Gibbs' Redskins: Transforming the Defense

Washington is a big-play LB

If Renaldo Wynn moves either inside or to the bench, every starting defensive position will have turned over since Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams came on board in 2004. A look at who came and who left.


Bruce Smith

Right end: 2003 Bruce Smith/Regan Upshaw (8 starts each), 2006 Andre Carter
Smith still had a little bit left in the tank, recording the last five sacks of his Hall of Fame NFL career. Upshaw, on the other hand, was done. Carter won't ever be as good as Smith in his prime, but at least Carter is entering what should be his best years.

Right tackle: 2003 Lionel Dalton (9 starts)/Jermaine Haley (5 starts), 2006 Joe Salave'a
Dalton, Haley, and Salave'a are all journeymen. Perhaps had the 2003 group received the coaching of Greg Blache and Gregg Williams they might have become valued members of the defense. Salave'a has displayed enormous character, playing through a foot injury that would have benched many.

Left tackle: 2003 Bernard Hosley, 2006 Cornelius Griffin
It's hard to imagine that the collective wisdom of the Redskins looked at Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson who, although overpriced, still had the ability to occupy space in the middle and said, naw, we'll go with Bernard Hosely. Opponents found the middle to be a very inviting place as they went there for many of their over 2,200 rushing yards in 2003. Williams and Blache got a lot of the credit for cutting that total by over 40% from 2003 to 2004 but lining up Griffin in the middle took care of a lot of the problems right there.


Renaldo Wynn

Left end: 2003 Renaldo Wynn, 2006 Phillip Daniels
Wynn will still have a role in the defense, perhaps in a rotation at tackle in addition to end on sure rushing downs. He has always been solid against the run, but his pass rushing ability is below average on his best days. Daniels recovered from an injury-plagued 2004 and had a solid year, picking up strength as the season went on. He got four sacks in the Week 15 rout of Dallas.

Strong side linebacker: 2003 Jessie Armstead, 2006 Marcus Washington
Armstead was a reliable, solid veteran in the twilight of his career. Washington is a reliable, solid veteran in the prime of his career. He brings a level of energy and enthusiasm to the defense that the more reserved Armstead lacked.


Jeremiah Trotter

Middle linebacker: 2003 Jeremiah Trotter, 2006 Lemar Marshall
Trotter has the superior build and physical skill for a middle linebacker, but he was not the right fit for Edwards' defense nor was he right for Williams' schemes. Marshall is unlikely to be a Pro Bowl selection, but he does well calling the defenses and is among the better middle linebackers out there when it comes to pass coverage, perhaps reflecting his college career at Michigan State, where he was a defensive back.

Weak side linebacker: 2003 LaVar Arrington, 2006 ???
Arrington had perhaps his best season as a pro in 2003, recording 116 tackles, six sacks, 20 passes defended and forcing seven fumbles. Whoever the Redskins end up lining up in his spot this year will have a very difficult time matching this production.


Champ Bailey

Cornerback: 2003 Champ Bailey, 2006 Shawn Springs
Using 20/20 hindsight, it probably would have been better if the Redskins had used their big-money contract dollars on Bailey instead of on Arrington. Still, they came out of it as well as could be expected, trading Bailey for Clinton Portis and signing Springs to a free agent contract for a lot less money than Bailey got. Bailey is the better, younger player, no doubt, but Springs has been more than adequate as his replacement.

Cornerback: 2003 Fred Smoot, 2006 Carlos Rogers
Time will tell if this change represents an upgrade. Smoot was a very good, not great, corner who transformed from a mouthy rookie into a veteran leader. His move to the Vikings as a free agent got off to a rocky start with the "Love Boat" incident and an injury problem that caused him to miss five of the Vikings' last eight games. Rogers had some injury problems early in the year and then again late in the season, but in between he showed good cover skills and a knack for being able to come up with the big interception.

Safety: 2003 Matt Bowen, 2006 Adam Archuleta
Bowen gave the Redskins a solid season after coming on board as a restricted free agent in 2003, getting credited with 83 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. The Redskins will be happy with similar production out of Archuleta, although they are probably planning on him getting several sacks on top of that.

Safety: 2003 Ifeanyi Ohalete, 2006 Sean Taylor
Ohalete made the most out of his limited talent, which got him to the level of a barely adequate starter. If Taylor can get the most out of his talents—and stay out of jail, keep his saliva in his mouth, and attend the team's offseason workouts—he could wind up as one of the best ever to play his position.

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