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Washington Commanders fire defensive line coach Sam Mills III

Matt Johnson

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera announced Tuesday that he has fired defensive line coach Sam Mills III effective immediately.

Mills joined the franchise in 2020 when Washington hired Rivera as its head coach. The 44-year-old previously served as the Panthers defensive line coach (2018-’19) and assistant defensive line coach (2011-’18).

Related: Ron Rivera admits ‘accuracy’ issues for Washington Commanders QB Carson Wentz

Rivera also announced that assistant Jeff Zgonina will take over the position. Zgonina, a former NFL player (1993-’09), joined the Commanders’ coaching staff in 2020. Before that, he previously served as an assistant with the Houston Texans (2013), New York Giants (2016) and San Francisco 49ers (2017-’18).

“At the end of the day it’s sad. I think me and coach Sam were getting along really well. We were really making some progress as a defensive unit. It’s the NFL. People just got to remember it’s a great game but a terrible business.'”

Washington Commanders defensive lineman Jonathan Allan on firing of Sam Mills III (H/T Nicki Jhabvala)

Mills III is the son of Sam Mills, the former New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers linebacker who was just inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Why the Washington Commanders fired their defensive line coach

NFL: Washington Football Team Minicamp
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Many expected Washington’s defense to be one of the best in the NFL last season. However, a unit rich with talent on the defensive line and with heavy investment into the secondary was a massive disappointment.

The Commanders ranked 19th in hurry rate (10.2%), 18th in pressure rate (24.2%) and 17th in sacks (38). It was a significant underachievement for a group that boasts three first-round picks (Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne) and outstanding edge rusher Montez Sweat.

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Young is currently sidelined as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last season. However, the remainder of Washington’s defensive line is healthy and has still struggled thus far. Ultimately, Rivera saw enough and decided a change was necessary.