With the Redskins allowing the most rushing yards in the NFL last season, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula had lofty expectations for his group in 2018. As practices went on, his screams of “I want that ball! Don’t come back without it!” could be heard throughout the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center.
Instead of resenting the second-year defensive line coach’s more demanding style, the group has embraced it throughout training camp.
The defensive line has made it its mission to come out of Richmond better than they were heading into training camp. Showing a strong work ethic every day in practice, Tomsula has been impressed with what every player has brought for the past three weeks.
“Yeah I’m excited about the whole group,” Tomsula said. “You know what it’s like guys, we don’t have a crystal ball. You’ve got to go out there and do it—not talk about it. In terms of the people in the room and the way they’re working, you like going to work every day.”
Throughout training camp, the defensive line’s goal was to stop the run in addition to putting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Tomsula emphasized the importance of shedding blocks and reaching the ball carrier quickly during individual work, demanding that his group does it with intensity. When team segments began, it was noticeable that their drills together transferred over to when it counted.
Even though the Redskins’ defensive line has changed its mindset thanks to Tomsula’s influence, many of the second- and third-year players have instilled it in themselves to put in the work to improve. The work ethic and self motivations from those defensive linemen gave them a boost in training camp, according to head coach Jay Gruden.
"The younger players that we have don’t need a whole lot of tutelage,” Gruden said. “You know, I think Matt Ioannidis works harder himself. Jonathan Allen is an extreme hard worker. If you see Daron Payne work out, it’s almost comical...but I love the whole entire defensive linemen room as far as their work ethic is concerned."
The Washington Redskins conducted their final day of training camp practice Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
When the Redskins defense took on the Jets in joint practices on Sunday, the defensive line helped Washington win its team segments. Having success stopping the run forced the Jets into a number of passing situations. As Tomsula called for the blitzes, the result ended up in favor of the Redskins forcing incomplete passes and turnovers.
With the encouragement of Tomsula, the defensive line has new confidence that didn’t seem to be there a year ago. While the group had a strong outing against another team in joint practices, it believes that there is still a lot of work to be done.
“From my perspective, man, everybody wants to win the championship until you get hit in the mouth,” defensive lineman Ziggy Hood said. “We won’t know that until Week 1. As of right now, make sure everybody is doing their job. Staying healthy is the biggest concern as far as I’m looking at it from a vet. And not only that, enjoying it and embracing the grind.”
Tomsula has already seen the impact of the newest players in his group, particularly with rookie Tim Settle. In addition to his constant energy in practice, the Virginia Tech product had a stellar outing against New England in Week 1 of preseason after coming up with five tackles and falling on a fumble.
With so many injuries last year, it was tough for Tomsula to watch his group face adversity. Now, he’s coming into every meeting and practice with a smile on his face thanks to the group’s efforts during the offseason.
“On the close thing, you know how that goes horseshoes and hand-grenades. But they’re all excited, they are,” Tomsula said. “This is – I know I’m not giving you great answers – but this is a place where you like to come to work every day. You love to come to work in the morning, you really do. The group is working, but now, work needs to be turned into results."