Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry's media session with reporters on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, in Loudoun County, Va.
1. The Bye Week gave the defense a good chance to rest.
After a rare tie against the Cincinnati Bengals and long flight back to the United States last week, the Redskins were able to get a few days away from the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park and watch the games last Sunday instead of playing in one.
It gave everyone, including the defense, the opportunity to relax and recharge for the final eight weeks of the season.
"I mean, I've never been a part of a bye that isn't at the perfect time, but I think right at the halfway mark, this truly was perfect," Barry said. "Especially after the London trip, coming home from that, it was much needed. Well needed for the players especially, just to let them get away and rest. The grind of the season obviously has taken its toll, so it was good for them, it really was. And it was good for us as coaches just to be able to go back and refocus on ourselves, refocus on our future opponents coming up. So it was outstanding. It was a perfect time for a bye."
Among those that were able to rest were safeties Duke Ihenacho (concussion) and Will Blackmon (thumb). Both, according to Barry, would have been "highly questionable" had the Redskins had a game last weekend.
"Duke, I think, is fine," Barry said. "We practiced on Monday and Duke was full-tilt. Obviously he had a great day yesterday. Will was a little… he practiced yesterday, he was fine. I think today, tomorrow will be telling a little bit. But they both practiced, they both are ready to go, and I don't foresee them having any issues on Sunday playing."
2. Will Compton is a "self-made guy" who earned his spot as a starter and a leader.
It is the kind of story Barry likes to tell.
Undrafted out of Nebraska, Compton had to wait and wait to get his chance at significant playing time. That came in 2015 for an injured Keenan Robinson in the starting lineup. He's since stayed there over Washington's last 17 games including the team's Wild Card Round game against the Green Bay Packers in January.
Not only that, Compton is the defensive captain and a player almost anyone in the locker room can relate with in some way.
"You can come up the hard way, undrafted, make the team, be on the practice squad, grind, show up every day, work and become a starter in this league. That's the great thing about this league," Barry said in reference to Compton. "But just a football player, a student of the game, obviously plays the game above the neck, which when you play that position, you've got to do it. It's not only relying on physical, God-gifted ability, it's mental. Part of the game, especially playing that – I refer to the Mike linebacker on defense as the quarterback – no different than the quarterback on offense. You've got to play the mental aspect of it. You've got to play the chess match and Will is outstanding with that – getting everybody lined up, communicating both to the D-line in front of him, the backers next to him, the DBs behind him. He does a wonderful job with that."
Compton's rise as a vocal leader has been essential for the defensive unit, too.
"When there's success, it usually is the failure of communication or a breakdown on the other side of the ball. So, I think he's… not to say we haven't had ultimate success on every play, but when you have a guy that gets everybody lined up, all 11, all 11 people in sync, it gives you a chance to be successful. And when you have a quarterback on either side of the ball that does that, it gives you that chance. And Will's excellent at that. He's our glue that keeps everyone together."
3. Su'a Cravens' No. 1 love is football.
Check out images of safety Su'a Cravens during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
"Su'a is a gym rat. He loves football. He loves working at it. He loves practicing."
Even though Cravens has played just six regular season games in his nascent career, it is clear to Barry that the 21-year-old has a true passion for the game that not everyone possesses.
"I think he's got an incredibly bright future just because he's a really good football player, but he's a football player that likes football, he likes to work at it," Barry said. "He wants to get better. He's going to force himself to get better. And, as a young player, the only way to get better, you've got to be available. So that was a little bit of a setback for him, but he's rolling right now and hungry and eager and excited and mainly healthy."
While Cravens is listed as a safety on the roster, all of his work to date has been at inside linebacker. The potential remains for him to get reps at safety and, really, all over the field if possible.
"We have different packages, we have different ways to do that," Barry said. "I think we were on our way to creating that. The injury kind of stunted that a little bit. Absolutely, it's always a good thing when you've got a number of productive players that you can get on the field at the same time. So, yes, absolutely we'll do that."
4. Barry expects Preston Smith's numbers to rise.
After finish the 2015 season with an NFL-high eight sacks among rookies, there was a lot of optimism about where his sack total would go during his second year.
Through eight games, Smith's made some plays, but the sacks simply haven't come just yet. His 1.5 sacks are fourth on the team behind Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy and Chris Baker.
That doesn't mean his season has been a lost cause, though. In fact, Barry likes the way he's been playing.
"Sometimes with pass rushers that is a little misleading is that you can affect the quarterback without having the sexy numbers," Barry said. "I think Preston has done that. Now, in addition to affecting the quarterback with hurries and hits and harassments, we obviously want the numbers as well. We want the sacks, as does Preston. He kind of had a similar start last year where he really came on the second half of the season. I think all those guys are doing a good job. But absolutely, we want pure numbers out of them – as do they."
5. Barry remembered all of Jordan Hill's positive traits during the 2013 NFL Draft process.
Earlier in the week, the Redskins added to their defensive line depth with the addition of Hill, a 2013 third-round pick with the Seahawks. Current Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan, of course, was with Seattle that season.
During the months leading up to the 2013 draft, Barry – then the San Diego Chargers' linebackers coach – got the chance to meet Hill. Three years after their initial encounter, Barry was reminded of what the Penn State product brings to the table after he was in for a workout with the Redskins.
"I remember Jordan coming out of Penn State a few years ago when he was a third rounder for Seattle and obviously liked his ability coming out," Barry said. "[He is] what I kind of refer to as a 'juice guy' as far as coming off the ball. Not the biggest, most dominant defensive lineman but that's not his game. His game is getting off the ball, causing havoc, pass rusher. Obviously Scot had a great feel for him being in Seattle with him. We brought him in a few weeks ago and worked him out and then Scot and his crew pulled the trigger on him and brought him in."
The Redskins will figure out in the coming days exactly how Hill fits along the defense live, but the defensive coordinator is happy to have him on the roster.
"We'll keep looking at him and see what he brings to the table," Barry said.