Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's Jan. 7, 2016, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1, The defense has to be ready to go to school against one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game: Aaron Rodgers.
Earlier this week, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden described Rodgers as the "trigger" that is the front man for the Packers' sometimes high-octane offense.
Barry believes he's like a well-seasoned graduate of one of the NFL's best systems.
"Well, I equate it to I remember when we played New England, I kind of used the analogy of, 'When you're a true freshman coming into a system, you're learning the system," Barry said. "By the time, if you're fortunate enough to stay at that school for five years, you're a fifth-year senior. You've had the same head coach, you've had the same coordinator. You're much better as a fifth-year senior than you are a true freshman.' Well, I remember I said Tom Brady's been in the same system for x amount of years. It's no different with No. 12 in Green Bay. He's been in the same system. He's heard the same terminology. He's heard the same language because the play caller hasn't changed."
Rodgers, of course, started his career as a backup behind future Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
It wasn't until Rodgers' fourth season that he took over for an aging Favre.
"I think anytime you're a guy that you're going into your 11th or 12th year, that's going to benefit you because you've been in the same system," Barry said. "I think that's first and foremost with him. Then, you put into the fact that he's got unbelievable ability. He can run. He can escape when things do go bad. You talked about the offensive line. He can make things happen when things around him fall apart. And then he's got a cannon for an arm and he can make every single throw — intermediate, deep, whatever — but a combination of those things, when you have all three of those things, then you've got a great player. You've got a Hall of Famer."
2. The team has been using TV footage to help the defense prepare for Rodgers' ability to pull defenses offsides.
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It's already hard enough to face Rodgers on live plays as is, but the five-time Pro Bowler is known for being able to make defenses jump early.
Even in an away setting, Rodgers is capable of gaining the Packers offense extra yardage without even having to hike the ball.
"We have used TV copies all week long, just showing it so they actually hear it," Barry said. "They can see it on our film, but when you show a TV copy, you can actually hear his voice inflection. He's absolutely one of the best. We even went back and he's No. 2 in the league as far as quarterbacks getting guys offside. Philip Rivers was No. 1. It's one of the things that he is very good at. You practice it, you show them, you let them hear it. But still, in the heat of the moment… Everything you do D-line-wise, everything you do as a blitzer, it's about getting off and getting that jump. You really have to be disciplined and get off the ball."
Barry added that the defense "can't go on his leg or the center's head bob."
"You really have to be disciplined and simply get off on the ball," Barry said. "He's obviously – if not the best – one of the best. He has been his whole career. But, yeah, it's something that we educated our guys from day one when we came in on Tuesday afternoon."
3. Barry has been pleased with Preston Smith's recent upswing.
Barry talked at the beginning of the season how Smith had all the talent that it takes to be a playmaker in the NFL, the Mississippi State product just needed to learn how to be a pro.
And did he ever at the end of the season, as the rookie linebacker tallied five sacks over the last three games.
He was voted as Week 16's Rookie of the Week and finished the season with the most sacks among all rookies with eight.
"Great kid, first of all, came in here very eager, very excited, has all the tools," Barry said. "The thing that we talked about every time we talked about Preston in here is just being consistent. That's the thing when you're a professional football player, it's finding that consistency. You can't have one week good, one week down. It's hard for rookies. It's hard for young guys. It's so completely different than anything that they've experienced in their college years. I think the thing with Preston, and I take my hat off to him, is we've coached him and we've coached him hard."
Barry said the staff was constantly "on [Smith's] butt," pushing him to get things right.
"He's starting to get it," Barry said. "Every rookie hits that little rookie wall. Some guys do it early, some guys do it middle, some guys do it late. It's the National Football League, man. It's a grind. I think he was feeling that a little bit early on, maybe about the middle of the season and he pushed through it and kept working, kept grinding. He's played well the last quarter of the season. We're going to need him to play well obviously moving into the playoffs."
4. Recently signed Cary Williams can play "anywhere."
While it was a great game for the Redskins last Sunday in their victory over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium – the first-team offense excelled while backups shined with extended reps – Washington lost one of its most consistent players of the season in rookie Kyshoen Jarrett.
Jarrett was injured in the first quarter and has since been placed on season-ending Injured Reserve.
To make up for his absence, the team signed Williams, an eight-year veteran who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
No, Williams doesn't have much time to adjust entering the Redskins' biggest game in years, but he does have playoff experience on his side.
"I know you guys understand, there's a huge difference between a guy that is on the street that has limited experience and a guy that's on the street that has played a bunch of football," Barry said. "It's nice when you do bring those guys in that have played a bunch of ball because they understand. They get it. There isn't much that they haven't seen. Cary is definitely in that. It's always, the hardest thing is simply the terminology. It could be something that's simple from a coverage stand point that in his mind he equates that to apples but we call it oranges. So, I mean, he's got to flip that in his brain. He understands the technique, he understands the concept but when he hears the word, it's got to click and say, 'OK, this is man-free, this is quarters, this is three-deep.'"
Barry added that Williams' experience won't limit him to just playing one spot.
"He's a guy that has played a bunch of ball in this league," Barry said. "He's started a bunch of games. He's played in a bunch of big games. He's played high-level football. He's been great. He's come in here and gone right to work. He had two really good practices yesterday and today."
5. The defense is handling the added pressure well right now.
The Sunday afternoon matchup will be the marquee game of this weekend's Wild Card Round action, as eyes across the country will be watching the action from FedExField.
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While Kirk Cousins will get a bulk of the attention on the offensive side of the ball, how the Redskins defense handles Aaron Rodgers will be a focal point.
"Well, I've told you guys since day one that I've thought that's been a strength of ours," Barry said of the defense being able to handle extra pressure. "I remember the first time I talked to you guys in OTAs, it was the veteran leadership that we had and the veteran leadership that we had in each room. Whether it was the D-line, the linebackers, the DBs, we have very, very good guys, not only good football players, but great people, great mentors, great guys for young guys to look up. And I tell the guys, I remember we talked about Preston Smith, the first thing I told him was, 'If you don't know what to do, watch Ryan Kerrigan. If you don't know how to act in a meeting, watch Kedric Golston, watch Jason Hatcher. See how these guys work. See what they do in the weight room on a daily basis. See how they got about an individual period before practice.'"
While the veterans are in a spot they've already experienced at least once in their careers, the unit has a lot of youth that have yet to play in a playoff game.
But Barry believes their character counterbalances their inexperience.
"I think, I can go on and on and I can brag about the veteran leadership that we have on this team, but let alone on this defense," Barry said. "It's helped young guys. It's helped the Quinton Dunbars. It's helped the Preston Smiths come up. Even a guy like Will Compton, who's a young guy, to see those guys and be around those guys on a daily basis, that's huge, man. That's huge."