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Sunday, October 3, 2010
Redskins' 3-4 still a work in progress

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

We knew the Washington Redskins entered this season with a lack of offensive weapons. But it seemed logical that new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett could build on what's been a pretty solid unit.

So far, the Redskins' defense has gone backward, ranking among the worst in the league. Washington Post NFL columnist Mark Maske says this morning that a difficult transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme should have been expected. He spoke to former coaches and general managers who've presided over similar transitions. Something former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly told Maske might surprise some Skins fans.
"All of [the Redskins players] were playing better and contributing more in the 4-3 than they are now," he said. "The carryover two years from now might be only one guy in the front seven, and that's [Brian] Orakpo."

And really, it's not far-fetched to suggest the Redskins could have wholesale changes as early as next season. I was covering the Dallas Cowboys in '05 when Bill Parcells decided to transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The decision was made easier by the fact DeMarcus Ware projected as an excellent outside linebacker in a 3-4.

Linebackers Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen had been highly productive in Mike Zimmer's 4-3 defense, but they weren't big enough to take on massive guards and centers in the 3-4. Coakley was soon released and Nguyen's career ended abruptly because of a neck injury.

I think the Redskins will begin replacing players such as London Fletcher and Andre Carter sooner rather than later. They've been reliable starters for Washington, but a 3-4 isn't a great fit for either player. I understand that coaches have to stay true to what's made them successful, but it seems like Haslett might have been better served to keep a lot of the 4-3 concepts until he could bring in reinforcements.

Maybe it's a cheap second-guess. Or maybe the Skins should've seen this coming.