Commanders 2023 coaching grades: Ron Rivera, defense and special teams

It's time to focus on defense, special teams and Ron Rivera...

Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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How did the Washington Commanders defensive and special teams coaches grade out following the 2023 season? And yes, Ron Rivera as well.

Yesterday, we graded all the Washington Commanders position coaches and coordinators on the offensive side of the ball. It wasn’t pretty. But I caution you as we turn to defense and special teams, today is even worse. You have been warned.

The Commanders began the season with four position coaches, as well as a coordinator on defense. They had several other defensive assistants. But that is not the way the season ended.

Let's get into it, shall we?

Jeff Zgonnia - Commanders DL coach

Like many of the other current coaches, Jeff Zgonina came to the Washington Commanders along with Ron Rivera in 2020. He served under defensive line coach Sam Mills III for two seasons and then was elevated when he was abruptly fired just before the start of the 2022 campaign.

It made for a difficult transition. Defensive leader Jonathan Allen spoke highly of Mills. One has to wonder if the disenchantment the veteran has recently expressed might not begin with that coaching change.

Regardless, Zgonina appears to be a well-liked coach. But it’s undeniable that the defensive line has never lived up to expectations. This year, even stalwart interior linemen Allen and Daron Payne have struggled to be as consistently productive as they have been in recent seasons.

No lineman is even close to double-digit sacks. Washington has not been particularly good at stopping the run. This was designed to be the Commanders' best unit and it has failed to achieve that.