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Five Takeaways: Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio Addresses The Media


On Wednesday afternoon, Jack Del Rio addressed the local media for the first time since being named the Washington Redskins defensive coordinator. Here are five takeaways from his introductory conference call:

1. Offenses have changed since Del Rio was last in the NFL.

The last time Del Rio was in the NFL, he was the head coach for the Oakland Raiders. He was relieved of that duty at the end of the 2017 season, and he spent the next two years travelling and working as an analyst for ESPN. He always had a vision of getting back into coaching at some point, though, and now he is as the Redskins defensive coordinator.

But the NFL is constantly changing, and Del Rio has noticed offenses are putting an emphasis on spreading the field "not just vertically, but horizontally."

"Offenses in today's NFL and college world, you are seeing college concepts and NFL concepts being mingled," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said there is a greater "need for speed" on defense in order to keep up with skill players. Having defenders like Montez Sweat, who ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, certainly fulfills that need. With that being said, some things haven't changed, like fundamentals. Del Rio said mastering those will be important moving forward.

"I think you want to and have to understand the fundamentals," Del Rio said. "You want to be the team that knows what it looks like to shed, stuff a block and get off and tackle. Those basic fundamentals continue to be important."

2. "Potential really doesn't matter."

A lot was made about how special the Redskins defense could be in the 2019 season. The pieces seemed to be there; the unit had Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan to hold down the pass rush, a group of hungry and speedy linebackers and Landon Collins leading what could have been an opportunistic secondary.

Very little of that came to fruition, although there were flashes throughout the year from young players. With Del Rio now calling the shots on defense, it looks like there will once again be talks of what could be in 2020.

None of that matters to Del Rio.

"Potential really doesn't matter," he said. "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."

Sure, Del Rio is excited about the personnel at his disposal. He and head coach Ron Rivera believe this defense is perfectly set up to make the switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front. But he cares more about results than offseason speculation.

"We've got to roll up our sleeves and get to work," he said. "For me right now, it's just about going to work."

3. Del Rio is in charge of the defense, but he and Rivera will work together.

When Rivera and Del Rio first met to discuss how they want to change the Redskins' defense under their tenure, Rivera made a point to let Del Rio know that it was his defense. Del Rio responded with, "Hey coach, I'd love to have you in there any time you have to be in there with us."

So, Del Rio is in the driver's seat when it comes to revamping the defense, but he still plans on keeping Rivera in the car.

"I think for us, it's an inclusive process," Del Rio said. "It's our staff. We're going to work together."

Del Rio doesn't plan for his voice to be the dominating force on defense. He wants to listen to his coaches, and he told them in their first group meeting that he wants them to challenge each other and share ideas.

But when they leave the defensive room, their final plan of action will be the Redskins way. Having discussions about how to shape that solitary mindset is important to Del Rio.

"'This is not me. It's not about what I want,'" Del Rio told his staff. "It's about what we are, what we're going to become."

4. Communication is an area that needs to be improved from last season.

When Del Rio turns on the tape from last season, he sees a defense that has raw talent and showed flashes of what they can do when they're playing well.

He also sees a group that showed a lack of communication at times.

"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. "The communication, the urgency in getting to the line, the urgency in getting the calls and communicating to each other -- there was an issue there."

That miscommunication originated from somewhere, whether it be coaches or players, but the bigger issue is that it existed at all. He emphasized that the defense has to know what its doing before a play. That has to be the priority before focusing on the offense and different formations.

"[The offense is] 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," Del Rio said. "The urgency in that pre-snap portion of the game, that's huge for me."

5. "We'll respect everyone. We'll fear no one."

Del Rio didn't have much to say about the potential on defense, what specific positions need to improve or even the evaluation of certain 2020 NFL Draft prospects like Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. Most of that involves conversations that he either hasn't had yet or doesn't want to share with the media.

But he did make one thing clear: his defense will play hard, fast and fearless.

"In our room, we'll set our agenda," he said. "To me, there's a mindset that's a part of that. We'll respect everyone. We'll fear no one."