By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 23, 2009
Hobbled by injuries during his first season with the Washington Redskins, defensive end Jason Taylor plans to return to the team and is "ready to roll," his agent said last night.
"It's tough to play when you're injured, when you can't do the things you always have, and Jason was just dealing with a lot last year," said Taylor's agent, Gary Wichard. "But it is what it is. That's just part of this game, and Jason never made excuses. He's working to be the same Pro Bowler he always was, and he's ready to go."
Last season, Taylor, 34, rarely resembled the all-pro performer and former NFL defensive player of the year for whom the Redskins dealt a second-round pick in April's draft and a sixth-round pick in 2010. Taylor sprained his right knee in a preseason game and twice underwent surgery on his left calf to relieve acute compartment syndrome, a buildup of pressure on muscle groups.
Predominantly playing left end for the first time in his career, Taylor had only 3 1/2 sacks -- his lowest total since 1999. The 12-year veteran's lack of production prompted speculation that the Redskins would ask Taylor to take a pay cut from his $8.5 million salary in 2009, and release him if he declined. But Taylor's salary for next season has never been an issue, Wichard said.
"Before the trade was done, he was asked if he would play out his two years left on the contract, and he said, 'Absolutely,' " Wichard said. "They asked for a two-year commitment from Jason. They gave up a lot to get him, so I understand why they did, and we gave them that commitment. That was the deal, so there's nothing new there. They weren't doing it for one year and we weren't doing it for one year. It was two years on both sides."
Acquired from the Miami Dolphins on the first day of training camp in July after defensive end Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending knee injury, Taylor was expected to significantly bolster the Redskins' pass rush. With Taylor and right end Andre Carter, the Redskins envisioned having one of the league's top edge-rushing tandems.
But Taylor was miscast in Washington's defensive plans, team sources said. The successful scheme that coordinator Greg Blache and his predecessor, Gregg Williams, brought to Washington emphasizes stopping the run above all else, and Taylor, whose weight during the season drops to about 240 pounds, was never considered an elite run-stopper. He lacked the freedom to simply blitz upfield and attack any gap he pleased, as he did with abandon in Miami.
Also, the Redskins' 4-3 defense mandates that players exercise discipline in executing assignments. Washington's approach does not allow for the type of freedom Taylor, who at times operated as a de facto outside linebacker in Miami's 3-4 alignments, had with the Dolphins. Linebacker Joey Porter thrived as the team's top edge rusher from the weak-side linebacker position Taylor formerly occupied, finishing second in the league with 17 1/2 sacks.
The Redskins have discussed ways to better use Taylor during their offseason meetings. He is expected to have greater freedom next season, team sources said.