The Joe Barry hire was not a popular one at the time. With teases like Vic Fangio becoming available and Wade Phillips pleading for the job, Joe Barry's hire left a lot to desire for many Redskins fans. Two weeks into the season, the Redskins rank #1 in defense in the NFL. It'sjust a small sample size, but Barry currently has fans retreating to forums and on twitter deleting first-impression criticisms across the internet. So why is the defense so much more improved over Jim Haslett's group? For starters, the starters. The talent.
Scot McCloughan has done a good job not only getting starters but establishing true depth across the defensive line. When you have this kind of depth, you can switch these guys in and out, keeping everyone fresh in a season and at a position that is truly a grind snap-to-snap. Where Joe Barry comes in is how he uses these pieces. Let's take a look at the variety.
S=Sam (Strong side LB)
W=Will (Weak side LB)
M= Mike or Moe (Inside LBs)
Yellow = Starter
Red = 2nd String
Blue= 3rd String5-Man Front
5-Man Front with all starters. Terrance Knighton, Stephen Paea, Jason Hatcher, Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan. Base 3-4 with 1-gap responsibilities. Notice how the DL are lined up between OL instead of head up on them. Redskins run this when they are expecting a run play. They used Trent Murphy in coverage here and they've rushed him from here.
Same line-up as above except Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy switched sides. Why? Trent Murphy is following the strength (where they have TEs/more blockers)(Kerrigan plays SAM too, though). Hence, he's the SAM here. Also, notice Knighton and DL shifted one gap over as offense shifted strength.
Here's the first unorthodox one. Barry has Knighton in the weak-side A-Gap and puts both Ends (Hatcher and Paea) next to each other on the strong side. Barry also had the LBs cheat to weak side in case the Rams run a counter to give Knighton support.
They run the double middle End again, this time with one starter and one back-up (Baker and Hatcher).
Here is all the starters back on the field except Redskins ironman Kedric Golston replacing Knighton for NT duties.
Golston stays while Baker and Jean-Francois join him in their traditional DE spots.
Paea comes back on the field. The great thing about these DL is you're not losing a ton when you make each substitution, most can play mulitple positions across the line and know each other's assignments. Understanding the scheme is as important as knowing your job.
Baker replaces Paea and Preston Smith makes his first appearance at SAM OLB.3-Man Front:
If 5 man fronts are for when you're expecting run, then I bet you guessed 3-Man fronts are for when you're expecting pass. Barry ran a couple 3-Man fronts to drop 8 into coverage. When he did this, he liked stunting the NT with either an End or LB. But he also had 3-Man Fronts and blitzed out of it. Here, Preston Smith can drop into coverage or blitz depending on play call.
Here's the same thing as above except this time Keenan Robinson lines up outside of Kerrigan in a blitzing position. Sometimes he blitzed, others he had the RB in man coverage.
Here's another 3-Man Front but this time it's Trent Murphy lined up outside of Ryan Kerrigan. Depending on the playcall, he can rush, play man or zone from this position. Just another way for Barry to move guys around and create different match-ups.4-Man Front
4-Man Fronts give you the best of both worlds but have weaknesses against both. This is basically a 4-3 Nickel. You Have a 1-Tech (Knighton), a 3-Tech (Hatcher), and two 6-Tech outside rushers (Kerrigan and Murphy). But this is just where the fun begins.
Of course, you have your back-ups come in (Jean-Francois, Baker and Smith) and carry out the same assignments like here....
Here, they are using their 3rd string NT (Golston) but using Keenan Robinson to threaten the A-Gap blitz, this puts pressure on Center to make right call to who blocks Robinson and who blocks the 1-Tech.
Now, Barry takes the NT (or 1-Tech off the field) and have the two Ends (or 3-Techs) here with outside rushers. Smith in for Murphy. Hard for offenses to get a rhythm if they don't keep seeing the same thing or the DL keep doing different things like splits, stunts, etc.
Going back to depth; Murphy back in and Baker in for Paea.
Barry did the same stuff but brought guys into the box like here. DB comes down on the outside to either blitz, or show blitz and drop.
That same spread out DL this time with Keeana Robinson lined up on the outside as well. This stresses the OL to make the right call and althetically get out to block everyone AND prepare for stunts towards the inside.
Barry did the same thing with Perry Riley to the opposite side.
Here is the 4-Man Front with the two Ends again but this time Keenan Robinson is lined up almost as a 0-Tech. He is right over the ball which again gives the OL something to think about. Robinson blitzed from here, dropped into zone and carried the RB in man during the game.
Barry puts Robinson over the center again and this time brings Trent Murphy and Preston Smith from the same side. Another different look.
Now Robinson is causing the same OL stress but this time from between the SAM and the End. Robinson has been outside the tackle, over the center, and now over the tackle. Needless to say, Barry enjoys this piece.
Barry against put Keenan Robinson head-up on the tackle but this time brings Perry Riley into the A-Gap and a DB over the LT. It's very hard to tell who is coming and who is dropping.
Barry even went the unorthodox route of putting Hatcher far out left as a 6-Tech, he moved Kerrigan to a stand up LB and brought a DB into the box. Again, some of these guys are good enough pass rushers that this opens up even more possibilities.
Joe Barry, just like the players he coaches, is settling in and getting comfortable using his tools and scheme. He was much more diverse in this game than in Week 1 and with the talent he has at his disposal, he can keep branching off each concept he uses. But let's not ignore the two large factors that play into the "#1 defense" narrative...
1. The Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams don't exactly have great offenses.
2. The Redskins currently lead the league in time of possession which means their defense has been on the field the least.
I don't expect every week to look like this but this is certainly good start and has already exceeded expectations of some Redskins fans. If the offense keeps producing, Barry and his defense will be able to continue to pin their ears back and add more exotic blitzes/looks. The defense is going to struggle at times but it'll be how Barry responds to it and adjusts that will really measue him as a coach.