The Washington Redskins' defense was supposedly one of the best units in the league last year.
Coordinator Gregg Williams -- brought in by former head coach Joe Gibbs upon his return to the NFL to re-shape the unit -- molded the Washington a fierce unit that often kept the Redskins in games when the offense struggled to put points on the scoreboard.
However, the offseason was not kind to the Washington defense.
MLB Antonio Pierce, the unheralded leader of last year's defense who said all
season that he wanted to remain with the Redskins, eschewed the team's
offer in favor of a long-term deal with the NFC East rival New York Giants.
Fred Smoot, the team's top cover cornerback last year, signed with the Minnesota Vikings.
S Sean Taylor, poised after just one season to be
one of the league's best safeties, angered Washington officials by
refusing to work out with the team in the offseason, ignoring phone
calls from team officials (including Gibbs) and getting arrested.
And strangely enough, the two biggest additions to the Redskin defense involved players
already on the roster.
Safety Matt Bowen was off to a fast start last
year before his season was ended prematurely by a knee injury, and LB
LaVar Arrington is back after missing almost the entire season with nagging knee problems.
According to Dallas TE Dan Campbell, Arrington's return to the
Washington lineup makes the Redskins much more dangerous on defense.
Campbell also was injured for much of the 2004 campaign, but he was at
the games, practices and in meetings.
"He brings a whole new side to their defense, because he's one of the
best athletes at any position in the NFL," Campbell said. "He's a
player who does more freelancing than some others do. If he has an
assignment, he might not do it. But that's not necessarily bad for
them. He's such an amazing athlete that he can get away with it. If one
and one normally equals two, with him one and one might equal three or
four, you know? He does things because of his size and strength and
speed that don't always make a lot of sense.
"He can go in the wrong gap and make a lot of plays. When he does that,
it could be a big gain, or he could make a huge play that results in a
Pierce has been replaced in the middle of the defense by fourth-year LB
Lemar Marshall. With limited game experience, there's not a lot of film
of Marshall for the Cowboys to study. But Campbell has seen some, and
said he's impressed.
"The thing with Antonio (Pierce) was that he's very intelligent, very
physical and never makes mistakes," Campbell said. "But Marshall's
probably a better athlete. He moves extremely well. Losing Pierce hurt
a little, there's no question. We've only seen one game, and the
preseason games, so we don't know a lot about Marshall. But he looks
like another very good athlete, so they might actually be even a little
Campbell: Arrington Makes a Difference
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