Washington Commanders Jul 29, 2022; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Commanders players’ helmets rest on the field during day three of training camp at the Park in Ashburn. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

As the start of the 2022-23 NFL season approaches, the Washington Commanders are making a major change to their coaching staff. Head coach Ron Rivera announced on Tuesday that he has fired defensive line coach Sam Mills III.

The surprising news comes after the Commanders had already begun preseason camp, nearly a month before the start of the 2022-23 season. Rivera said he made the decision to fire Mills himself without consulting players and that the decision was due to philosophical differences.

“I made a change on the coaching staff,” Rivera told reporters on Tuesday, according to Fox News. “I relieved Sam Mills of his duties. Just a different philosophy for the most part. And we’ll go from there.”

With Mills out, Rivera announced that Jeff Zgonina, a longtime NFL defensive tackle, would take over as the team’s new defensive line coach.

Rivera and Mills had previously spent many years working together. Mills coached alongside Rivera with the Carolina Panthers from the 2011 season through 2019. He then rejoined Rivera with the Commanders in January 2020.

“Very difficult. I’ve known Sam a long time, and (he’s) a very good football coach,” Rivera said of his decision to fire Mills, according to NFL.com. “And I really appreciate everything that he’s done. He helped us win the division the first year, and things got tough last year. There were some things I felt I wanted to change.”