Josh Harvey-Clemons could emerge under new coaching staff

Washington Football Team LB Josh Harvey-Clemons will undoubtedly be ready to seize his chance for playing time in 2020. Can the new staff find a role that will allow his unique skill-set to flourish?

With the vast amount of changes that have come to the Washington Football Team in the off-season, followers of the team will likely direct their attention early in the season on the new-look defense. Fans have been clamoring for years specifically about the need to change from the 3-4 to the 4-3 scheme.

The defensive side of the ball for the Washington Football Team was addressed heavily in the off-season starting with the hiring of a defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera. The focus on the stop unit continued with the hiring of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and ended with the pick of Ohio State phenom Chase Young in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The additions of proven defensive minds in Rivera and Del Rio, in particular, will be expected to turn an underperforming defense into one that is, at minimum, considered respectable.

Now, whatever the ceiling for the defense will be in 2020 and beyond is obviously unknown at this point. But, the duo of Rivera and Del Rio have been better at coaching and scheming defense in their respective careers compared to previous Washington Football Team defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Before harping any further on how challenged the previous regime was when it comes to defense, it is agreed that players must also live up to their end of the bargain. They are professionals and must act accordingly.

Josh Harvey-Clemons is one of those players on defense who may, in fact, be seeing the new staff’s arrival as a breath of fresh air. He has a particular set of skills that are unmatched with what is currently on the Washington Football Team roster. He can be a nightmare against opposing offenses if used correctly.

The former 2017 draft pick from Louisville has the unique ability to serve in a versatile linebacker/safety role. His size and speed allow for position flexibility, and to simplify matchups on defense. Simply put, in theory, he would have a better chance at covering and tackling a bigger faster offensive threat versus a typical linebacker or safety who is either too small or not fast enough.

While Harvey-Clemons has always had the ability to be an effective hybrid type of defender, he has either been used incorrectly or not shown enough to previous decision-makers to get playing time. His production has been minimal to date. But one player he could look to and hope to become under the new regime is current Carolina Panthers versatile defender Shaq Thompson.

Under the tutelage of Rivera and company in Carolina, Thompson steadily improved his production for the Panthers since being drafted in 2015. In 2019, Thompson finished his best year statistically with 109 combined tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. The Panthers coaching staff, with Rivera at the helm, was able to use Thompson’s speed and athleticism in order to help him become a plus defender rather than a defensive liability.

Harvey-Clemons’ best season with the Washington Football Team in terms of production was 2018 when he finished with 22 combined tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1.0 sacks. Entering his fourth year, he can only hope to accomplish what Thompson has accomplished since entering the NFL. But, at least he will have coaches that bring with them a track record of using players with this type of skill-set effectively.

At 6-foot-4 245 pounds, and having 4.68 40 speed to go along with it, Harvey-Clemons needs to be given ample opportunity to showcase his potential to the new staff. His immense physical attributes, if used correctly, could make him a game-changer for a defense that needs playmakers to come forward.

What we don’t know about Harvey-Clemons is if he has any issues behind the scenes. What we do know is that in the upcoming season, he should have the necessary tools at his disposal to become a better football player. He must prove it on the field with quality production.

If Harvey-Clemons can produce like other high-end versatile defenders around the league, then the team might be able to find more than just respectability on defense quicker than we all would have hoped. He might, however, face some competition during training camp from the recently drafted Khaleke Hudson out of the University of Michigan.

Next: Predicting Washington's 53-man roster for 2020

We’ll soon see what Harvey-Clemons can do. But under a new coaching staff, there’s a chance that he could live up to his potential as a versatile defender.