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Williams Will Not Hold Anything Back

Defensive Guru Expected to Make an Impact

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H06

On the first play of minicamp in March, Gregg Williams -- the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense -- rushed everyone but his reserves against Joe Gibbs's offense. The stunt wasn't that farfetched based on watching the Redskins in preseason -- blitzing on most plays and from almost every angle or position.

Gibbs's return has overshadowed the presence of Williams, who was hired partly to help Gibbs adjust to the modern NFL. Williams oversees a defense that has been revamped since finishing 25th among the league's 32 teams last season. At 46, Williams had head coaching experience with the Buffalo Bills and is known for his creative, versatile and attacking defense. Still, he figures to be tested in the NFC East, with a Murderers' Row of smart defensive head coaches in Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants, Bill Parcells of the Dallas Cowboys and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles.

_____ NFL '04 _____
With what may be the most talented group of receivers the NFL has ever seen, look for the game to be more wide open than ever this season.
Officials will put teeth in a rule prohibiting a defender from impeding a receiver more than five yards downfield.
How the rule is to be interpreted.
Darrell Green knows a thing or two about receivers and shares his all-time top five.
Receivers should get a big boost from the rule modification.
Don't call it the T.O. rule or the Joe Horn rule, but expect a crackdown on TD celebrations.
A WR's tools of the trade
Top 5 end zone celebrations
The NFL's top 10 storylines of '04
News Graphic: The evolution of the modern day wide receiver (PDF)

_____The Redskins_____
Joe Gibbs returns to the sideline knowing a modification of the ruled will have a major impact on his approach to the passing game.
Gregg Williams oversees a defense that has been revamped since finishing 25th among the league's 32 teams last season.
The Eagles appear to be the class of the NFC East, which may be on the way back after having fallen on lean times the past eight years.
Offensive depth chart
Defensive depth chart

_____The Ravens_____
While not flashy, wide receiver Kevin Johnson could be the key to opening up Baltimore's offense.

_____Team Previews_____
In predicted order of finish

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins
New York Giants

NFC South
New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Atlanta Falcons

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams
San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals

AFC East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans
Houston Texans

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns

AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

Each of the division teams has undergone personnel changes guaranteed to make life difficult for a defensive coordinator. One of Williams's biggest challenges comes because Philadelphia boosted its offense by adding Pro Bowl wideout Terrell Owens to give quarterback Donovan McNabb a top receiver.

"The guy may make 15 plays a game that most people wouldn't make," Gibbs said. "Their whole style of offense is geared around him, which makes it extremely tough. Now they add a great receiver to it."

The Giants traded with the San Diego Chargers to get the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, quarterback Eli Manning, who lost a starting competition with Kurt Warner, an offseason acquisition. Warner has a special target in tight end Jeremy Shockey.

Wideout Keyshawn Johnson, reunited with Parcells after leaving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will catch passes from quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

Despite the infusion of talent, the Redskins say the NFC East is no more of a defensive challenge than other divisions.

"Each offense you see, if it's in the NFC East, North, West, it doesn't matter," said Greg Blache, Washington's de facto defensive line coach. "They're all going to have quality athletes. They're going to have their personalities. I don't think there are defensive challenges unique to the NFC East."

Willliams's schemes include traces of former Redskins coach George Allen and former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan. And Williams's blitz-happy defense should mesh well in the NFC East, where Dallas and Philadelphia share his kill-the-quarterback attitude. The three teams employ a 4-3 defense -- four defensive linemen and three linebackers -- as a base formation.

"He's going to fit right in with the NFC East," Redskins offensive coordinator Don Breaux said of Williams. "They try to exert their will over the offense. They're relentless coming after you."

During Williams's three-year stint in Buffalo, the defense improved each year, finishing as the NFL's No. 2 ranked defense. But turnovers were a problem in Buffalo.

Williams is known for using multiple rotations among his position units to sustain energy and disguising schemes by moving players into different sets, which makes it difficult to detect where blitzes come from.

He uses 16 formations -- an amalgam of groupings in passing situations, specifically third downs. One quirky formation is a 3-3-5 -- three defensive ends, three linebackers and five defensive backs. (In this formation, one linebacker is used as a down lineman -- a role that LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington will play.) And Williams occasionally gets esoteric with a 2-3-6 or 4-2-5.

Those schemes will have to reverse the Redskins' recent history. They've lost 12 of their past 13 against the Cowboys, five straight against the Eagles and five of their past seven against the Giants.

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