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Joe Barry Believes Defense Will Improve By Stopping The Explosive Plays

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With a variety of different weapons in his arsenal, defensive coordinator is excited for 2016 and knows the team can improve its tackling.

Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry describes himself as a "windshield guy," which is to say that he likes looking forward and not back. In terms that apply to his current job, Barry is looking forward to the massive potential the Redskins have on defense this season and wants to leave last year's uneven play behind him.

The team ranked 26th in opponents' total yards per game (378.6) and ranked 26th in opponents' rushing yards per game (126), a facet of the defense Barry believes can be vastly different in 2016. While the defenisve line lost some key veterans from last season – Terrance Knighton to free agency, Jason Hatcher to retirement – the team's new additions, on the line and elsewhere, should make more strides in 2016.

Speaking with ESPN 980 on Wednesday, Barry explained that last year's run struggles were disappointing not because the team proved incapable of slowing down attacks each week, but because allowing a few explosive plays ultimately dented their otherwise strong performances.

"I think nothing is more frustrating as a coach when you get done with a game, you have 30 runs and shoot, 27 of them you play really well and then three of them, you give up a 30-yard run, a 40-yard run, you give up a 50-yard run," Barry said.

"In this league, if you look around the league, the teams that play really, really, really good defense, specifically really good run defense, they tackle, they don't give up explosion plays," he said. "So I think that's the key thing. We're not really stressing anything more or different than we did a year ago, but we did that as I said on Monday was the first day we were able to get out there with the players, we started tackling, now you can't tackle each other, you've got to be creative as coaches and come up with different tackling drills, but that's really been an emphasis for us. Stop the explosion plays by tackling better. Let's not give up explosion runs."

With Knighton's departure, the concern for the Redskins was whether they would be able to find someone comparable – both in size and ability – to Knighton last season. Many believed those needs would be addressed through the draft, though the Redskins only took one defensive lineman, Matthew Ioannidis, to ease the burden.

That will likely mean  a rotation of bodies along the line – similar in thinking to a closer by committee in baseball – something indicative of the team's need to be in nickel and dime defenses more often than base.

To elaborate on his point, Barry described the defensive line positions by technique – one (shading the nose tackle), two (shading the guard) and three (shading the tackle) – and emphasized that at each spot double teams were inevitable, and that a player's specific position was virtually interchangeable in his mind.

Check out images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams during their fourth day of Phase 2 offseason workouts at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va

"What's the difference if you play one, three or five?" Barry said. "So you always say, 'Oh my god, you've got to have this big guy.' I want guys who are football players that are strong, that can run, that can play the run when its run, rush the passer when its pass. Whether you're a one, a three or a five, I don't care…we've got guys and I feel good about it, I'm not worried."

The additions of Josh Norman and Su'a Cravens on the perimeter, the development of Preston Smith and Trent Murphy, who is switching to the line, and the explosiveness of a healthy Junior Galette has all factored into Barry's ease of mind.

And with the additions of Kendall Reyes from San Diego (with whom Barry spent time coaching for two years) and Ziggy Hood from Chicago, two under the radar additions early this offseason, Barry is excited to see how they fit into the mix.

"I think those are good additions and they're still young, they're not veterans," Barry said. "They're still in their mid-20's and I think they've got a lot of good tread left on the tire."

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