SNIDER: Del Rio wants Redskins to be a rapid response defense


Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio wants a rapid response team.

After watching tape of the Redskins’ 3-13 season, Del Rio often saw players not ready for the snap. They were looking to each other trying to decipher the offense. The result was a unit largely last in most categories and allowing 30 or more points in eight of 16 games.

That just can’t happen again and surely won’t given Del Rio’s reputation as a high-octane NFL linebacker over 11 seasons followed by 21 years as a coach, including head coach in Jacksonville and Oakland. Being away from NFL two seasons showed Del Rio a new path to attacking offenses that have grown faster both downfield and sideline to sideline.

“I think there is a lot more emphasis on spreading the field not just vertically, but horizontally,” he said. “I think there is a greater need for speed on defense. . . . You are seeing more concepts being used in the NFL like collegiate-type concepts. More quarterback option runs. Different things that you have to be able to handle. Different motions. Jet motions and all sorts of things. You have to be able to adjust to that. Just making sure the system that we install will be up to date and able to handle those things.”

Biggest takeaways from JDR’s conference call:-I don’t think he feels like this defense was very good or very close to good.-He’s gonna figure out whether the lack of preparedness was coaching or players just not getting it.-Clean slate for everybodySuper polished, too.

— Craig Hoffman (@CraigHoffman) January 15, 2020

The key – recognizing formations quickly.

“When you’re watching the tape, there are countless examples of right before the snap, where players are not in a good position – knees bent, focus on the offense,” Del Rio said. “They’re kind of turned to each other, looking around like what are we doing or questioning. You can see them asking each other what’s going on. The communication, the urgency in getting to the line, the urgency in getting the calls and communicating to each other.

“We have to get lined up with some urgency so we have a chance to communicate about what the offense is trying to do, not just what our assignment is but what the offense is trying to do to us based on their formation, their tendencies, the down and distance, the different factors that we have. They’re giving us clues and we don’t even have time to look for those clues if we don’t know what we’re doing to begin with. That urgency in that pre-snap portion of the game, I mean that’s huge to me.”

Washington’s defensive line is considered one of the NFL’s better youth movements, but Del Rio isn’t impressed with potential.

“It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential,” he said. “Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much. To me, it’s more about what we can get done and the work that we’re willing to put in and the idea that ‘Look, we’re going to become a respected unit, OK?’ We’ve got to learn how to commit to doing what is best for each other and what is best for this football team. We have an opportunity.”

Surely, an opportunity to get better after tying for its worst season since 1961.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks