Chris Culliver knows he and his fellow defensive backs will be tested this season.
That's exactly what new defensive coordinator Joe Barry wants.
In the past, "tested" in the context of the Redskins secondary meant opponents would throw and throw and throw some more because there wasn't resistance. This time, it's because Barry likes aggressive play calling from his 3-4 schemes. That means more blitzes which means more one-on-one coverage. This is what "tested" means in 2015.
“You know, there’s always pressure on the secondary, we don’t want balls over our heads," Culliver said. "At the end of the day we keep everything in front of us.”
While Barry is new, the idea of Washington blitzing isn't. The Redskins blitzed the eighth most in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The trend should continue.
The defensive line certainly has more talent than last season, but only Jason Hatcher is a true pass rusher. Therefore, expect Ball to call for pressure by frequently sending extra men. That means man coverage and less room for error for the defensive backs.
Culliver isn’t worried about putting the focus up, Having a successful pass rush will make his job easier, allowing for more big play opportunities.
“He definitely picks his plays and he chooses the right things to do and what to do at a certain time, so we believe in his calls,” Culliver said confidently of Barry.
After playing four years with the Niners, the 26-year-old signed a four year, $32 million deal with Washington this offseason. The Redskins certainly needed the help after ranking 24th in the league against the pass.
Other changes include safeties Jeron Johnson and Dashon Goldson, who spent last year in Tampa. Duke Ihenacho leads Johnson in the strong safety battle. All three will give the pass defense needed veteran presence.
Culliver’s expectations for the secondary are high. He knows helping to establish a winning mindset is part of his job, as is mentoring the younger players. His résumé includes playoff experience as a former member of some of the league’s top defensive groups in San Francisco. Despite an assortment of injuries to the unit, so far, so good.
“I think it’s going phenomenally well,” Culliver said. “Everyday we're coming out here, competing, and trying to take the next level to our defense.”
That means becoming a true back line of defense while Barry sends waves of linemen and blitzers from all angles toward opposing quarterbacks.