By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 18, 2006
Washington Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams seems at times to revel in his reputation for being hard and unsparing. Early in training camp, he said he would have told Andre Carter "good riddance" had he not wanted to join the Redskins. When Adam Archuleta made his visit in March, Williams told him, "I'm not going to chase you out the door."
During the first weeks of the preseason, Williams has been unforgiving in his criticism and sympathy has been in short supply. When rookie safety Reed Doughty was beaten on a trick play in the exhibition opener against Cincinnati, Williams said the Bengals made Doughty "look stupid."
When Aric Williams, another rookie defensive back, was beaten on a fade route in a scrimmage against Baltimore two weeks ago, Williams said that type of play belonged "in the World League."
Of Chris Clemons, the middle linebacker lost for 10 to 12 weeks with a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee and whose career is in doubt, Williams said, "There are two 'As' you have to have if you want to play for me: accountability and availability. Chris suffered from the second one. He was never able to stay on the field."
Williams says he is cold and frank for an obvious reason: Not one opponent in the National Football League cares about the Redskins' mounting injury problems. They don't care about the injuries to cornerback Shawn Springs and backup cornerback Ade Jimoh. They don't care which players lack technique because of inexperience, such as the rookies Doughty or Williams. Nor do opponents care that freshly acquired players such as Mike Rumph or Antuan Edwards haven't been in camp long enough to master his system.
Williams and his coaches have one job, and that is to prepare the players at his disposal as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And if they cannot deal with him, he reasons, they will not be able to overcome the team across the line of scrimmage.
As the Redskins prepare for tomorrow night's exhibition game against the New York Jets, in no area is the accelerated learning curve more apparent than among the defensive backs, specifically the cornerbacks. Williams says he is not just looking for success, but high-quality performances against NFL-caliber players. For this, he says, the timing of the Springs injury may actually help him in his evaluations.
"It's important in the Jets game, and the Patriots game and the Ravens game. Before we make that final cut, we need to see these guys that are also playing now that Shawn's not playing," Williams said. "They need to play against guys who are going to make it in the league, not against guys who aren't. You can see those guys in the World League."
In good times, cornerbacks are the most vulnerable players on the field, and these are not particularly good times for the Redskins. Springs is out three to six weeks while recovering from abdominal surgery. Jimoh missed the Bengals game and will not play against the Jets with a bruised sternum.
Without Springs, the Redskins' top cornerback is second-year player Carlos Rogers. Rumph is intriguing to Williams because, at 6 feet 2, he is tall for a cornerback.
"If you're smart, you have a chance to play. I'm anxious to see these guys from a physical standpoint," Williams said. "Some bigger corners and hopefully they'll be able to fit into some of the things we're doing."
Kenny Wright, the free agent acquisition from Jacksonville, has received some attention for struggling on certain plays -- he was beaten for a touchdown and flagged for pass interference, a penalty that led to another score against Cincinnati -- but Williams said he likes what he has seen thus far.
"We've seen the fact that he has the versatility to play different styles. He's learning for the first time some new techniques because we are so hybrid in our coverages," Williams said. "He's learning a whole new way of doing things, and I think he's taken to [cornerbacks coach] Jerry Gray very well. He had a costly penalty that costs us some field position that he wishes he had back, but it was a very correctable error. He's fit in very well and he'll get more time now just because the opportunity is going to be there."
Williams will also look at Julian Battle and Edwards, both signed 48 hours ago.
"It was pretty good," Battle said of his first day Wednesday. "I'm just trying to get over the learning curve because Coach Williams throws out different defenses and different combination coverages so I'm just trying to learn everything. Overall I think I did all right. I hustled, trying to get in shape."
What Gray is looking for is similar to Williams. He wants toughness, but what will separate the players is grasp of the system. "At the end of the day, football is football," Edwards said yesterday. "This system here has a lot of different packages. There's a lot of terminology and words, but I've been a play-caller before, and I've been able to pick up different defenses pretty quickly. It can be hard on a guy who doesn't pick things up very quickly."
What will decide which players survive, Williams said, is the ability to tackle. He stressed the basics before the Cincinnati game, and reiterated a similar position on Wednesday.
"Every one of our corners is physical. If they weren't, I would have cut them already. I'm serious about that. Look at how much tackling they do in drills under Jerry Gray," Williams said. "I see so many secondary coaches across the country. High school coaches, college coaches, all they do is have those guys backpedal and cover people, and they wonder why they can't tackle. The coaches aren't very good. Jerry Gray spent the better part of the individual drills trying to get those guys to smack somebody."