Thursday, November 2, 2006
All hands available: Redskins finally have a healthy defense
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Washington Redskins assistant coach
Gregg Williams is asked about his starting players on defense, he
often chides the questioner by saying something like, "We don't
have starters." It's his way of reminding everyone that he rotates
players frequently, depending on the situation.
There was no such admonition Thursday, it was pointed out to the
coach that he will have all 11 of his projected starters available
for the first time this season when the Redskins host the Dallas
Cowboys on Sunday.
"It's been since training camp," Williams said with a smile.
Injuries to Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers, Cornelius Griffin, Joe
Salave'a and Lemar Marshall have caused the Redskins to shuffle
personnel every game. This week, for the first time, every
defensive player on the roster was available for practice.
"It could make a big difference -- everybody on the same page,
and the familiarity with each other," said Marshall, who missed
one game with a severe ankle sprain. "That's what you want. That's
what you go through training camp and start the season thinking
you'll have. With everybody there come Sunday, we could be put in a
better situation to make plays."
The defense has been consistently poor this season, ranking 26th
overall and 30th against the pass. The Redskins (2-5) have allowed
more plays of 40-plus yards than any team in the NFL, are last in
sacks and tied for last in takeaways. No unit -- the front four, the
linebackers, the defensive backs -- has been exempt from blame for
the current three-game losing streak.
Having everyone on hand will allow Williams to call any of the
20-plus packages on his play sheet. Even so, manpower alone will
not cure the defense's woes.
Most of the regulars -- including safeties Adam Archuleta and
Sean Taylor, cornerback Rogers, linebackers Marshall and Warrick
Holdman, and defensive end Andre Carter -- are having subpar
seasons. The Redskins are in a maddening cycle: Lack of a pass rush
hurts the secondary's ability to cover, and the secondary's
inability to cover isn't allowing time for a pass rush.
"Looking at the stats this year, we just haven't made enough
plays and we've given up too many," Marshall said. "That's the
big difference. I'm not really a stat guy -- I think it comes down
to wins and losses -- but when you don't have the stats and you're
losing, you've always got to say you took a step back."
During the bye week, while Williams was re-evaluating the
defense, he gave the players some homework. They had to grade
themselves on a worksheet, examining what they did right and wrong
from their own reviews of game tapes.
"It's good for them to have honest opinions of themselves and
have time to really study their body mannerisms and the tips that
maybe they're giving the opposing quarterback, receiver or
lineman," Williams said.
Players said the homework took only 20 minutes or so to
complete, and Williams said the reports were satisfactory, although
he noted that "some of the handwriting wasn't very good and some
of the spelling wasn't very good."
Asked how he graded himself, linebacker Marcus Washington said:
"There were some bad things that could be corrected."
The Redskins are facing a quarterback, Dallas' Tony Romo, who
will be making his second NFL start. It would seem the perfect time
to rediscover the aggressive approach that made the defense a top
10 unit in 2004 and 2005.
"We've got to come back and focus and take a one-play-at-a-time
mind-set, play aggressively and nasty," Griffin said, "the way
we're used to playing -- and try to get things turned around."<
^Note:@ While the defense is healthy, the offense has several
players hobbling. WR Santana Moss did not practice again Thursday
and remains questionable on the injury report. WR Brandon Lloyd
(shoulder), RT Jon Jansen (calf) and WR David Patten (hamstring)
missed a portion of practice but are all listed as probable.