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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Brent Vieselmeyer - Commanders DBs coach (fired)

In hindsight, we probably all should have made a bigger deal out of Chris Harris’ departure last offseason. The popular figure had been the Washington Commanders defensive backs coach since 2020 before leaving to take on an elevated role with the Tennessee Titans this year. Two of his assistants were promoted to replace him.

Brent Vieselmeyer had the title before being fired along with Jack Del Rio. It is not hard to see why he was let go.

Unlike the linebacking position, which was expected to be a weak unit, Washington’s cornerbacks were supposed to help carry the team. Veterans Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste were set on the boundary, and the team invested heavily in their secondary during the 2023 NFL Draft, taking Emmanuel Forbes in the first round and hybrid corner-safety Quan Martin in the second.

The results have been disastrous.

Fuller played decently this year, but St-Juste struggled mightily. Forbes had to be benched almost immediately. As with far too many of Washington’s best players, the cornerback position reveals how little the current crop of coaches has done to develop youngsters.

Of course, Fuller was a largely formed player when he returned to the Commanders. The younger guys needed coaching, and they didn’t appear to get it.

What became most distressing this year was how often opposing wide receivers were running unguarded through the Commanders' secondary. The players simply seemed unprepared to handle the coverages that were assigned, and that resulted in far too many big plays allowed.