The Redskins have been talking about communication on defense for months. Literally.
Yet, despite all of that focus, the unit is somehow still having problems with it.
What was supposed to be a major area of defensive growth has turned into perhaps the biggest reason why Washington's defense has been so ineffective this season.
For a collection of people who love to discuss communicating, they sure are bad at actually doing it.
The following is a timeline meant to illustrate that point and show how pervasive the concept of communication has become with the Redskins, starting with the positivity surrounding it at training camp and ending with the disappointment about the lack of it these days.
The lesson to be learned here? There's an enormous, football field-sized difference between identifying an issue and, you know, fixing that issue.
Phase 1: Optimism
The Redskins began 2019 knowing their defense had to be better about being unified before and after the snap. And with some key additions who were supposed to help shore up the shortcomings there — from vocal players like Landon Collins and Jon Bostic to experienced coaches such as Ray Horton and Rob Ryan — there was reason for hope. That hope was reflected in what was said during the preseason.
"It's all about communication on defense. I think we have enough firepower talent-wise to hold our own and be a hell of a defense. Now it's about communication... That's something we really have to work on through this training camp." — Jay Gruden, July 25
"Communication has been excellent. Everybody is just getting along. We got a fresh crop of guys that’s in there... It's fun to play to with right now." — Josh Norman, July 27
"We talk more than anything. Communication is the biggest key within the defense. On that part we just stay on the same page, making sure what we got to do and how we got to play it." — Landon Collins, Aug. 3
"Defensively, they’ve just got to rally and play together and communicate – that's the biggest thing." — Gruden, Sep. 2
Phase 2: Struggles begin
All of the excitement about those much-needed improvements? It lasted less than one regular-season game. DeSean Jackson rips through the Redskins' secondary in Week 1 and plenty of offenses and receivers follow throughout September, where the team goes 0-4. Even so, the message remains the same: We can correct this.
"If you're going to take advantage of a miscommunication, that's the perfect play on for it. Unfortunately, it happened for us and it’s been addressed from the coaching staff to the players on understanding the importance of communicating. I'm not going to point the fingers at the coaches or the players in that regards, we just understand that it can't happen again in pro football.” — Gruden, Sep. 9 (right after the loss to Eagles)
"I think the biggest focus we have to do is we're focusing on our consistency... Overall, the communication is getting better and better. It's a work in progress." — Gruden, Sep. 18
“Just during practice and stuff, trying to get the exact looks that we’re trying to get and then keep on working them. We’ve got to make sure we communicate on the back end along with the safeties. Overall, it’s just a communication standpoint that we’ve got to make sure that we keep on talking and doing the right thing." — Greg Manusky, Sep. 26
Phase 3: A slight rebound
Don't get confused: Things weren't totally patched up when September and October left and then early November arrived. However, the Burgundy and Gold did notch their first win of the year in that stretch and, if you look strictly at the scoreboards from their results, they did limit offenses (excluding the Patriots) more than they had been. Perhaps they were turning a corner, finally.
“[We're] just meshing together as a team as well. We had a couple injuries throughout the season, but overall I think just coming together and understanding the concepts that we’re going to present each and every week and they’re trying to grow and they keep on growing with it.” — Manusky, Nov. 14 (coming off the bye week)
Phase 4: Back to breaking down
Whatever "meshing" Manusky thought he was seeing didn't show up in the Redskins' Week 11 meltdown against the Jets. Despite having an extra week to prepare, the defense somehow looked as disorganized as ever, allowing Sam Darnold to throw a career-high four TDs and a dismal Jets offense to move the ball at will. It sounds like the players are almost entirely fed up, even as others continue to march on.
"It's just getting old. At some point, as a grown man in a professional football league, you've got to get it together... You've got to get better at communicating and taking pride in wanting to communicate." — Quinton Dunbar, Nov. 17
"The only way I know how to dig out of this is by going back to work and fixing the problems that we've had." — Bill Callahan, Nov. 17
"Communication. It always comes down to that and we’ve got to make sure we communicate." — Manusky, Nov. 21
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