By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was named to the NFC roster for this weekend's Pro Bowl yesterday, marking the first time the third-year player will participate in the all-star game in Honolulu.
Taylor, 23, replaces Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who will miss the game because of injury. When the Pro Bowl selections were announced in December, Taylor -- the fifth pick in the 2004 draft, from the University of Miami -- was named a first alternate. At the time, the selection was somewhat surprising considering the Redskins were collectively suffering through their worst season defensively since assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams arrived in 2004. The Redskins finished 31st in total defense, 23rd against the pass and 27th against the run.
But when Dawkins announced yesterday he would not play, Taylor was added to the squad, joining Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels, who will play in his fourth Pro Bowl.
When Adam Archuleta signed as a free agent last year from St. Louis, the Redskins figured on having a formidable pair at safety. Like Taylor, Archuleta enjoyed a reputation as a hard-hitting defensive back, and the two were expected to be one of the best tandems in the league.
But the season was particularly trying for Taylor, who was disappointed over the departure of a friend, safety Ryan Clark, who signed a free agent contract with Pittsburgh. Taylor, who has a reputation for being an intimidator, struggled during much of the season, as teams challenged him often in pass coverage.
Among the Redskins coaches, however, Taylor enjoyed largely enthusiastic support, with some -- safeties coach Steve Jackson chief among them -- saying that the Redskins' defensive deficiencies forced Taylor out of his traditional role as a run stopper and capable pass defender.
Taylor finished the season with 111 tackles, by league count; the Redskins coaches credited Taylor with 129. Taylor also forced three fumbles. His biggest moment of the season came Nov. 26, when he intercepted a Jake Delhomme pass in the end zone to seal a 17-13 win over Carolina.