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Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has taken over as the playcaller on defense after Jack Del Rio was fired. How will he approach this added challenge?

Big plays have defined the Washington Commanders’ season. Quarterback Sam Howell has given the offense a new breath of playmaking ability, but high-variance play has throttled the offense. On the other side of the ball, explosive plays have continuously bitten the Commanders.Washington Commanders: 53-man roster projection after 2nd exhibition

Washington is tied to its young quarterback but attempted to address the secondary’s struggles. After Week 12’s Thanksgiving abomination, losing 45-10 to the Dallas Cowboys, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer were fired.

As a result, head coach Ron Rivera will take over play-calling duties.

“It’s most certainly different and just takes a little bit to get used to,” Rivera said. “And again, one of the really cool things has been working with the staff a little bit closer on some of these things and some of these items as we prepare the game plan.”

In what may be his last handful of weeks as the Commanders’ lead man, Rivera has put more on his plate. The first order of business will be stopping the bleeding from the pass defense.

The Washington defense ranks dead last in expected points added per play, largely influenced by an identically ranked pass defense. Against the run, the Commanders are surprisingly adequate, ranking 10th in success rate (36.6 percent) and 13th in expected points added.

They also rank 13th in dropback success rate, meaning the down-to-down consistency has been promising. However, the chunk plays have been so prevalent that they’ve allowed the most points per game and the highest quarterback rating.

As to how to solve those issues, Rivera will rely on doing a better job of putting guys in position to succeed.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting a sense and a feel for what our guys do best,” Rivera said. “And that will come on as each game unfolds. It has its own personality and then you’ve got to be able to match that personality with what you’re calling and how you’re calling it.”

Unfortunately for Rivera, the mini-bye from Thursday’s contest is likely insufficient to prepare for Washington’s Week 13 opponent–the Miami Dolphins. The best offense in football, Miami specializes in creating explosives with its speedy group of skill position players.

The Commanders will need a strong Howell performance to keep pace on Sunday, as the Dolphins present an exceptionally unfavorable matchup. Rivera’s playcalling, even if it is an improvement over Del Rio, shouldn’t be expected to save this defense.

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