Here's five takeaways from Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's appearance on ESPN 980's "Cooley And Kevin" on Thursday, March 16, 2017.
1, Manusky is a "pressure guy" when it comes to his defensive philosophy. That's why he believes the defense will improve in 2017 under his guidance.
Returning to the role of defensive coordinator after previous experience in the role with the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers, Manusky wants to bring an attacking mentality back to Washington's defense.
"I think most of the games are won in two-minute situations," Manusky said. "It could always come down to a field goal or touchdown. The last couple of years when I was in Indy, I spent too many hours on two-minute and third-down situations. You learn over the years how to attack the protections that teams were giving you. I'm going to try to put the guys in the best position possible to defeat their man and make a play."
Washington's defense is still in the process of being reconstructed, as defensive ends Chris Baker – signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ricky Jean Francois – released – have departed while Terrell McClain, Stacy McGee and D.J. Swearinger have been picked up in the last week.
While the Redskins will continue to seek veteran additions in free agency, Manusky's hope is that quite a few of the team's 10 picks in this year's draft will be used on defensive players.
"When we get to it we are going to build this team through the draft more," Manusky said. "In free agency, its guys who fill a need for us and last year we didn't play good enough upfront. The running game wasn't good enough even in the passing game it wasn't. With both these guys, Stacy McGee is a talented guy with good movement skills and a long player that can press the pocket by beating tackles and guards. With McClain the same thing, gives me jump. He has a little bit of juice and waggle inside, so he can get out the quarterback. He has heavy hands that he can lay on blockers and can post on the double teams which is great for him."
2. Manusky thinks Su'a Cravens and Swearinger will work well together at safety.
The Redskins will have a new set of safeties to work with for the upcoming season, with Cravens moving back to the position he played in college after a year at inside linebacker and Swearinger plucked from the Arizona Cardinals in free agency.
Check out these photos of safety D.J. Swearinger.
While the two have some similarities, Manusky envisions a tandem that will help the defensive backfield make more plays in 2017.
"Swearinger when he was in Arizona -- he was in Houston for a number of years -- played mostly the dime position, which is the dime position," Manusky said. "And then he would move back to the back end. He is a safety and a hard-hitting guy who can play in space. He can cover in situations but overall he is a veteran that knows angles and knows his site line. It will help Su'a a little bit who is going to be playing safety. 'I've got a veteran guy back there who has some speed who is a downhill guy that can tackle in space,' which is what we are looking for."
Cravens will play closer to the line while Swearinger will be the deep safety.
"You usually have a guy who is more of a box player, which would be Su'a, and put Swearinger back in the post," Manusky said. "He can track the ball and make plays. That is what he did a good job last year in Arizona."
3. The hope is that DeAngelo Hall will want to return for a 14th NFL season.
Even though it appears, for now, that Swearinger and Cravens will be the starting safeties entering the 2017 season, the Redskins hope to have their senior-most member of the secondary back in the fold.
That player, of course, is DeAngelo Hall, who has been with the Redskins since being signed midway through the 2008 season.
Hall moved to safety full-time in 2015 after nearly 12 seasons as one of the most productive cornerbacks in the NFL.
With natural abilities still there, coupled with an extensive knowledge for the game, Hall was expected to make a seamless transition to safety. But just three games into last season, Hall suffered a torn ACL.
It was his third injured-plague campaign in a row.
"I think it is basically up to him," Manusky said. "I don't know how his rehab has been going. I think across the board we would like to have him back to see what he still has. He is a veteran guy that can lead on the backend. We are looking for as many leaders as humanly possible. It's hard when you don't have that pure go to leader on the back end that guys can rely on. Usually it comes from that safety position and D Hall would be one of them."
4. Stacy McGee will play defensive end, while several nose tackles on the roster will get their chance to grab a spot in the rotation.
While McGee played defensive tackle during his four seasons in the Oakland Raiders' 4-3 scheme, the recently signed Oklahoma product will play defensive end in Washington's defense.
Check out these photos of DT Stacy McGee.
"He has the length for the left end position and he very similar to players in the league that are tackles with that size," Manusky said. "I'm not saying he is the best tackle, but from the offensive side the left tackle is better. He can press the pocket and is long and has a little juice to him. Right now we might be in a situation where we are looking for a nose in the draft."
The Redskins have options currently on the roster for nose tackle, too.
"Right now we have [A.J.] Francis, Joey [Mbu] and Phil Taylor Sr., so we have those three guys in the mix to see how that pans out," Manusky said. "Francis is a big cat that has good hip flexion, his ankle's he can bend and the same with Joey. Phil Taylor, I don't know much about him. He was in here for a workout last year and he looked pretty dang good. Jim [Tomsula] does a great job upfront getting those guys to play that nose. All the stuff from the inside, Jimmy is one of the best."
As for another young defensive lineman, Manusky thinks Anthony Lanier II "has that wiggle" to make plays.
"Right now he is 290 and I think last year he was in the 270s," Manusky said. "The world is right in front of him and he could pick it up and really excel at it. He will be in backup positions and he will be in our system in the third down situations."
Read More: Five Things To Know About Stacy McGee
5. It's not about individual production for Manusky. He wants a collective performance each and every week.
Manusky said he often shares the message of "it's about us" to his players.
As he leads a defense that includes top-tier players such as Josh Norman and Ryan Kerrigan, Manusky knows that it will take 11 plays working together every play for the defense to experience marked improvements in 2017.
"It's important that it starts out about us," Manusky said. "I tell them all the time, I don't care what the call is, I just want them to be on the same page across the board. Out of the 60 snaps they got, let's be on the same page because at least we can play something.
"The one thing that I dislike more than anything, 'I didn't get the call,' I hate that. That is a major factor for me as a coach, make sure we are all on the same page. I don't care of what it is, it could be a cover three, a cover six or a fire zone, I don't care, just be on the same page."