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Need to Know: What will Joe Barry's Redskins defense look like?

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Need to Know: What will Joe Barry's Redskins defense look like?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 4, 14 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today's question is from Twitter:

The short answer is that we aren’t sure of what the details of Joe Barry’s defense will be just yet and that’s due in part to the fact that Barry himself doesn’t know just yet. He gave Jay Gruden a broad outline of what he would like to do during the interview process but that was not shared with anyone in the media.

For one thing he doesn’t yet know who will be playing in his defense. Scot McCloughan is now looking at 2014 game film to evaluate personnel and some players will not be invited back to participate in the 2015 campaign. And certainly Barry and his defensive staff are looking at film themselves, seeing what Ryan Kerrigan can do well and what David Amerson will need to do to break out of his sophomore slump.

Barry has said that the defense will maintain a base 3-4 scheme but they will utilize multiple fronts and may actually line up in a 3-4 a minority of the snaps. This is similar to what the Redskins did last year and what most teams that have a 3-4 base defense do.

There is very little history to go on here. Barry was a defensive coordinator in Detroit for two years but head coach Rod Marinelli has a defensive background so it’s safe to say that most of the principles of that 4-3 unit were his, not Barry’s.

There has been talk that Barry will prefer more of a one-gap technique up front than the two gap that has been the staple of the Redskins’ 3-4. Generally speaking the one-gap asks the line to be more aggressive and make plays while a two-gap asks the linemen to occupy blockers and let the linebackers make the plays. Both will be used at various times and we’ll have to wait until the games start to see which one is the base defense.

I know that fans love to see the corners press rather than play an off-man technique. And perhaps once Scot McCloughan is finished drafting the large, physical “Legion of Boom” type defensive backs he wants you will see more of that. In the meantime, if Barry and Perry Fewell can do what Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris couldn’t do and teach David Amerson, Bashaud Breeland, and the other cornerbacks to play press you could see more of that. Until then, look for a lot of off-man coverage.

I know that’s not a whole lot to go on but the scheme is still a work in progress. I will see if I can get any more information about what the current thinking is when Gruden answers questions at the NFL Combine two weeks from today.

Timeline

—It’s been 38 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 221 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 34; Redskins offseason workouts start 75; 2015 NFL Draft 86

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

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Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.