Williams Adds Some Definition to the Secondary

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 6, 2007

After enduring a season of pronounced defensive breakdowns that resulted in a 5-11 record, Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said at the end of the season he planned to watch more film than he ever had in an attempt to pinpoint the specific problems, large and small.

In his first public comments of the new season, Williams mentioned a change he will make: For the first time in his tenure with the Redskins, his safeties will have traditional designations. Sean Taylor will be the free safety and LSU rookie LaRon Landry, should he win a starting role in training camp, will be the strong safety.

"I think that Sean Taylor's skill is that he can go so far to go and get balls, but we had to use him in the box an awful lot last year," Williams said. "He can do it all. He can do anything you want him to do. I think this young man can do that, too, and I'd like to put Sean Taylor more in the position to get the ball in the passing game."

Williams traditionally avoided designating his safeties in his system, opting instead for a given formation or call to determine roles. This year, Williams wants to take advantage of Taylor's coverage abilities, especially the amount of ground he can cover in the defensive backfield, allowing Landry to play closer to the line of scrimmage.

The strategy is consistent with Williams's steady distancing from the heavy reliance on the cover-2 and Tampa-2 schemes the Redskins employed over much of the past two season. Last season, the Redskins yielded 54 pass plays of 20 yards or more, many of which were the byproduct of exploiting the seams between the hash marks.

Williams, by pedigree, is a disciple of defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan and a peer of Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher. Ryan was best known for the 46 defense and Fisher the cover-1. During the offseason, some Redskins players have said they believed Williams now has the personnel to use a cover-1 scheme, with Taylor as the lone safety charged with covering the deep part of the field and the second safety, presumably Landry, playing closer to the line to blitz and impact the run.

Another reason some of Williams's players think he has moved in this direction is his confidence in his projected team of cornerbacks. With Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers and the newly acquired Fred Smoot, the Redskins will be able to cover teams capably man-to-man on the outside part of the field.

The shift also provides a degree of context for the Redskins' drafting of Landry instead of a defensive lineman, which was considered a greater need after a season in which the defensive line had just 13 sacks. Landry, however, seems to give Williams the personnel flexibility to play a more aggressive defense.

"He fits in very well with what we like to do in the secondary, especially at a strong safety position, and this year we're going to classify our safeties as free and strong, with Sean Taylor being the free and him being the strong as he works his way into the lineup," Williams said of Landry. "And I don't think it's going to be long, from what I'm seeing right now."

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