Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's media session with reporters on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Trent Murphy's early breakout season hasn't surprised Barry.
Early in the offseason, Trent Murphy showed up to the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., clearly bigger and stronger. The wheels were well in motion on his move from outside linebacker to defensive end.
Murphy continued to work with the defensive line through OTAs and minicamp, rotating in with the likes of Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker and Ziggy Hood during passing downs. But once Junior Galette was lost again with an Achilles tear, Murphy moved back to linebacker.
Since, he's been both on the outside and had his hand in the dirt. Despite the constant change in what's been asked out of him, Murphy has recorded three sacks and two forced fumbles so far this year.
"Murph is just a grinder," Barry said. "You know, he really is. He's going to work, he's going to grind, works his tail off in the weight room with Coach [Mike] Clark, works his tail off every day in practice."
The Stanford product has also stayed well past the conclusion of practices, working on all of the fundamentals.
"He's a true professional in the sense that he's always working at his craft to try and get better and you like when it pays off for a guy on game day, you know, with statistically speaking," Barry said. "So, he's played very well, he's got to continue to play very well for us."
2. Having Greg Manusky in-house has made a difference for the outside linebackers.
During his first season as the Redskins' defensive coordinator, Barry's defensive staff featured just one linebackers coach, Kirk Olivadotti.
The Washington Redskins announced on Jan. 22, 2016, they have hired Greg Manusky as outside linebackers coach. Take a look at Manusky's NFL career through the years.
While Olivadotti was more than capable of handling duties for all linebackers (Barry did the same thing when he was working for the San Diego Chargers), when Manusky became available the Redskins wanted his guidance for the outside linebackers.
Olivadotti continues to coach the inside linebackers while Manusky works with Ryan Kerrigan, Houston Bates, Preston Smith and Murphy through constant instruction.
"The fact that Greg (was) available and a damn good coach, we said, 'Hey, let's let the inside 'backers focus, let's let the outside backers focus, have two position coaches,'" Barry said. "And really the availability of Greg is why we did it. He's got a ton of experience in this league, both as a position coach and a coordinator, so he's been a great addition to our staff."
3. Speaking of the outside linebackers, Barry wants to keep all of them fresh.
While Kerrigan would like to play every single snap as he did during his rookie season in 2011, the coaching staff wants to keep him fresh and trust others like Murphy and Bates to fill in for him.
The Purdue product continues to play almost every single defensive snap, but Barry would like to keep all of the outside linebackers in a rotation that will continue to allow them to play top-notch ball when the offense starts to get tired.
"If we can get a nice rotation and keep them and set a plan, 60 or 70 plays, if we can all keep them around 40 plays, it's going to benefit them obviously during the game, but also as we get going all through the season," Barry said.
4. Barry wants to make sure the secondary is on the same page.
With Bashaud Breeland and Dashaun Phillips both week-to-week with their respective injuries and DeAngelo Hall placed on Injured Reserve, the Redskins' secondary will have a few new faces in the starting lineup starting this Sunday against the Browns.
Unlike last year where players like Will Blackmon were brought in on a Tuesday only to be playing a huge role on game day just five days later, everyone in the secondary has been on the team ever since offseason workouts opened up.
"I mean obviously losing D-Hall, losing a captain, you know, we'll have to overcome that. We'll get Bree [Bashaud Breeland] back at some point which will be good—don't know when. You guys know my mentality, you know what we preach. It's the next man up," Barry said. "We don't flinch, we don't stop, the train keeps moving and we got to go play. And we'll play well."
The Redskins may also experiment with how some of the defensive backs are used. While Blackmon is now the team's starting free safety, he may play some nickel corner as well.
"It's a nice luxury to have," Barry said. "Even with the outside guys [cornerbacks]. Not that we're going to go crazy with a Quinton Dunbar type but, you know a guy that's been playing now that's starting to understand a little bit more, you could do subtle different things with him. Josh [Norman], you know you can do whatever you want with him, move him around. But yeah, when you have those—experience, the more experience you have back there, the more things you can do."
5. As he gets "more and more comfortable," Su'a Cravens could be on the move.
It's something the coaching staff has brought up on numerous occasions ever since Cravens was drafted, but the rookie could see more action outside of just inside linebacker.
As he proved last Sunday with a game-saving interception, the USC product makes plays when he's on the field.
"He's got unbelievable instincts and awareness and feel and the more comfortable he gets with the professional game, he's going to---you'll see him just making more and more plays," Barry said. "So, he's getting more and more comfortable all the time. He's still a rookie, still a young guy, still has a million miles to go. But comes into work every day and loves football, loves working at it. I think he's going be an exciting guy for a lot of years to come."
The key now is for Cravens to remain even-keeled and consistent. When he does something good, Barry gives him kudos. But he also makes sure the early success won't change Cravens' weekly mindset.
"He wants a pat on the back obviously like everybody when they do something good but doesn't go in the tank on you when he does something bad and you let him know," Barry said. "But he's…I'm excited about him, got to keep improving, got to keep playing. Peak-perform… play better than you did last week. He played really good last week but play better this week. So, that's the challenge every week."