Expectations flopped for the Redskins secondary in 2016. Josh Norman teamed up with Bashaud Breeland would give Washington one of the top pairs of cornerbacks in the league, the thinking went, but the results didn't prove quite as fruitful.
Certainly not wholly to blame on Norman and Breeland, but the Redskins defense ranked 25th in the NFL in passing yards allowed. The entire defense struggled, and the roster had problems from the defensive front all the way back to the safeties, but the cornerbacks also seemed to struggle conceptually.
Yet, with the secondary, it often seemed like talent wasn't the issue. Confusion seemed to reign in the back end. Often, Redskins corners and safeties would be trying to figure out alignment just as the offense was snapping the ball.
When the 'Skins dismissed Joe Barry in the immediate aftermath of the Week 17 loss to the Giants, the team also said goodbye to secondary coach Perry Fewell.
More than one Redskins player voiced confusion about Fewell's schemes and personnel decisions during the 2016 season. Repeatedly, players said that practice reps did not always equate to game reps, and from week to week, players weren't always sure what to expect on gameday.
Couple that with recent comments from Jay Gruden about expectations for the Washington secondary in 2017 under new defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Speaking at the combine, Gruden said:
That's what I’m looking for most in the secondary is them to play together. I think Torrian Gray is going to help out in that regard, Manusky will help out. They need to play together, wherever they’re playing, whoever they’re covering shouldn’t matter. The whole goal of the defense, when you’re playing defensive football for the Redskins, playing as one.
The comments sure seem telling. Remember that the 'Skins worked to retain Aubrey Pleasant as defensive backs coach - he worked as an assistant in that role under Fewell - but the team and coach were unable to agree to terms. Pleasant is now coaching in L.A. along with Barry and head coach Sean McVay.
Players liked Pleasant, but perhaps a fresh start will help the unit. Regardless of losing Pleasant, it seems like the dismissal of Fewell could help too.
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