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For Redskins, Communication Will Be Key In Stopping Third Down Conversions


The Redskins struggled to get off the field on third down last week against the Cowboys, but hope better communication will improve that statistic in New York.

For Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry, defensive football is about 11 men working together and being on the same exact page. This is especially true on third down, the "money down," as he describes it, a play that can end an offense's drive and or extend it in spirit crushing fashion.

That latter is what happened throughout the majority of last week's 27-23 loss to the Cowboys, a product of, as Barry laid out Thursday, not being on the same exact page. It's what the Redskins have focused on in practice this week, working on better communication that helps them get off the field quicker.

Through both of their games, the Redskins rank last in the league in third-down defense, allowing their opponents to convert 57.7 percent of the time. Last week, the Cowboys converted on third-and-8, third-and-9 and two third-and-11 situations, three of which were completed passes to wide receiver Dez Bryant.

The Redskins will face another top-tiered wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. this Sunday against the Giants, who rank 10th in the league in converting third downs with a 48 percent success rate.

"Third down is our money down and that's what we're focused on, we're focused on to get better on third down," cornerback Bashaud Breeland said. "As a secondary, we got the same mindset, that's what we're trying to do. They got us ranked 32nd in third down right now and we're trying to be first."

"That down, that money down, all 11 guys have got to be working together as one," Barry said. "The rush, the coverage…it doesn't matter if you're blitzing or playing coverage, whatever,  all 11 guys have got to be on the same page unified to win that down to get off the field. Unfortunately a few times in crucial situations, that wasn't the case…If there's a communication breakdown, if there's a confusion breakdown, that's on the coach to get that done and get it corrected."

The communication errors, Barry said, have come with the initial call. Barry wants to eliminate as much communication as possible on the field before the ball is snapped so that his players are lined up where they need to be and can worry solely about their responsibility.

Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 3 game against the New York Giants Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.

"When we're on the right page, we all stand a better chance and then I'm okay with what's to come, whether it's good play or bad play," defensive end Ziggy Hood said. "If we're all on the same page, I can deal with something bad happening because at least we all know what was going on. When there's a lot of stuff going around and nobody knows what's going on, that's the frustrating part there."

Especially as the Redskins are subbing in nickel and dime packages for third-and-long situations, having the right lines of communication open is paramount. After watching film this week, linebacker Trent Murphy has noticed that the Giants have struggled in those situations and have primarily been taking advantage of third-and-short opportunities, which will be crucial to prevent.

"The more we can pin them on first and second down, get after them, we'll be able to have some fun on third down," Murphy said.

Linebacker Mason Foster knows communication breakdowns will occur and third down conversions happen, but that the team isn't far away from changing those early mistakes. As defensive end Chris Baker said this week, "everyone has something they can get better at." The key is tightening up those small things, and not letting big plays affect their mentalities.

"Sometimes it just sucks that it happens at certain times when you really need it," Foster said. "It's a part of football, I try not to harp on it. Sometimes, everything happens wrong for you and that's what it seems like lately, but you can't get discouraged or drop your head. If you keep thinking about everything going bad or how you can't make a play, then it just keeps going downhill." 

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