May 20, 2024

The Washington Commanders, with a current record of 4-8, have been struggling with one of the poorest defenses in the NFL. Their performance in yards per play, interception rate, and red zone percentage is among the lowest, and they are allowing an average of nearly 30 points per game. After another disappointing defeat, this time against the Dallas Cowboys, Coach Ron Rivera has taken on the role of the team’s defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.

The big question now is whether Rivera can make a significant impact, given that the team is already far from contention in the NFL Playoffs race. Even if he does, there are concerns about whether it might be too late to turn things around.

Rivera expressed his intention to implement changes to the defense, stating, “When I say differently, it’d be from my perspective, the way I do things.” However, he remained vague about the specifics of these changes.

The Commanders face a challenging situation with the second-worst defense in passing yards per play, and they are about to confront the Miami Dolphins, who boast the second-best offense in the same category.

Drawing from Rivera’s previous experience, the last time he took control of a defense was in Week 13 of the 2018 NFL Season while leading the Carolina Panthers. Interestingly, Washington’s current defensive struggles mirror those of Rivera’s Panthers at that time.

Analyzing past trends, it appears that there might not be drastic schematic changes. While the defensive alignment remained similar with the Panthers, significant adjustments were made in the frequency of blitz packages and the use of zone coverages.

This season, the Commanders have been employing man coverage more often than in previous years, but with a middling success rate. On the other hand, their trademark zone coverage has seen a decrease in usage. If there are notable alterations in Washington’s defensive approach under Rivera’s guidance, it is likely to be in the increased utilization of zone coverage.

The objective would be to contain the explosive Miami offense by keeping a lid on it, reducing the instances where one defender bears sole responsibility for a given play’s success or failure.

As the Commanders prepare to face the Miami Dolphins, currently holding an 8-3 record, the emphasis seems to be on fostering better teamwork on the defensive end. The hope is that improved coordination and strategy will help them overcome the challenges they have faced throughout the season, particularly given the -8.5 point line against them in Week 13.

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