Rivera calls out his linebackers for being too 'hesitant' originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When Alfred Morris and Wayne Gallman are gashing your run defense, you have some issues. Therefore, the Washington Football Team has some issues.
In their Sunday loss to the Giants, Washington allowed New York to pile up more than 100 rushing yards in the first half and, for the afternoon, let the visitors post a 4.7 yards-per-carry average.
The natural reaction to a disappointing effort like that is to direct the blame at the defensive line. They're the ones who should be controlling the line of scrimmage, after all, especially when they're apparently as stacked up front as the Burgundy and Gold would like to believe.
To be clear, that unit is absolutely culpable for what took place at FedEx Field in Week 9. However, as Ron Rivera explained in a one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay on Monday, he's just as upset at his second level of defenders.
"In all honesty, I'm concerned at the play of the linebackers," Rivera said. "I think it's a group of guys that are hesitant and still aren't pulling the trigger and letting it go and just getting downhill and making some plays."
In both his postgame press conference and his chat on Monday with Finlay, the coach displayed a lot of frustration with how his players handled their assignments. According to him, the strength of he and coordinator Jack Del Rio's scheme is that everyone has a hole to fill and, as long as everyone executes in their role, success will come.
That's not what's currently happening, unfortunately.
"You're going to be right more often than you're going to be wrong, in my opinion, in a gap control defense," Rivera said. "Everybody is responsible for a gap in this style of defense, and if a ball runs through a specific gap and we know it ran through that specific gap and we know who's supposed to be in that gap, we know how to fix it. What we're doing is we're hesitating before we go through those gaps."
As former linebackers themselves, that sort of shortcoming has to be giving Rivera and Del Rio fits. But instead of tearing into his team after two quarters of the Giants loss, Rivera tried to go with a different approach.
"That moment, for me, was more about teaching," he said. "I told the guys at halftime — there's no magic speech, there really isn't — it's really about doing your job. Just hunkering in and doing your job. That's really the truth of the matter."
Rivera has made changes on his depth chart on a few occasions this year in hopes of finding stronger contributors, most notably at quarterback and at safety. Maybe linebacker will be the next spot he tinkers with.
Whether that happens or not, there's now no mystery as to how Rivera feels about the position right now. They may be hesitating on the field, but he sure didn't hesitate in his critiques of them. How they respond next week in Detroit is going to be very intriguing.