Defense Talks Aggressive Game

The first play from scrimmage set the tone during the minicamp, an all-out blitz on the quarterback. From that moment on, the defensive players have talked wide-eyed about what the defense can do under new coordinator Gregg Williams.

Thing is, it sounds exactly like what they said they'd do under George Edwards. And Marvin Lewis. Etc., etc., etc. Whenever there's a new change in coordinators, players say the same thing: ``This is an attacking defense. We'll be more aggressive.''

That's not to say they won't be -- and when players have an established coach like Williams, they buy into it faster. That confidence in a coach can make all the difference. But let's not go overboard just yet.

I've heard it almost every year -- this is the seventh defensive coordinator I've covered in Washington. It's the sixth time I've heard players talk about a newer, bolder scheme (I covered Ron Lynn, but came on board during his first training camp). Sometimes they're right and they are more aggressive. Or they're more creative. They certainly weren't in the latter category this past season.

I know Williams' track record. But I also know that much of what he says the Redskins will do, they've already been doing: a 3-4 in pass situations, multiple defensive backs, etc. I also know he'll probably mix and match a bunch more; that's his reputation. And the players say they love how he communicates with them. They also said they loved how Edwards knew them so well.

But Williams probably will call for more aggressive schemes, as he did in Tennessee and Buffalo. He's definitely a bright man and a hard worker. He's also left no doubt that he'll be the one calling the plays -- despite the impressive titles, he is the coordinator and Greg Blache is the line coach.

And, with the right talent, Williams' aggressive style will pay dividends. At some point talent is needed for certain schemes to work, particulary one like this. Washington needs a defensive lineman who can pressure the passer -- you can't rely on Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington alone, or blitzes. The Redskins need ball-hawking safeties (hello, Sean Taylor?) and a middle linebacker.

But here's the other thing about Williams' track record, at least in Buffalo: all that aggressiveness did not equate into turnovers or sacks. In his three seasons the Bills caused 19, 19 and 17 turnovers, respectively. Two of those years they ranked dead last in the NFL. The other one they ranked next to last. Last season, the Redskins caused 13 more turnovers than the Bills. And Buffalo only ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to sacks.

They did give up fewer yards each season, going from 21st in his first season to second this past season. That will help. And I attribute that to his knowledge of personnel (bringing in better players) and knowing what to do with them (he seems to excel at finding the right spot for guys). He's a good coach. It just might take a year or two to find out how good, once he adds a few more players.


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