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Message to the defense on Day 1: Score

Posted Apr 16, 2018

Nearly three months since becoming defensive coordinator, Eric Washington was finally able to begin revealing his plan.

CHARLOTTE – It’d be too trite to say Eric Washington had planned for this his whole life. But the presentation he gave Monday morning was something he had been plotting for at least the past 12 weeks. 

Back in January, a few days after he was promoted from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator, Washington targeted April 16 as “the most important date on the calendar.”

Why? 

“That's our first opportunity to introduce to the players exactly the direction we're going to go in and to make sure they have confidence in our plan,” Washington explained.

Eighty-some days later, 30-some defensive players packed the Panthers’ defensive meeting room to hear from their new coordinator. Before saying a word, Washington hit "play" on the projector. What followed was a four-minute mashup of highlights and text that introduced Washington’s system.

What determines games: tackling, takeaways and limiting points in the red zone.

The defense’s DNA: violence and effort, scoring on defense, playing smart and finishing.

Those talking points weren't all that new. Washington will carry over much of what was already established by previous coordinators Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks. But when Washington finally spoke, he narrowed the focus.

"What you guys are looking at right now,” he said as the word "SCORE" froze on the screen, “is one of the two highest aspirations that we can have as a defense. The first one is win. The second one is score.”

To accentuate his point, Washington made “score” the day's call to order. So when he called out Thomas Davis' name, the linebacker said “ready” before the rest of the room replied “score.”

Last season, Wilks’ defense scored only once. That was when linebacker Luke Kuechly scooped up a fumble by Jets quarterback Josh McCown. By comparison, Jacksonville’s salty defense scored seven touchdowns.

It didn’t help that Carolina's secondary struggled to make plays on the ball. The Panthers ranked 32nd with 55 pass breakups and 10 interceptions.

Of course, the better all three levels work together, the more effective a defense can be.

“The defensive line has got to rush, the linebackers have got to quarterback the D, the staff's got to teach and train, and the defensive backs need to own the ball when it's in the air,” Washington said. “When the ball's in the air, it's a free ball. It's a free ball, and it belongs to us.”

In all, the gathering Washington had thought about the past 12 weeks lasted about 10 minutes. 

"You've just been exposed to our plan, who we are and the mission. The goal today all the way through the end of the offseason is to perfect the system. That's the goal,” Washington said. 

Julius Peppers?” 

“Ready,” the future Hall of Fame defensive end answered.  

“Score,” the room replied. 

And with that, the first defensive meeting of a new season was adjourned. 


CHARLOTTE – It’d be too trite to say Eric Washington had planned for this his whole life. But the presentation he gave Monday morning was something he had been plotting for at least the past 12 weeks. 
Back in January, a few days after Washington was promoted from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator, he said April 16 was “the most important date on the calendar right now.” 
Why? 
“That's our first opportunity to introduce to the players exactly the direction we're going to go in and to make sure they have confidence in our plan,” Washington explained.
80-some days later, 30-some defensive players packed the Panthers’ defensive meeting room to hear from their new coordinator. Before saying a word, Washington hit ‘play’ on the projector. What followed was a four-minute video, a mashup of highlights and text that introduced Washington’s system.
What determines games: Tackling, takeaways and limiting points in the red zone. 
The defense’s DNA: Violence and effort, scoring on defense, playing smart and finishing. 
It’s not like the ideas were completely foreign. Washington will carry over much of what was already established by previous coordinators Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks. But when Washington finally spoke, he narrowed the focus. 
"What you guys are looking at right now,” he said as the word ’SCORE’ froze on the screen, “is one of the two highest aspirations that we can have as a defense. The first one is ‘win.’ The second one is ‘score.’”
To accentuate his point, Washington told the group “score” was the day's call to order. So when he called out Thomas Davis, the linebacker said “ready” before the rest of the room replied “score.” 
Last season, Wilks’ defense scored only once. That was when linebacker Luke Kuechly scooped up a fumble by Jets quarterback Josh McCown. By comparison, Jacksonville’s salty defense scored seven touchdowns. 
It didn’t help that the secondary struggled to make plays on the ball. Carolina's 55 pass breakups and 10 interceptions were both the fewest in the league and franchise history. That may be why Washington emphasized the backend when describing the roles of each level. 
“The defensive line has got to rush, the linebackers have got to quarterback the D, the staff's got to teach and train, and the defensive backs need to own the ball when it's in the air,” Washington said. “When the ball's in the air, it's a free ball. It's a free ball and it belongs to us.”
In all, the gathering Washington had thought about for the past three months lasted about 10 minutes. 
"You've just been exposed to our plan, who we are and the mission. The goal today all the way through the end of the offseason is to perfect the system. That's the goal,” Washington said. 
“Julius Peppers?” 
“Ready,” the future Hall of Fame defensive end answered.  
“Score,” the room replied. 
And with that, the first defensive meeting of the year was adjourned.