X's and O's with: Eddie Mason

Defensively, they have to figure out the cap and who will stay and who will go, who's expendable. And LaVar's name is swirling in that mix. It's not highly likely, but it is a possibitlity because they have other guys. And it's been proven that Gregg's defense and his system can work regardless of who's in there.

If Gregg Williams stays then you re-sign Antonio Pierce. Micheal Barrow is a Gregg guy. If he's healthy, then he could play the middle, Marcus Washington has just been to the Pro Bowl and Pierce has the versatility to play all three positions. It sounds crazy, but maybe LaVar becomes expendable.

Most of those guys on the front, except for Griffin and Renaldo, probably none of them start anywhere else. But because of the system and Gregg's ability to recognize and use talent, he got the most out of their ability. It comes down to getting them to buy ideology, to be tough and physical and hustle and do the best things. Those are blue-collar guys. Because of that he was able to take people that had been second- and third-stringers, put them in there and they'd have success. It was the system. Everyone did their job right. Everyone knew what they were supposed to do.

Another reason LA might be expendable? The play of number 36. How many of those guys do you need on defense? This guy, Sean Taylor, is phenomenal. It takes a lot to impress me as a player but he is a true football player. He can hit, he can cover. I watched his feet lots of times in coverage and he's so explosive and gets to the point of contact and he can react. In a goal-line situation against Minnesota, he hit Mo Williams and drove him back. Then on another play he outleaped Randy Moss. Not only that, he crushes his head in the dirt. Think about the receiver screen they threw to Moss and he comes up and Bam! and stops people before the first down and when he hits people they stop on impact. He's bringing everything to them. Sean is that kind of alpha male on defense and how many of them do you need on defense.

Fred Smoot is a guy I have to address becuase he's a great friend of mine. Is it a necessity to re-sign Fred? No, it's not a necessity, but it is a responsibility to the Redskins to sign him because of his commitment to the organization. He really, really loves to be a Redskin. The fans love him, he's a great player, he played hurt and showed his toughness. He's just a great personality. When you think about the Redskins, you think about Smoot. That's a guy you need to concentrate your efforts on re-signing. He's a great asset in the locker room and he's great for the media as well. You need someone like that around here. But it all comes down to dollars and cents. I hope Fred and the Skins come to an agreement. I'd love to see him come back and get a five or six year deal and finish his career here. Those other guys aren't ready to play in that island situation like Fred and Shawn. And Fred's upside is so much greater. He's playing on a Pro Bowl level and I think he'll eventually be there.

But I think they'll focus their efforts on Antonio Pierce. Is he a Pro Bowl linebacker? Some say yeah, but I would say no. I love him too and played with him, but to me a Pro Bowl linebacker makes plays. It's more what you do behind the line of scrimmage than what you do across the line of scrimmage. He had a tremendous amount of tackles, but how many plays did he make behind the line. Not a lot of plays. When you think about Pro Bowl linebackers, especially in the middle, the reason they get recognized is their ability to make tackles behind the line because they're aggressive and play downhill. That's why Marcus was selected. He plays behind the line. That's why Jeremiah got selected. When he was installed, their run defense improved so dramatically that it got the attention of coaches and the fans and he had so many tackles behind the line. That's what they look for. Antonio is solid and he's not going to make mistakes and he's a sure tackler. But as far as making big plays, though he had a couple, he doesn't make many. His biggest asset is his smarts. It's the ability to know his responsibilities and to be in the right place at the right time. He does the little things right. Those set him apart to be a starter. But he's not a dominating force as a middle linebacker.

AP is good at taking on fullbacks, but he's not big enough to take on guards. He's an athletic read-and-react linebakcer. He can take a step and get back to the counter. But when you talk about guys getting on the second level, that's tough duty for him. That's why Griffin, who takes on those double teams, allowed AP to flourish in a defense like this.

I don't want to make it sound like he's not a good player because he is. But to say he's on the level of a Dan Morgan or Trotter or Takeo Spikes or some other guys, it's hard to say that. That's a different style of player. You always see those players on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

But he was able to show that he's solid and could be a starter. That said, he would be very smart not to leave this place. If he leaves it could be a situation where he doesn't flourish as he did in this system. He might get in a system where they don't have a Griffin or people who command double teams. That would be a bad scenario for him. If he's smart he'll stay here. This is a good fit for him and I hope he doesn't leave. He's good for the team.

If LaVar stays, I'm not sold on him as a defensive end. He doesn't have a lot of moves. You think about Derrick Thomas, who was very athletic and played that linebacker/defensive end. But he had pass rush moves. LaVar will try and bull you or speed rush. He's not a pure pass rusher while those guys have moves. LaVar is a guy you have to put in space and let him run around and do his thing. But he's not going to do that in this defense. If he does he's a liability and that's another reason he could be expendable. All I know is that in the past LaVar has not been known as the best student of the game. He's a great playmaker, but not a great student. That could be a liability in this defense. Can you depend on him to be in the right place at the right time?

If they do let him go, they have other playmakers with Taylor, Marcus, Griffin, Springs and Smoot, if he comes back. Why Griffin wasn't voted to the Pro Bowl, I have no idea. He made plays that made a tremendous amount of difference on a consistent basis. He's a force.

I just like his ability. Let's go back a couple games to Dallas and Larry Allen. They had some success running the ball early when Griffin was playing the other tackle. They shifted him over on Larry Allen and I watched him manhandle Allen. He's known for driving people off the ball, but this is where I knew Griffin was a man. Play after play he destroyed Allen. I'm talking about standing him up, shedding him.

I saw one time where he two-gapped him, stand him up in his stance and when the running back committed, threw him to the ground and Larry rolled on the ground. I was like, 'That dude is a beast!' That's how you judge a player. He can rush the passer -- I won't say he's the best rushing tackle because he's not. But he can close the pocket. He can squeeze the pocket to the quarterback because of his ability to get in there and drive linemen back.

But he's a better run stuffer than a pass rusher. He has to be in the top five as far as run-stuffing defensive tackles. I say that with full confidence. He's always on his feet and making plays. He's why AP had something like 5,000 tackles. I would love to have played behind Griffin because the line has to account for him.


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