The team's new defensive coordinator wants to make sure he stops the run, the foundation of which will be built on communication and aggression.
The Redskins' struggles on defense in 2016 could be attributed to a number of factors, but were likely symptomatic of poor communication. That's a broader issue that new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky hopes will be the foundation through which the defense will improve in 2017.
"I think it doesn't matter the call that is actually given to them," Manusky said on ESPN 980 this week. "I think they all have to be on the same page and that is big for me because I think as a former player, when you're in those situations everybody has to be on the same page and that is when you have to make plays."
Manusky, who was officially hired by the Redskins on Monday, will bring an "attacking defense" to the Redskins while still using the base 3-4 defensive scheme that the team has implemented for the past several years.
As NFL offenses have evolved and the passing game has thrown more defenses into nickel and dime coverages, the 3-4 model is rarely the predominant formation teams use. For example, in passing downs, instead of three defensive linemen, only two will stay on the line, flanked by two outside linebackers, essentially mimicking a 4-3 style defense.
"It's still going to be a 3-4 look with Preston and Ryan off the edge along with Trent," Manusky said. "You're looking for these guys to set an edge on each side and make sure the inside linebackers know that the edge is going to be set then the inside guys can go strike iron downhill."
Manusky has run both kinds of defensive schemes in his past, but, without knowing the kind of personnel he'll have at his disposal just yet – free agency and the NFL Draft are still in the future – he's spoken mostly about the style of play he expects from his group.
That means a hard-nosed, aggressive kind of football predicated on stopping the run. Washington ranked 24th against the run last year, allowing an average 119.8 yards per game, and in the last two years combined, the team ranks last in yards per carry allowed (4.86).
"I want them to compete at a high level," Manusky said. "We have to pressure quarterbacks number one in this league. In our division you better stop the run plain and simple, it has been like that since I was playing same as you Doc when you were playing. We have to stop the run and we have to run the ball.
"As an inside linebacker, I'm not going to have anybody run the ball on us that's the most important thing," Manusky added. "Because the one thing that it does is that it actually breaks you down. It's like what else can we do? Up front we have to dominate the front, the linebackers take head because you're going to come down hill and start striking iron. That is what we have to do."
One thing head coach Jay Gruden won't have to worry about with Manusky is his passion and energy. During his interview, Gruden learned more about Manusky's attention to detail and organization simply because he never had to wonder or ask about how he might captivate the room.
"He is going to have these guys ready to play hard," Gruden said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. "That's the whole thing I want these guys to be sound defensively and play hard with a lot of passion. I think the way he was as a player and the way he has always been as a coach, his defensives have always played hard and that's what we are looking for."
Manusky, whose voice wasn't hard to find on the practice field last year, seems to already have a method down for grabbing and maintaining attention in the meeting rooms.
"There is a lot of Spark and a lot of Red Bull prior to going into those meetings. You have to have energy when you go in there," Manusky said. "You have to get these guys to play with some fire and some passion. This is a great part of their lives, and don't let it waste by an 8-7-1 season. Personnel wise I don't care who is in the room I'm going to get them fired up and I'm going to get them to play at their best ability they can on each and every snap."