Manusky puts stamp on de­fense

Gru­den gives co­or­di­na­tor, as­sis­tants au­ton­omy on unit

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

ASH­BURN | Jay Gru­den wants you to know that he isn’t just an of­fen­sive­minded coach.

“Of­fense is my ‘spe­cialty’ but I am re­ally a de­fen­sive-minded coach, just so you know,” Gru­den said Wed­nes­day af­ter the Red­skins or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­ity ses­sion. “I’m a lit­tle bet­ter at of­fense, but I un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is to have a good de­fense, es­pe­cially in this di­vi­sion.”

For the first time since Gru­den has been coach, the Red­skins went heavy on de­fense at the top of their draft and also sup­ple­mented that side of the ball in free agency. The team also re­con­fig­ured the de­fen­sive coach­ing staff to get the most out of those play­ers and to com­pli­ment Gru­den’s skillset, which does lean to­wards of­fense.

The re­sult? De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky and his as­sis­tants have Gru­den’s trust and a good deal of au­ton­omy. With it, they’re us­ing this por­tion of the off­sea­son to harp on fun­da­men­tals.

“I feel like we do have more coaches who are more con­cerned with the de­tails,” safety Will Black­mon said.

By now you’ve heard it over and over again: the Red­skins were 28th in de­fense by to­tal yards last sea­son, and worst on third downs. That could lead a head coach to mi­cro­man­age but Gru­den hasn’t over­re­acted.

“These guys are a good staff and I have faith that they’re go­ing to get the job done and you’ve got to let them breathe a lit­tle bit, let them do their thing and see how it goes,” Gru­den said.

De­fen­sive play­ers have no­ticed their co­or­di­na­tor’s abil­ity to take own­er­ship and credit Gru­den’s will­ing­ness to del­e­gate.

“Jay lets Greg run his de­fense,” said

line­backer Zach Brown.

On the field, the mark of that de­fense, play­ers have men­tioned re­peat­edly, is ag­gres­sion. In terms of teach­ing style, though, two things com­ing up over and over again are fun­da­men­tal sound­ness and at­ten­tion to de­tail — pri­or­i­ties of Manusky and his as­sis­tants.

“We do a lot in terms of the walk­throughs and the meet­ing times. So they’re get­ting ef­fi­cient reps in their heads once they go out to the OTAs,” Manusky said.

This seems to be es­pe­cially true among the sec­ondary.

In­stead of just teach­ing scheme, Black­mon said that Manusky, new de­fen­sive backs coach Tor­rian Gray and new as­sis­tant de­fen­sive backs coach James Rowe spend ex­tra time teach­ing play­ers to rec­og­nize for­ma­tions and land­marks.

Black­mon, who made the switch from corner­back to safety last sea­son, his 10th in the NFL, feels like he’s learn­ing safety fun­da­men­tals for the first time.

“I don’t count last year as switch­ing,” Black­mon said. “I’m do­ing it this year. They just put me in the post last year, man. I’m ac­tu­ally learn­ing foot­ball this year.”

Black­mon played in 15 games last sea­son and made one in­ter­cep­tion, de­fensed three passes and made 39 tack­les as part of a jum­bled group of safeties in Wash­ing­ton. This off­sea­son, the Red­skins brought in D.J. Swearinger to play free safety and moved Su’a Cravens to strong safety to ad­dress their needs at the po­si­tion. With Cravens’ ad­just­ment, and with a group of backups who are ei­ther young or in­ex­pe­ri­enced at the po­si­tion, good coach­ing will be crit­i­cal.

“I think that was one area that we re­ally needed to work with was tech­nique from our sec­ondary and I think they’re do­ing a good job,” Gru­den said. “Tor­rian and James Rowe both are. They speak the same lan­guage and they fo­cus on tech­nique.”

Head coaches get lam­pooned for game man­age­ment flubs but the im­pact of coach­ing, par­tic­u­larly at the as­sis­tant level, of­ten flies un­der the radar. The Red­skins had to go de­fense this off­sea­son and, now that those play­ers are in the build­ing, be­lieve they have the teach­ers, too, to make them ef­fec­tive.

Jones ab­sent from OTAs for sec­ond straight week

For the sec­ond-straight week of or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties, run­ning back Matt Jones was not at Red­skins Park.

Jones, left tackle Trent Wil­liams and tight end Jor­dan Reed were the three no­table ab­sences from the op­tional work­outs Wed­nes­day. While Wil­liams and Reed are ex­pected to re­join the team, it’s un­clear if Jones re­mains in the Red­skins plans as he re­mains away from the team while re­turn­ing run­ning backs and fourth-round draft pick Sa­maje Per­ine prac­tice to­gether. Gru­den said he was still an­tic­i­pat­ing that Jones would re­turn to the team.

“I hope so,” Gru­den said. “I ex­pect him to be. He’s on our ros­ter, he’s eat­ing up a spot. We all know that this is vol­un­tary, so there’s re­ally noth­ing that we can do.

We’d like ev­ery­body to be here with­out a doubt, but at the end of the day, Jor­dan Reed is in Mi­ami work­ing out, Trent [Wil­liams] is work­ing out in Ok­la­homa, Matt Jones chose not to be here, so we ob­vi­ously want peo­ple to work to­gether and learn to­gether, bu it is vol­un­tary at the end of the day.”

Jones was the start­ing run­ning back at the be­gin­ning of last sea­son, but lost the job due to fum­bling is­sues and a surg­ing Rob Kel­ley. Given that the Red­skins drafted Per­ine and like Chris Thomp­son as a third-down back, Jones wouldn’t be in a great po­si­tion even if he were with the team.


Wash­ing­ton Red­skins safety Will Black­mon fields a play dur­ing prac­tice Wed­nes­day. Af­ter switch­ing from corner­back last sea­son, Black­mon feels like he’s learn­ing safety fun­da­men­tals for the first time un­der de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Manusky.


Wash­ing­ton Red­skins rookie run­ning back Sa­maje Per­ine prac­ticed on Wed­nes­day with the re­turn­ers as Matt Jones missed off­sea­son train­ing ac­tiv­i­ties again.

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