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Focus on the defense

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Old 08-20-2004, 03:47 PM   #1
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Focus on the defense

Washington Post Email

Coach Joe Gibbs has been quick to point out the progress being made by Washington's defense usually in the same breath as mentioning the deficiencies of his offense.

But the defensive coaches say they see much room for improvement.

Gregg Williams, assistant head coach defense, has yet to reveal most of the intricacies of his aggressive packages through two preseason games, although the starters have performed well in base sets and formations.

The overall execution of the defense has been solid, something not all that surprising given the vanilla offenses it is facing, and the first-team defense has committed far fewer miscues and costly penalties than the offense. However, Williams wants to see more from the players competing for spots on the roster.

The Redskins have been prone to giving up big plays in the second half when the reserve players are on the field and Williams is not shy about critiquing or cutting players. Ifeanyi Ohalete, who started 15 games for Washington last season, was quickly dropped to the third team in training camp and then cut earlier this week, and it seems that consistent mistakes in practices or preseason games will not be tolerated.

"Right now we are taking baby steps," Williams said in assessing the defense, "but we are a long way away. We are improved from what we saw on film last year, but we have a long way to go. As good as we have done in stretches we have to have a consistent 60 minutes of football.

"Some of the mistakes that have been made were by people that won't be here [when the regular season begins], but that's what their interview is in the league. If they are not here, where are they going to be? And they have to play better in those crucial situations. When the second and third [string] have gotten in the ballgame, they have not been as disciplined as they need to be."

Williams expects Saturday's game in Miami to be a good test for his younger players. Williams spent the past three years as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, a division rival of the Dolphins, and knows their personnel very well and believes Miami will be even more motivated than usual after the shocking retirement of star running back Ricky Williams just before the start of training camp.

"I think their defense is trying to make a statement -- Ricky who?" Williams said. "That's how they've played every year I've ever gone against them. Their defense is strong."

By Jason La Canfora
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