Redskins Notebook

Defense Dials It Back, Tightens Up

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2007

Noticeable in the way the Washington Redskins' defense has been strengthened this year (at least until Sunday's loss at New England) has been the fact it has not blitzed the way it used to. This was always a trademark of Gregg Williams, the team's assistant head coach-defense, who even joked a few weeks ago that other coaches used to say, "There goes Gregg Williams blitzing again."

But even as the Redskins have played a zone blitz scheme known as a fire zone, straight man-to-man and, of course, Williams's traditional cover-2 this year, they have not been nearly as aggressive as in the past. They might be more versatile, able to do more things, but strangely, blitzing isn't one of them.

When asked what kind of defense the Redskins are now, a cover-2 or a cover-0, cornerback Shawn Springs said, "No man, we're in between now."

Last year, injuries and ineffective players allowed for other teams to shred the cover-2, resulting in a collapse of the Redskins defense. This year, the cover-2 is more effective but far more conservative.

"I think I've said this before, having some players and being able to change and vary things," Williams said of his changing schemes. "This week we'll have to execute a lot of things. You have to be able to weather the storm [when things go wrong]. We didn't weather the storm last week."

Williams also said he believes his players will be helped by the fact that they've had to prepare against the top passing attack in the NFL in three of the previous four weeks.

Smoot Won't Talk to Himself

Cornerback Fred Smoot, recovering from a hamstring injury, is well-known for his trash-talking. At a position where most players spend a good deal of time taunting players on the other team, Smoot is something of a master. This week he was asked if he has material planned for his former Washington teammate Laveranues Coles, the Jets' top receiver. Smoot laughed.

"I don't have to talk trash to Laveranues. He doesn't trash talk," Smoot said. "It's like talking trash to Marvin Harrison. He doesn't do it, so it doesn't work."

Coles has been listed as questionable for the game on Sunday with a concussion, though Jets Coach Eric Mangini indicated this week that he believes the wide receiver will play.

Jets' QB Wants to 'Have Some Fun'

Jets Coach Eric Mangini decided Monday to replace starting quarterback Chad Pennington with Kellen Clemens, a former star at the University of Oregon who had one other start this year in a loss at Baltimore. Clemens was asked if he thinks he will be counted on to lead New York out of its 1-7 hole. "I don't approach it like that," he added. "From my perspective it's an opportunity to play and go out and have some fun."

Mangini said he thought Clemens played well in the 20-13 loss to the Ravens and that he has seen steady improvement in him recently.

Mangini Offers Little on Kendall

When asked about Redskins tackle Pete Kendall, a player with whom he bickered last year and this offseason, Mangini said little.

"He was a good player for us and we felt good about the decision we made at that time [to trade Kendall] with what was in the best interests of the club," Mangini said. "It worked out well for everybody." . . .

Redskins offensive lineman Mike Pucillo strained his back and did not practice. . . . Tackle Stephon Heyer, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, said he is feeling much better and believes he could play Sunday if needed. After not practicing for several days, Heyer, who injured the hamstring in Green Bay, returned to full workouts late last week and has practiced fully this week.

Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.

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