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.For Taylor the shift will mean he spends more time in coverage. Some may find this disconcerting as Taylor has typically been praised for his big hit ability and not his coverage. Personally, I welcome the change. His speed and big hit ability will do wonders to disrupt passes in the secondary and could lead to some much needed fumbles/picks. One of the problems with Taylor's coverage sans Ryan Clark is that his success on any given play was tied to his presnap read. What we found in 2006 was that read was frequently wrong and the margin of error was slight given our options in the secondary with Kenny Wright or Mike Rumph or even Carlos Rogers lined up against someone better than them. A safety in coverage doesn't make that read, he simply plays coverage. This could hurt us against the run, though by all indication a Taylor committed to coverage leaves room for a LaRon Landry in the box:
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.How soon can we expect Landry to play?
"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."History tells us that he starts by week 3 at the earliest, though Spence thinks he's in by the beginning of the season. And he might be right, as an overall shifting defensive philosophy could also give way to a shifting defensive personnel philosophy that allows (gasp) rookies to earn their keep from day one.
We won't know whether the new defensive strategy is worthwhile until we see some product on the field, though I welcome change coming off our horrid 2006 defensive performance.
Update [2007-5-7 11:29:33 by Skin Patrol]: One additional thing I forgot to mention. I happily say adios to last year's Cover-2 which I always viewed as a Faustian bargain. Rather than blitzing we tried to hide our personnel shortage in the secondary by essentially keeping everyone back and hoping they made the right read. The effect was just 19 sacks as well as the highest opposing QB rating in the league. So to "fix" our secondary we gave the opposing quarterback all day to throw, and throw all day they did to great effect. This defense is at its best when it marches confusing blitz schemes (CB blitzes, safety blitzes, etc.) at opponents. We sacrificed defensive initiative last year by sitting on the Cover-2 and paid the price.