This is the second in a series of three articles discussing what the Washington Redskins must accomplish in 2010 to contend for a Super Bowl. The first article focused on the health of Donovan McNabb and the new-look offensive line.
The Transition to the 3-4 Defense
The Redskins were ranked 10th in total defense last season, but the numbers fail to tell the whole story.
Former defensive coordinator Greg Blache failed to make the most of his talent, employing an ultra-conservative 4-3 front that featured vanilla blitz packages and soft cover schemes.
Washington played tentatively on the defensive side—scared to give up big plays. The results were not pretty to watch.
Not only did the secondary suffer several horrendous breakdowns in coverage throughout the second half of the season, but opposing teams averaged a 40 percent conversion rate on third downs.
The secondary's uninspired effort was the main cause for the defense struggling to get off the field on third downs. Too many times we saw a ten-yard cushion on a third-and-five.
Blache was fired at the end of 2009, and now the Redskins are turning to Jim Haslett and the 3-4 defense.
The 3-4 is presently in vogue in the National Football League.
Everyone is using it to combat the pass-first trend that is taking offenses by storm. Thus, the 'Skins turn to Haslett, hoping to successfully adopt the 3-4.
Haslett has experience with the 3-4. He ran it in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and at points in St. Louis. His version emphasizes versatility and aggressive play, something the Redskins are in desperate need of.
A major switch in defensive philosophies won't be easy to undergo in just one offseason, but initial reports reveal that the Redskins are loving the new format after wasting away in Blache's system.
Guys particularly in need of a rebirth are safety LaRon Landry and corner Carlos Rogers. Both are better suited for an aggressive style, and Landry is moving back to his more natural strong safety position.
The front seven features a bevy of talented linebackers.
London Fletcher is still unsure of who will team up with him in the middle, but the Redskins have a host of outside linebackers led by youngster Brian Orakpo , who is coming off an 11 sack rookie campaign.
Yet the biggest key to a 3-4 is the nose tackle.
Washington has to be hoping that Albert Haynesworth decides to show up ready to play, because without him, the Redskins might not have another dominant force in the middle who demands constant attention.
The new scheme is a bold move, but it's one that should add some excitement to the defensive unit. The defense lost its edge in 2009, and it's up to this new tenacious style to bring that swagger back.