to-detail, giving them a little bit of a break here and there, even during practice. That’s why we go back and forth to get them a little bit of a break so they can focus on what they're supposed to focus on."
In a vacuum, Manusky's comments seem at odds with Swearinger, but it's worth pointing out that for the coach, his job is to get about 25 players paying attention throughout the course of the week. Not every player will behave like Swearinger, with a laser focus and devotion to football.
Still, it seems a bit disjointed for the defensive coordinator to suggest players can't focus for more than 30 minutes at a time. Even though many are young men, these are still professional football players.
Early this season, the Redskins had one of the best defenses in the NFL, particularly against the run. In their last four games, however, three of them losses, Washington is giving up 135 yards-per-game on the ground and has twice given up more than 30 points.
Manusky thinks this is the time of year where young players start to lose concentration, and the team needs to be better in that area.
"it's a grind, from the first couple of weeks, especially for young players. I mean, this is the time where we start the season really," he said. "Pretty much, now, we have to start rolling. For those young players, they've already played their 12 games and they're done, with four preseason games and the games that we've already played. This is when we have to pick it up."
Manusky is right about one thing: The Redskins need to pick it up defensively if the team is going to make the playoffs.
Washington fell behind the Cowboys after their surprising win over New Orleans on Thursday night. If the 'Skins can win Monday night in Philadelphia, they will keep pace with the Cowboys. If they lose, that marks three straight losses and a second-place tie with the Eagles.
There's one thing Swearinger and Manusky would certainly agree on - it's time to pick it up.
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