Q&A With: Gregg Williams

The Redskins assistant head coach/defense talks about his newes players and why he's so excited about his linebackers.

Q: How do Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington fit together?
A: The thing I like about that is I'm trying to have a defense that is linebacker friendly where they never come off the field. I've been blessed to coach three-down linebackers. In this league that doesn't happen very much. If you take a look at the last team I had in Buffalo, those three linebackers never came off the field. It makes you a faster defense. The fact that LaVar and Marcus have rush ability, it does affect protection problems that offenses have. When's it coming? Who's coming? Where's it coming from? I like the fact that our linebackers also have rush ability but have the ability to where I don't have to worry about them in coverage in space, too.

Q: Does that lessen the need for a premier pass rusher?
A: I don't think it lessens that. But schematically we have enough in our arsenal to pressure you. I'm known as a pressure coach, an attacking coach, an attack defense. We'll do that. But you're always a better defense when you can commit to coverage also and not have to rush six, seven eight guys at a time. But we will. We'll do what it takes to affect the timing of the quarterback because we believe that's the source of the passing game's problems is that you have to get to the quarterback and affect his timing.

Q: How important is it to have interchangeable parts along the line?
A: That's huge. I look for that as a coach. I look for flexibility of personnel. Phillip can play left or right defensive end or move inside and be real solid as an inside defensive tackle. Cornelius can play a defensive end on run downs and a tackle on pass downs. Well, he's going to play tackle all the time, but his athletic ability will allow us some flexibility to get out of problems and get out of the game because of injury situations. The better athletes you hire, the better coaches you are. And these guys, their athletic ability allows some flexibilty in the schemes to be as good as we can be.

Q: Are you counting on Brandon Noble?
A: I'm anxious to watch him play, I really am. I liked him coming out. We'll see how he's recovered from all his injuries. But he's a tough guy and the fact that he's a tough guy and has been a run-stopper . . . We have to do a better job against that run and put them in second and long, third and long.

Q: How was Marcus used last year and what jumped out at you about him?
A: He played a lot of situational linebacker where they did rush him and put him down as a rush end at times. But they blitzed him a bunch, too. The fact that he's had good history in Tony Dungy's Cover 2. We have that as a mixer, too, so I like that. And the fact that he has fire zone experience of blitzing as a standup linebacker. The schemes in the NFL aren't that different. The terminology is different. Sometimes there's a technique or two that's different. But he's played in every aspect of the game that we need to see him play. And special teams are pivotal, too. You see your special teams grow and get strong when your linebacker talent and safety talent and tight end talent get better. He'll play on special teams, too. A lot of times the linebackers are the heart and soul of your special teams and defense. They're the kinds of athletes you want covering kicks.

Q: With the corners, will you designate someone a number one or two corner?
A: I always shake my head when I hear any of you guys or any fans say you have a No. 1 receiver, you have a No. 2 receiver, a No. 1 corner, a No. 2 corner. What's that mean? You have to have 11 guys out there. We play a three wide-receiver package. We play a four wide-receiver package. We play a three-corner package. We play a four-corner package. We play a five-corner package. We don't have a No. 1 corner or No. 2. We have to have two corners every single time on the field, unless they go big. We have a solid nucleus to start with. But that is a point on any defense that has to be strong. You have to be strong on the edges and start working on the corners and then your defensive linemen and then back in the interior of your defense. Our corners have to be real strong to hold up in the pressure defenses I like to play. I feel good about the guys we have here now.

Q: But do you prefer putting your corners on one side or sticking your top corner on the other team's top receiver?
A: Sometimes we'll match up guys. Sometimes we'll play left and right. Sometimes a guy matches up against an opponent a little better than he does the next week. Little quicker guys, big tall guys. All that goes into factoring how we'll play them. But we'll start off being left and right. But as I get a feel for them, if we need to isolate a guy on a guy we'll do that.

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