If the Redskins 2019 offseason had gone as they hoped, there's a strong likelihood that Jon Bostic never would have been in Washington.
The veteran linebacker joined the Burgundy and Gold last May during OTAs, two days after the team lost Reuben Foster for the season due to a torn ACL. Bostic immediately established himself as one of the Redskins starting inside linebackers and a leader on the defense. He was one of two Redskins defenders to start all 16 games for Washington a season ago and finished tied for second on the team in tackles, only trailing safety Landon Collins.
After a dismal 3-13 campaign, the Redskins cleaned house. Washington fired longtime team president Bruce Allen and brought in well-respected head coach Ron Rivera and an entire new coaching staff. Bostic, who was an unrestricted free agent this offseason, must have stood out to Rivera and co. because the linebacker inked a two-year deal last week to stay with the club.
Fresh off his new deal, Bostic joined Redskins Nation, where he explained why he chose to come back and how excited he is to be coached by Rivera. (Watch the full interview on Redskins Nation at 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington).
The linebacker first heard about Rivera when he was a rookie in Chicago, just a few seasons after Rivera departed for the head coaching gig in Carolina. Bostic mentioned how Bears legends such as Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs would speak highly of the Redskins new head coach.
"I've heard nothing but good things about this staff," Bostic said. "Not just this year, I heard about them before. I was in Chicago with a couple of guys on this staff. A lot of them had gone to Carolina with Ron Rivera being in Chicago before. He was gone when I got there, but you heard Lance Briggs, you heard Peanut [Charles Tillman] talk about Ron Rivera and what he did, what he stood for."
In Washington, Rivera and new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio are tasked with turning around a defensive unit that has plenty of talent, but largely underperformed in 2019. The unit showed flashes of potential, but often failed to play up to their best ability for an entire game.
"When you turn the film on, it shows a lot of different things," Bostic said on the defense's performance in 2019. "We were flying around on defense, hitting guys. A lot of it was just [not] playing a full 60 minutes together. There were times when the pass rush was doing really well, but a guy may not have been in his gap. Or you had a young guy that was thrown into the fire having to go out there and produce."
Throughout the season, there were plenty of rifts about former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's scheme and the complications of it. Manusky's scheme is largely built off disguises and giving the offense different looks.
Manusky ran a 3-4 base defense in Washington, and many of the Redskins best pass rushers were forced to play outside linebacker. Due to the scheme, this would often force them to drop back into coverage, playing out of position. Opponents picked up on the Redskins tendencies and often found matchups they were able to exploit.
Bostic emphasized the complexities of Manusky's scheme as to why it was so hard for a young defensive to learn it.
"We didn't have a simple scheme. We had a complex scheme, not something that's going to be learned in a day, a week, two weeks. It takes months, it takes years," Bostic said. "This defense was pretty old in terms of guys who ran it. If you keep going back to where this defense first originated at, there's a lot of Hall of Famers that played in this defense back in the day. But the thing about it is those guys stayed together for a long time. So they were able to run all the things we would have liked to run."
Since taking over the job, Del Rio has stated he intends to switch from a 3-4 base to a 4-3. Additionally, Del Rio plans to run a simple scheme, one that will allow the Redskins defense to play faster and more to their strengths.
Bostic believes this switch will be largely beneficial for the Redskins defense in 2020 and beyond.
"With the new staff coming in, with the front four getting after the quarterback and playing vertical, it's only going to help us," he said.
To improve their defense from a year ago, the Redskins made two notable free agent acquisitions this offseason, signing versatile cornerback Kendall Fuller to a four-year deal and reuniting former All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis with Rivera on a one-year deal. Both players should play a valuable role for the team in 2020. The Redskins secondary suffered slightly when the team traded cornerback Quinton Dunbar to Seattle, but there are still multiple defensive backs on the market the Redskins can sign to replace him. The team is far from done in terms of upgrading the defense.
Rivera and his staff coming to Washington played a major factor in Bostic wanting to return to the Redskins, but coming back to play with practically the same group from a year ago was equally just as big of a part. The linebacker feels as the group has something to prove.
"That's what kind of made the decision easy for me. I wanted to be back with this group," Bostic said. "I know we're not far off. We're young and we have a good core. That's the main thing about it. I know Coach Rivera wants to bring that family atmosphere, bring guys closer together. I think when he turns and sees this locker room, sees these position groups and how close they are, I think his philosophy is going to carry right over."
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