The Redskins got new coordinators on both sides of the ball this year but neither may end up being the most important addition to the coaching staff. That honor could go to new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula.
His track record is impressive. The 49ers brought Tomsula in as their defensive line coach for the 2007 after the coach had toiled for nearly 20 years as a D-line coach and defensive coordinator in stops like Charleston Southern and Catawba at the college level and the Scottish Claymores and Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe.
The rushing defense ranked 22nd in the league his first season in San Francisco but after that the improvement was rapid and lasting. The 49ers ranked 13th in rushing defense in 2008 and the following year they started a run of six straight years with top-10 rushing defenses. While he proved to be out of his element as a head coach in a one-year stint with the 49ers, his reputation as a defensive line guru remains intact.
RELATED: Redskins by the numbers
And the Redskins are hoping that he can turn around a defensive line that has been a sore spot for the team since for most of this decade. Since 2010, the Redskins have allowed 4.37 yards per rushing attempt, 25th in the NFL over that seven-season span. It’s a chronic problem and they hope Tomsula can solve it.
The Redskins did not sign a nose tackle for their 3-4 base defense and they didn’t take one in the draft. But Jay Gruden isn’t worried because he has Tomsula on his staff and he believes that Tomsula can, well, create a nose guard.
“Coach Tomsula has assured me that he will find a nose guard, he’ll make a nose guard,” Gruden said in April. “If you look at his track record, you look at the nose guards he’s had, none of them have been priority first-round draft choices. He’s made nose guards. He coaches that position extremely well, and I have faith that he’ll do that.”
Gruden recognizes that there is only so much the defensive line can do in shorts and helmets. Tomlula’s real work will start when they put the pads on in training camp starting July 27.
But that doesn’t mean that Tomsula can’t get anything done. After 11-on-11 sessions during OTAs, the coach has been observed gathering his linemen together and conducting a highly detailed clinic on some of the mistakes that were made during the team drills. The sessions are very much hands on, with Tomsula often playing the role of the D-lineman trying to beat the double team or shed a block.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky sees Tomsula getting his group into the proper frame of mind to prepare for the season.
MORE REDSKINS: Hot topics: Cravens' progress
“Overall, I think from a toughness standpoint—I’m not saying that the guys that we did have before weren’t tough—I’m just saying that’s what Jimmy Tomsula is kind of putting into them,” said Manusky. “It’s ‘tough.’ It’s talking about hard work each and every day in the weight room, out on the field, and eventually when we get into the five weeks during the summer, I mean, that’s a time when they can really mess it up or take advantage of it and really perform at a high level and do great things.
“Across the board, I’m happy with the guys that we have right now. I see Jim working with them every day. We’re not there by any stretch of the means of the word, but I think we’re getting there. You see progress with each player, young and old, and we’re excited about what we have up front.”
Despite the addition of Jonathan Allen in the draft, I’m not sure that the D-line is a group that fans should get excited about just yet. But if Tomsula can do what he did in San Francisco and the Redskins continue to add young talent to the line maybe it will be worthy of some fan enthusiasm.