Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Redskins S Taylor's problems are now between the lines
ASHBURN, Va. -- Sean Taylor got fooled twice on the same
He bit when Donte' Stallworth faked an out pattern, then bit
again when Donovan McNabb faked a handoff. A few seconds later,
Stallworth was racing toward the end zone with Taylor trailing
helplessly in his wake, having caught a deep pass from McNabb over
the middle for an 84-yard touchdown.
This was the year Taylor was supposed to be the beast, "the
best player in the NFL," according to teammate Clinton Portis. The
Washington Redskins safety, who was in constant trouble during his
first two seasons, finally had his legal problems behind him and
was free to concentrate on terrifying receivers, quarterbacks and
running backs league-wide.
It hasn't happened. Stallworth's touchdown in the game at
Philadelphia two weeks ago was only the most obvious symptom of
something gone wrong. Taylor is missing tackles, taking bad angles
and leaving receivers open. It's still true that no one hits harder
-- he's hasn't lost his knack for committing personal fouls -- but
it's clear he's not the same.
Through 10 games, he has no interceptions, no sacks, no fumble
recoveries and has batted away only three passes. He's part of a
secondary that has allowed an NFL-high 41 pass plays of at least 20
"For whatever reason, sometimes you have a tough time,"
linebacker Marcus Washington said. "I don't know if it's something
he ate, something he drank, a different hairdo. You can't really
Maybe someone can. If Taylor is playing like he's lost one of
his best friends, that's because he has.
Taylor and Ryan Clark were close buddies last year, and they
made a great tag-team at the back of the defense. Clark was vocally
assertive and would make sure the rest of the secondary was
organized, just the sort of thing a young, raw talent like Taylor
But the Redskins let Clark go to the Steelers, where he is
playing well at an affordable price: four years, $7.1 million. His
replacement in Washington is Adam Archuleta, who got $10 million in
guaranteed money but has played so poorly that he's been demoted to
third string. In addition, Archuleta is the quiet type -- like
Taylor -- and the two haven't been able to bond as Taylor and Clark
"Ryan Clark was one of those guys who could communicate with
him, and kind of put him where he needed to be and tell him what's
coming," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "I think he misses
that, the communication part of it. He misses Ryan Clark. The team
misses Ryan Clark."
Daniels also said the NFL's crackdown on taunting has sapped
"He's not a guy that's going to be loud or talkative -- unless
somebody's in his face," Daniels said. "They took that away from
him this year. Getting in people's face, that was his game."
Other players say Taylor has been dragged down by the overall
play of the Redskins (3-7), whose defense has fallen from ninth in
the league last year to 30th going into Sunday's game against
"Everybody's struggling on the team, not just Sean,"
cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "A lot of guys are not playing the
same way they did last year, you can see it in the results."
Cornerback Shawn Springs said Taylor, the No. 5 overall pick in
the 2004 draft, "is still learning the game of football." But one
thing that Springs doesn't buy is that Taylor can't play without
Clark by his side.
"That would be too easy to use that as an excuse," Springs
said. "Because at some point, he's the fifth pick, he's got to be
able to do it all. The fifth pick, you've got to be smart, you've
got to be athletic, you've got to be able to hit, you've to be able
While his teammates are confident Taylor will recover from his
off year, the coaches can't bring themselves to say that Taylor is
struggling at all. Assistant coach Gregg Williams said Taylor is
"doing fine," while coach Joe Gibbs went even further.
"Sean's been in there every play, and we think he's playing at
a high level," Gibbs said. "When you're not doing well as a team,
it reflects on everybody. He's one-11th of what's going on over
The positive news on Taylor this season is that he's had no
off-field issues. A litany of problems culminated with a no contest
plea to two misdemeanors in the offseason, contributing to constant
scrutiny that caused Taylor to stop talking to the media.
These days, the biggest story in Taylor's personal life is his
baby daughter, who was born in the offseason. Although he is not
playing as well, he seems to be smiling more as he walks the halls
of Redskins Park.
"I'm just happy that he's changed. He's got a family," Daniels
said. "Anything on the field, he can correct. I'm just satisfied
with him being a better guy that way."<