Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's media session with reporters on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, in Loudoun County, Va.
1, The team is taking it "hour-by-hour" with new safety Donte Whitner Sr.
The Redskins landed a veteran safety with Pro Bowl experience in Whitner Sr. on Wednesday, who was signed after David Bruton Jr. was placed on Injured Reserve.
The Washington Redskins on Wednesday signed 10-year veteran safety Donte Whitner. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
As soon as his signing became official, Whitner Sr. ran out to Wednesday's practice session at the tail-end of individual drills, eager to step right in and learn Barry's defense.
"It's exciting when you get a player of his caliber in here," Barry said. "You know, [he has] been a great player in this league for a long time, but it's a crash-course with information right now. We've had this conversation before, football is football. It really is. It's terminology, it's words. He can play a specific coverage his entire career but what we call that, what we refer to that as, it doesn't mean anything to him when he hears that word yet."
Whitner Sr. likely will serve as a backup to Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon on Sunday (perhaps coming in on certain situations), but he's a "pretty savvy" player that will help a defensive backfield hurting right now with the losses of Bruton Jr. and DeAngelo Hall.
"You can tell why he's been the type of player that he is in this league for the amount of years that he's been," Barry said. "But yeah, we'll see. Yesterday was the first day, today's the second day, and we're just taking it day-by-day and seeing where he's at."
2. The tackling absolutely must improve.Everyone is frustrated with the team's tackling through the first four games of the season, a feeling that is only intensified over the fact there isn't a one-fix solution to the matter.
"Tackling is different, there's all different kinds of tackles. There's tackles on the line of scrimmage that we've missed. There's tackles in space that we've missed. There's angle tackles that we've missed – angle being when the runner and the tackler are going at an angle," Barry said. "There's head-on tackles that we've missed. So it's not one clear, clean, specific tackle that we say, 'Hey, if we clean this up, we're good.' It's really across the board and it's been frustrating. Third downs, we lost eight third downs (against the Browns). There were three third downs that we were off the field, but we missed tackles also on third down. And third downs, to jump into that, that's really talking about winning the one-on-one matchup."
So far this season, the Redskins are allowing nearly 60 percent of third-and-longs (seven yards or more) to be converted, well above the league average of 29.2 percent.
"Bottom line, when we have got an opportunity to get off the field, if the ball is thrown in front of us and we simply have to just drive up and make a routine tackle, that's what we have got to stop doing," Barry said. "It's happening too much – the missed tackles – which are missed opportunities, especially on third down to get off the field."
3. Barry has talked to Josh Norman about his potential matching up – and dealings – with Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, a young Norman frequently went up against Smith Sr., a five-time Pro Bowler, during practices with the Carolina Panthers.
But just like Smith Sr. went he was released in March 2014, Norman was let go by the Panthers this past offseason.
Now for the first time since a 2014 Week 4 matchup between the Ravens and Panthers (a year before Norman's breakout All-Pro campaign), they'll face off Sunday.
"I think, fortunately for Josh, is that Josh has a history, has a background with him," Barry said. "Josh was there with him when he was a young player in this league and he knows what kind of player No. 89 is. I've encouraged all of our DBs, you know, talk to Josh because you've got to have your mind right when you go against 89, because he's that type of player. He plays the game the way the game is supposed to be played. He's physical. He tries to mess with you a little bit, get in your head at times. But, he is the ultimate competitor."
While Smith Sr.'s 2016 campaign got off to a slow start (five receptions for 19 yards in the regular season opener), the 16-year veteran is starting to hit his stride, as he hauled in eight receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Raiders.
"I think it's nice that we have a guy like Josh that not only has played against him, but practiced against him, especially early on his career as a young player," Barry said. "So I think it's a benefit for us."
4. As a coach, Barry knows he must be a better teach to get the most out of his players.
Equating the situation to a match teacher that needs to help a struggling student, Barry knows that in order for the defensive unit to improve on their 29th-overall defensive ranking.
"I put a lot of pride and a lot of input on myself to get it done and we're not getting it done right now," Barry said. "I'm not getting it done. So, it's a two-way street. You know, obviously, players have got to play and make plays on the field but as a coach I believe I've got to get them to play better. I've got to get us to tackle better. I've got to get us to win on third down better."
And in that, Barry will "turnover over every rock" to correct the issues.
"That's my job as a teacher, and I promise you, it was worked on yesterday on Wednesday in practice, it'll be worked on today Thursday at practice until we get it solved," Barry said.
5. The decision to release Kendall Reyes was tough, but the Redskins move on with the six remaining defensive linemen on the active roster.
In addition to Bruton Jr. being placed on Injured Reserve, the Redskins released Reyes on Wednesday to clear the way for the signings of Whitner Sr. and Josh Evans.
Reyes was signed by the Redskins during free agency earlier this year, eager to build on his four-year stint with the San Diego Chargers from 2012-15.
But between a groin injury that sidelined him for two weeks and a lack of production when healthy, the Redskins decided that releasing Reyes would be best for the team.
The defensive unit moves forward with six defensive linemen including starters Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois and Ziggy Hood.
"You know, you guys have heard me say before with our front office with Scot [McCloughan] and Alex Santos and that whole group, whether it be on the pro personnel side or the college side, they do a phenomenal job," Barry said. "And, you know, I think the decisions they make to bring players in here, the decisions they make when we do get rid of players, I think Scot is unbelievable at what he does. So, it is a little bit unfortunate when you do have a prior relationship with a player from a previous place but unfortunately it's the nature of the business and a decision was made and we had to move on."