Cody Barton is a self-described "flash card guy" when it comes to learning a new system. Here's the catch, though: they can't be in another person's handwriting. He has to make them himself.
Back when he first signed with the Washington Commanders, about an hour of his day was dedicated to quizzing himself on the defensive calls. He'd spend some time with the flash cards, walk through it, then look at how it was run on film.
As good as Barton's study habits are, experience is the best teacher. The first test came during OTAs and minicamp, and the linebacker passed with flying colors.
Barton, who the Commanders signed in March after a career season with the Seattle Seahawks, doesn't like to brag, but he prides himself on always being around the ball, giving good effort and playing smart football. After seeing what he could do this offseason, the Commanders are excited for Barton to bring all that and more to their defense.
"Cody's a bigger man, so...he's going to bring a little more thump in the middle of our defense," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Much of Barton's time has been spent figuring out how he'll fit on a Commanders defense that finished fourth in yards allowed last season. Although he had heard of the unit's reputation, he didn't have much firsthand experience watching the talent on the roster. After watching film from the 2022 season, he understands why he got so many calls from people saying how much he would love the defensive front.
"Those dudes roll off the ball," Barton said. "That's the biggest thing that stood out was the D-Line play and how much they roll off that rock and they cause so much disruption. What I saw was there's...a lot of gaps to shoot, a lot of plays to be made."
If there are plays to be made, Barton proved last year that he is up to the task. He started 11 games in 2022 -- the most he has ever had in a single season -- and recorded 136 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups and four tackles for a loss. All of those were personal bests.
If Barton wants to have a similar campaign with the Commanders, he'll need to master the defense, which he said is slightly more complicated than what he was running with the Seahawks. The concepts are similar, but the terms are different.
Learning the system has not been a difficult task for Barton. Aside from his flash cards -- he really doesn't use them that much anymore -- the staff has also emphasized that handling his assignment should distract him from being a ball player.
"It's not just, 'You have to do this because it's your job,'" Barton said. "At the same time, if the ball's over there, go to the ball. And it helps with the DBs we got and the D-Line we got. It definitely makes my job easier."
And the Commanders want Barton to feel comfortable doing what necessary to make plays because of how positively they believe he can impact their defense.
"He was a green dot guy, he was making the calls," said general manager Martin Mayhew. "We think he's an ascending guy. I think he has a lot of upsides and we're looking forward to working with him."
There were plenty of "first day of school" vibes at the Washington Commanders' training facility during media.
Barton might need to spend a little more time with his flash cards before he's comfortable to call the defense on the field, but whether he ends up wearing the green dot or not, Barton should get plenty of snaps. Washington needed a player who knew how to create stops with Cole Holcomb signing with the Steelers, and considering Barton finished 15th in tackles last season, he knows how to create problems for offenses.
The Commanders believe he can be more than that, though.
"We think he's ready to step his game up," Martin said. "He showed that last year, and we're excited about the opportunity to work with him."