Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's media session with reporters during the second week of OTAs at Redskins Park.
1. Barry still has a hard time believing the Redskins were able to be the first and only team to get Josh Norman to visit with them.
Normally, the week before the NFL Draft is more on the quiet side, with only countless mock drafts really making news.
But on April 20, the Carolina Panthers rescinded Norman's franchise tag despite the fact the cornerback was coming off an All-Pro season.
Within 48 hours, he was a member of the Redskins.
"It was a whirlwind," Barry said. "But the thing with Josh, I mean obviously to get a player of his caliber, I think anytime you add that on to your roster it's huge, but to get the type of work ethic, the type of character... The story I always tell people is that we walked out of the building with Josh and his family and all of us at about 10:30 on that Friday night, he was going back to the airport to fly back home and I was like, 'OK bro, when do you think you're going to make it back?' He looked at me literally like I was crazy. He was like, 'What are you talking about? I will be back Sunday night and I will be in the building at 8:00 Monday morning to work.'"
Indeed, Norman has been a consistent presence at Redskins Park over the last month, taking part in Phase 1 and Phase 2 workouts and OTAs.
"He wasn't one of those guys that said, 'Hey, I'll get there when OTAs start,'" Barry said. "He was literally there 48 hours later and in the building at 8:00 in the morning with his new teammates working with Coach [Mike] Clark. …To me that said a lot about him. We obviously see all of the clips on NFL Network and the plays that he makes on the field, but his true character is his work ethic, his passion, and he wants to be great and he wants to make his teammates around him great. I think that is a huge attribute that he has that a lot of people don't see."
2. The competition at safety will be one to watch.
The Washington Redskins announced on Tuesday, March 15, 2016, the signing of safety David Bruton. Here's a gallery of photos from his career.
The Redskins' safety situation has changed quite a bit since the last time the team took the field, as 2015 leading tackler Dashon Goldson is gone while Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett and DeAngelo Hall are now all listed as safeties.
The team also signed David Bruton Jr., re-signed Duke Ihenacho and drafted the versatile Su'a Cravens.
Through the first two weeks of OTAs, Hall and Bruton Jr. have worked with the first-team defense, but everyone will get their chance to shine.
"When the first team goes out, only 11 guys can go out," Barry said. "We preach and we're firm believers – it comes from Jay [Gruden] all the way down – it's all about competition. So, yes, [DeAngelo] Hall and David Bruton are going with the first group, but we're rolling guys in there. Our depth chart is in pencil, it's not in Sharpie. Obviously, we do have a first team, we have a second team, we have a third team at every position, but we're in constant competition. Last time I checked, we don't have to make a full [determination] who our starters are until our opener. We're getting a bunch of work with a bunch of different guys, but, yeah D-Hall and David are running with the first group."
3. Early on, Cravens is being forced into "speaking a different language."
Perhaps no player on the defense will be utilized in different areas this season more than the 20-year-old Cravens.
While he's listed as a safety, Cravens' work early on has been with the linebackers. It's a lot to grasp at once, but Barry believes the second-round pick has the talent and football IQ to tackle everything on his plate.
"You can play him in the slot in a nickel position and do a bunch of things with him," Barry said. "So, right now kind of just as a starting point, he's playing our weakside linebacker – which we call 'Mo' – in base and then he's playing our weakside linebacker in nickel, which we call the dime linebacker. But I think as he learns and he picks up the system and the more comfortable he gets, the sky is the limit with all the different things you can do with him."
Barry admitted the next few months will be tough for Cravens, but he has got all the "natural stuff" to succeed.
"He's a great athlete, he's tough, he can run, he can tackle, he can hit, he can blitz, he can play coverage," Barry said. "So, really, I think down the road moving forward, I think the sky is the limit on what we can do with him."
4. Barry has high expectations for Stephen Paea.
One of the Redskins' three defensive line signings last season, Paea recorded just 24 tackles with 1.5 sacks in his first year with the Redskins before suffering a season-ending toe injury in early December.
Paea began the season as a starter before being shuffled deeper into the defensive line rotation. With a full-bill of health and an entire season in Washington to fall back on, though, Barry thinks the Oregon State product will make more of an impact this year.
"My expectations are high because I think he's a phenomenal player," Barry said. "I've been a fan of his from when he came out of Oregon State. I obviously followed his entire career before he got here. He's got ability and he can play and the thing with that, I think Stephen sometimes – with a lot of players – tend to overanalyze things, and Stephen is at his best when he just gets off the ball and goes and I think he's getting back to that."
Once he gets off the ball, Paea can cause some havoc in the backfield, especially with players like Junior Galette, Ryan Kerrigan and even Chris Baker demanding more attention.
"Whether it is run or pass, getting off the ball and being violent and I think he getting to that stage as far as comfort in the system," Barry said. "He is 100 percent healthy so I think those two things in combination are really going to help him."
5. Despite having quite a few players move positions this offseason, Barry thinks there will be immediate improvement on the defense.
Along with the trio of cornerbacks – Blackmon, Hall and Everett – that moved to safety, the team also made the decision to change Trent Murphy from an outside linebacker to a defensive end.
"There are subtle intricacies to every position," Barry said. "Specifically with Trent, we just assessed that Trent is at his best going forward. As an outside linebacker, you rush half the time, you drop half the time. So, we thought Trent is better going that way [forward] instead of dropping backwards. So we said let's let him put his hand in the ground, get off the ball [and] go cause havoc going toward the quarterback and into the backfield."
For Blackmon and Hall, meanwhile, their moves are benefitted by the fact they've player safety in the NFL previously, albeit in limited capacities.
There will be some changes in a full-time move, but Barry doesn't see any issues arising.
"Going into safety, it's a different world," Barry said. "But both those guys have such great football awareness, great football instincts, and the good thing is they're going to get an entire offseason – Phase 1, Phase 2, all the OTAs, they're going to get an entire training camp. So, I think you kind of remember we kind of flirted around with D-Hall with it last year and that was one of the things where we didn't want to do it just for the simple fact we were like, 'Well, let's give the guy an offseason if we're going to do it.' But all three of those guys are doing a great job. It's hard when you move positions, no doubt about it. They have attacked the position change and are really working their tail off."