Defense Is Redskins' Top Priority

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Washington Redskins' scouting and coaching staffs will arrive in Indianapolis today for the NFL combine with a plan to look toward rebuilding a defensive unit that had its worst year since the return of Coach Joe Gibbs and to specifically take a look at the defensive ends who will be available in the draft April 28-29.

The Redskins will have the sixth pick, and the top projected defensive ends, 6-foot-5, 260-pound Gaines Adams of Clemson and 6-6, 280-pound Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas, are expected to receive plenty of attention. Both are scheduled to work out Monday.

A secondary priority may be tight end, where the Redskins lack depth behind H-back Chris Cooley. Tight ends work out Saturday.

The team may spend time with offensive linemen, who also work out Saturday, in case it is unable to reach an agreement with left guard Derrick Dockery. For weeks, the Redskins and Dockery's agent, Todd France, have been discussing a deal without much progress.

France said that while he and the Redskins have been in communication and there is still a week remaining before the start of the free agent period, Dockery appears headed for free agency. "We've exchanged a lot of ideas, but we haven't reached a point where we're close to getting something done," France said. He has said it would take a lucrative offer to keep Dockery from testing the market.

Defense is another matter. Last season, the front line produced just 13 sacks, prompting a closer look at college linemen. There are other defensive concerns, which the Redskins believe they can address through free agency.

Unrestricted free agent linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Nate Clements both are familiar with assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams and his system.

First priority is middle linebacker, where Lemar Marshall suffered many injuries. Throughout the season, the linebackers struggled in coverage and run support, and Williams appeared to realize he would need to upgrade at the position.

From all indications, Fletcher, who played for both Williams and secondary/cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray in Buffalo, is a prime candidate. Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington recently had what Director of Sports Medicine Bubba Tyer said was successful hip surgery. The Redskins also are talking with cornerback Shawn Springs about restructuring his contract.

Redskins Note: Workouts start Saturday and feature tight ends, kickers and offensive linemen. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers work out Sunday, linebackers and defensive linemen on Monday and defensive backs on Tuesday.

Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.

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