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Always Improving Defense Gets Better
Craig Johnson. 1st August, 2006 - 7:54 pm

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Gregg Williams will be entering his third season in Washington with the hopes of repeating the same success as last year. The various schemes and blitzes that terrorizes opposing offenses accounted for 31 sacks, 11 interceptions and recovered 16 fumbles. The bad thing for the rest of the league is that on paper, they only appear to be stronger. Many big key free-agent moves will have this defense holding the pressure and giving the opportunity for the offense to guide them right back to the playoffs.

Defensive Line: The biggest addition to this always improving squad is the signing of Andre Carter. Carter was a stand-up player in San Francisco, but will now get the chance to do what he really excels at; rushing the quarterback. On the other end will be the run stopping Renaldo Wynn, but with him coming off an arm injury there?s a good chance that Phillip Daniels will get the majority of the snaps. Playing in the middle will be one of the league?s best in Cornelius Griffin who has a great first step and good ability to time the snap. Joining Griffin will be the heady Joe Salave?a who had real good showings at times when the defense needed a spark last year. Salave?a will most likely split time with Ryan Boschetti who many feel has the talent but just hasn?t broken through yet. With the likes of Carter many opposing quarterbacks will get flustered. The number of sacks recorded will be up from last year.

Linebackers: With the departure of LaVar Arrington many Skins fans aren?t sure whether to be upset or reap the benefits of not having to go through the headaches. Although Arrington will be missed (especially twice a year), this crew has nothing to be ashamed of. Key man, Marcus Washington will now step into the lead role. Washington has great pass rushing ability, can snoop out plays and even drop into coverage. Expect another pro-bowl season from him. LeMar Marshall (a college defensive back), will move to the middle this year where he will get to play more of a cover guy. Marshall showed his skill last year with four interceptions and will now get a chance to improve on those numbers. The second round draft pick (35 overall) out of Miami, Rocky McIntosh is expected to start and be an impact immediately. McIntosh has explosive speed and is always in seek of ball carriers yet he has one downfall. Just coming off knee surgery is not exactly what fans want to hear from the guy who is supposed to be taking Arrington?s place as the playmaker. If McIntosh slips and falls Chris Clemons and Warrick Holdman will be fighting for that spot.

Defensive Backs: With the signing of Adam Archuletta this unit may have the best combination at safety than anyone else in the league. Archuletta had a few up-and-down seasons with the Rams, but with the right coaching and his ability to blitz the quarterback, the duo of him and Sean Taylor will amaze. Taylor who continues to deal with off-season problems has the potential to be the greatest at his position. The only problem is trying to keep him out of the court room and on the field. Coach Gibbs has already had many sit down talks with Taylor and many believe that this is the year he lets it all out on the field. Always steady Shawn Springs returns along side youngster Carlos Rogers at the cornerback spot where both played well last year. Springs has improved immensely on the run stopping and Rogers will start without having to look over his shoulder. Expect another great season from these two. With the signing of Kenny Wright, out of Jacksonville, and the overachiever in Ade Jimoh, the nickle-and-dime corners would be starters anywhere else. Also fighting for a spot on this ball club is the rookie Reed Doughty. Doughty is well liked by these coaches and has signs of a heady-hard hitter.

Special Teams: Last year this team looked great in punt and kick coverage and absolutely disgusting in returns and the ability to get the ball off the foot. With a much needed improvement this team got their savior in Atwaan Randle El. Randle El will get a lot of return duty alongside Ladell Betts who got his first kickoff return for a touchdown last year. Kicker John Hall, who was injury plagued last year will have one more shot to show he?s still got it. Punter Derrick Frost showed that just maybe being a punter is the hardest thing to be in the NFL. If he doesn?t step up his game then he will give way to just about anyone that will do better. Rock Cartwright, Mike Sellers and Khary Campbell will be key factors on this unit where all of them excelled last year.

Scratching and crawling their way to the Super bowl is not out of the question, but the defense will have to prove they are as tough as expected. The first real tests come on September 17, when they travel to Dallas and then five weeks later when they travel to the RCA Dome to play Peyton and friends. Good success there and these Skins may have the confidence to prove the experts right. This is the Year! I just know It!

Other news from the first day of practice was that rookie Reed Doughty met face-to-face with Rock Cartwright and stood him straight up. More play like that and Doughty will become a fan favorite.

Craig may be reached via email, craigrealgm@yaho.com.