RICHMOND—The Redskins made a change at defensive coordinator in January, with Joe Barry getting fired and Greg Manusky moving up from outside linebackers coach into the top job.
That means two changes for Su’a Cravens. He is making a position change in addition to learning the new defense. Last year he came in and played linebacker in nickel situations. Before the end of the season it was announced that he would move to strong safety in 2017.
Cravens is still learning both his new position and the defense. The difference in the defense isn’t so much one of schematics—it still will be a 3-4 base defense—as it is of execution.
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“They’re both great defenses,” said Cravens when asked about the difference between Manusky’s and Barry’s approaches. “I just think a guy like Manusky is going to be a little more aggressive. On third and short distances we’re going to send a little more pressure whereas with Joe B., we’d sit there in a Cover 2 or Cover 3.
“If [Manusky] likes a play he’s going to see who he has out there on the field and if he likes the matchup he’s going to call it regardless if somebody thinks he should be calling something else. It allows us to play on the fly.”
One of the reasons that Barry lost his job was that the Redskins allowed opponents to convert 46.6 percent of their third downs, the worst mark in the league. The hope is that Manusky’s approach will remedy this.
“I think that’s why we’re getting a bit more aggressive on defense,” said Cravens. “We’re not going to let the offense sit back and take their shot. Hopefully we’re in the perfect defense, we’re going to come after the quarterback, we’re going to get aggressive with receivers on the edges and hopefully our talent is better than their talent.”
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In fairness to Barry, the Redskins’ talent on defense was lacking in his two years on the job. After moving on from Barry, the team did not stop making changes on that side of the ball. The organization brought in several free agents and used their top three picks in the draft for defense. There are likely to be five or six new starters on defense.
And over the years Redskins fans have seen new defensive coordinators come in with the promise of coaching a more aggressive unit only to see the look of the defense and, especially, the results being the same as they were. The Redskins faithful will have to be forgiven if they don’t get too excited for seeing a different brand of defense until it shows up on the field in games that count.