Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's Dec. 10, 2015, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. As the defense has shown improvement over the last two weeks, they've gotten contributions from two in-season acquisitions.
Injuries happen in the NFL but the Washington Redskins have, unfortunately, dealt with blows all over the team this season, especially on defense.
The team has already lost Duke Ihenacho, Junior Galette and Chris Culliver to season-ending injuries – all three of which were starters – along with Trenton Robinson, who had earned a starting job at the safety position.
At middle linebacker, both Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley Jr. have missed extended time as well.
In replacement of Culliver and one of the two middle linebacker spots have been veterans Will Blackmon and Mason Foster.
The two veterans have been key in their roles both as leaders and playmakers so far.
"From the day a guy gets here, whether he was here in Phase I with us of the offseason or we signed him Week 4 like we did Will or Week 6 like we did Mason, we coach guys not as starters and backups," Barry said. "We coach them all the same. We prepare them all the same because like I tell you guys all the time, if you're not starting you're one play away from being a starter. That's the approach we take. We're starters in waiting if you're not currently starting. So when your chance comes, next man up – you're ready to go. Very proud of those guys the way they've played and continue to play."
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2. Starting together for the first time on Monday, Barry said Foster and Will Compton "work really well together."
The coaching of players as starters, not backups, leads to moments like what happened Monday night against the Cowboys when the Redskins didn't miss a beat at middle linebacker.
Compton and Foster were active throughout the evening, as they combined for 15 tackles.
"That's the thing with Mason Foster, obviously he's a guy that was on the street that we brought in, but Mason Foster has played a lot of football in this league," Barry said. "He was a three-year starter down in Tampa, played a lot of ball."
Barry added that Compton "stepped up to the challenge when he became the full-time starter."
"Mason followed his lead and was no different," Compton said. "They not only are going in there and playing, they're making plays. They're contributing. That's what you want. You just don't want a guy to round out the 11, you want a guy to go in, you want all 11 players to make plays. They're both doing that."
3. It wasn't until a month ago that DeAngelo Hall played at safety, but Barry has liked what he's seen out of the 12-year veteran at that position.
Between young cornerback talent and a need at safety, when Hall returned from a foot injury last month, the team started splitting his reps between the two positions.
He played sparingly in his first game back against the Saints, appearing only in passing situations.
Before Monday's game, though, Hall was placed as the team's starting strong safety, where he'd play 41 snaps.
"To classify his role, it's multiple," Barry said. "We're able to do a lot of things with him. He can play corner. He can play nickel. He can play dime. He can play strong. He can play free. He can do a bunch of different things. He can go and match up late in the game on Jason Witten if we need him to, like he did the other night. It's just great when you have, not only a very good football player, but when you have a smart, heady player that understands football, understands coverage, you can do different things with him. I thank God that we have him."
4. Finding ways to stop the Bears' screen plays will be important for the Redskins as they try to land their first road victory of the season.
Under first-year offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Chicago has made the screen game a key part of their offense.
Between running backs Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte – who have a combined 49 receptions for 508 yards and two touchdowns – the Redskins need to make sure they don't get into a situation where the Bears create havoc with their screen passes.
"I don't think it necessarily changes anything you do, you've just got to be obviously conscious of it," Barry said. "They do a number of… No. 22 [Matt Forte] has been not only a phenomenal back carrying the ball but he's very good out of the backfield in the screen game, always has been his whole career. But then also with all the different screens that they do – whether they're bubble screens, when I say bubble going towards the sideline, or tunnel screens coming back inside and going up the middle of the field – they do a wonderful job with it. It's something that we've practiced, we've talked about. It's a big part of their offense."
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5. Barry said the team needs to be "calculated" against max protection.
Even though the Redskins managed just one sack against the Cowboys on Monday night, Barry was pleased with the pass rush's performance.
"They were 11 percent on third down," Barry said. "We were getting off the field on third down. We had three takeaways. Now we did only have one sack, and that's our objective every week – first down, second down, third down, it doesn't matter – to harass and to get after the quarterback. You know, with the offensive line that they have and some of the protections that they did with keeping people in, it limits you, but I still think at the end of the day we did a pretty good job."
Barry added that the team did and will continue to mix up their pressures, sometime brining just three to the quarterback while other times it might be five or six.
"Again, whether you rush three, whether you rush four or whether you come all out and rush seven, I think the biggest thing is to get a quarterback off-balance a little bit," Barry said. "I thought we did a fairly decent job of that, especially on third down."