The Washington Redskins, having finished a season that took both players as well as fans on an emotional rollercoaster ride that included the tragic death of safety Sean Taylor and an improbable late-season run that led to a playoff berth, have embarked on a bizarre offseason. After head coach Joe Gibbs retired, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams appeared to be the heir apparent. Williams, who interviewed with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder three times, was not only, not offered the head coaching job but, was instead fired by Snyder. To replace Williams the Redskins promoted defensive line coach Greg Blache to defensive coordinator but have yet to hire a new head coach.
Blache, 58, a graduate of Notre Dame, has been with the Redskins, as their defensive line coach, for the past four seasons. Prior the joining the Redskins staff, Blache was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears from 1999-2003. Under Blache the Bears defense enjoyed success by forcing 137 turnovers during his four seasons at the helm. His defensive units also accounted for 13 touchdowns during his tenure.
Before becoming the Bears defensive coordinator, Blache spent time with both the Indianapolis Colts (1994-98) and the Green Bay Packers (1988-1994) as a defensive line coach.
Philosophy and Keys to Success
Under Blache, the Redskins are not expected to change much from the aggressive, attacking-style employed by Williams. Blache is a proponent of the Cover 2 defense. For the Cover 2 to be effective the front four defenders must put pressure on the quarterback. The Cover 2 also relies on smaller, faster linebackers and aggressive strong safety play.
Under Williams, the Redskins allowed 19.4 points per game good for 11th best in NFL. Blache will need the Redskins to improve on their sack totals from 2007. The Redskins were able to get to the quarterback just 33 times, ranking them 16th overall. The Washington defense accounted for only 24 turnovers (25th overall). The Bears averaged 34.25 turnovers per season under the leadership of Blache, highlighted by 37 takeaways in 2001.
Defensive end Andre Carter was a bright spot for the Redskins in 2007. Carter accounted for 10.5 sacks, 55 tackles and four forced fumbles. The 10.5 sacks were Carter's best total since 2002, when he had 13.0 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.
On the other side of the line, veteran end Phillip Daniels is showing signs of aging and does not put much pressure on the quarterback. The Redskins will need to address this position to help Blache apply the pressure necessary for his system to succeed.
At the defensive tackle position, youngsters Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston are solid players, but neither has displayed much pass rushing ability, recording only 1.5 sacks combined. The defensive tackle position accounted for only four sacks in 2007, so look for Washington to add a tackle to the rotation during the offseason.
Another important part of the Cover 2 defensive system is safety play. Strong safety LaRon Landry had a solid rookie campaign, totaling 95 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but he did not record any interceptions. Landry must improve in that area in 2008.
The Redskins will likely address needs along the defensive line during the offseason. Several options are available in free agency, including Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen and Baltimore Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs. At the defensive tackle position, the Tennessee Titans' Albert Haynesworth is the top name, but he should get the franchise tag. Another intriguing name is Green Bay Packers tackle Corey Williams. In 2007, Williams tallied 35 tackles and seven sacks. The Redskins could also look to the 2008 NFL Draft to fill holes along their defensive line. The Redskins have the 21st selection in the first round and pass-rushing defensive ends Southern California Trojans Lawrence Jackson and Miami Hurricanes Calais Campbell could be available.
This could all change for the Redskins when the unpredictable Snyder hires a head coach. While it is unlikely the new head coach would fire Blache, with Snyder anything is possible, so stay tuned.
About Thomas Griffenkranz
Thomas has been a KFFL contributor since 2007.
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