4 Washington Redskins

Two new playmakers will shore up a horrid defense while a raw young quarterback continues to find his way
September 02, 2007

WHAT'S NEW

> The EliasSports Bureau doesn't keep official track of this stat, but it's probably safeto say that last season Gregg Williams had the worst salary-to-takeaways ratioof any defensive coordinator in the history of football. Williams, properlycalled the assistant head coach-defense in the Redskins' unwieldy parlance,made a reported $2.6 million (a league record for an assistant coach) in2006 while overseeing a unit that created just 12 turnovers (a modern NFLrecord for futility). To bolster the defense, which plummeted from ninth in theleague in '05 in yards allowed to 31st in '06, the Redskins drafted LSU strongsafety LaRon Landry sixth overall and signed several free agents, includingcornerbacks Jerametrius Butler, David Macklin and Fred Smoot, and, mostimportant, middle linebacker London Fletcher.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

> Fletcherwas at home in Cleveland when the telephone rang at 12:01 a.m. onMarch 2--one minute into the NFL's free-agency period. "London,"said the voice on the other end of the line, "this is Coach Gibbs from theWashington Redskins." Over the course of the next 10 minutes Fletcherlistened as a battery of assistants, including Williams, secondary coach JerryGray and special teams coach Danny Smith (all of whom had worked with Fletcherin Buffalo) expounded on the ways in which Fletcher could affect the Redskinsdefense. Fletcher boarded a D.C.-bound plane less than 10 hours later, and bythe time he and fellow free agent Smoot took their seats at that evening'sAtlanta Hawks-Washington Wizards NBA game, he had agreed to a five-year, $25million contract.

The Redskinscoveted Fletcher not only because he's a 5' 10", 245-pound dervish who isthe NFL's leading tackler since 2000, but also because he's a passionate leaderwith the ability to inspire listless teammates. "They want me to be thequarterback of the defense, somebody who looks into the eyes of the other 10men on that field," says Fletcher. "We're going to get the job done. Onkey third downs we're going to get the stops. On fourth down we're going to getthe stops." Although Fletcher turned 32 in May, the Redskins have no fearthat he'll join the line of high-priced, over-30 free-agent disappointmentsthat has marked Daniel Snyder's eight years as owner.

The havocFletcher wreaks up front should ease the burden on a secondary in which noplayer picked off more than one pass in '06 and that allowed an NFL-high 55completions of 20 yards or more. The team blames much of its incompetence on acombination of poor luck and poor depth. The addition of Butler, Macklin andSmoot, who have started a combined 183 NFL games, will provide a stable ofexperienced cover men to turn to when the legs of starters Carlos Rogers andShawn Springs go wobbly. But the key to the secondary's improvement may be the6' 2", 205-pound Landry, who is athletic enough to go sideline-to-sidelineat the line of scrimmage, allowing Pro Bowl free safety Sean Taylor toroam downfield, where he can most effectively deploy his hard-hitting,ball-hawking style. "[With] the things we can do now defensively," saysdirector of player personnel Vinny Cerrato, "we should get moreturnovers."

On offense,former first-round pick Jason Campbell enters a season as the startingquarterback for the first time as a pro. When informed in training camp that heis the franchise's 17th starting QB since 1993--a group that includes two otherSkins No. 1 picks, Heath Shuler and Patrick Ramsey--he responded succinctly,"Oh, man, that's not good." Consider that a rare loss of poise for the6' 5", rocket-armed 25-year-old, who impressed in the seven games hestarted last season after assuming signal-calling duties from Mark Brunell,passing for 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns while connecting on 53.1%of his throws. "He's a special guy, that's what he is," says associatehead coach-offense Al Saunders, who wants Campbell to improve his completionrate by 10%. "He's made tremendous progress."

Campbell's growthwill be aided by the presence of running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts,both of whom catch the ball as well as they run it. (The two combined for1,677 rushing and 615 receiving yards last season.) While Betts has askill set that Saunders says "reminds me a lot of what Priest Holmes didfor us in Kansas City," the Redskins plan to feature him as a bruisingchange-of-pace back behind Portis.

If onlyWashington had such an embarrassment of riches on the other side of the ball.Though the defense as a whole won't perform as poorly as last year'sunit--Fletcher won't allow that--it brings back intact a line that, whilebedeviled by injuries, produced just 10 sacks. That should leave the Redskinsat least one premier pass rusher, and likely a full year of experience forCampbell, away from their second winning season this decade.

PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH JOE GIBBS(145-87 in NFL), 16th season with Redskins

OFFENSE

SANTANA MOSS

POS WR

REC 55

YARDS 790

TD 6

CLINTONPORTIS

POS RB

ATT 127

YARDS 523

AVG 4.1

REC 17

YARDS170 

AVG10.0 

TD 7


JASON CAMPBELL

POS QB

ATT 207

COMP 110

PCT 53.1

YARDS 1,297

TD 10

INT 6

RATING 76.5

MIKE SELLERS

POS FB

ATT 12

YARDS 51

AVG 4.3

REC 18

YARDS 105

AVG 5.8

TD 1

ANTWAAN RANDLEEL

POS WR

REC 32

YARDS 351

TD 3

JON JANSEN

POS RT

HT 6' 6"

WT 297

G 15

RANDY THOMAS

POS RG

HT 6' 5"

WT 317

G 16

CASEY RABACH

POS C

HT 6' 5"

WT 295

G 16

PETE KENDALL (NewAquisition)

POS LG

HT 6' 5"

WT 292

G 14

CHRIS SAMUELS

POS LT

HT 6' 5"

WT 310

G 16

 

CHRIS COOLEY

POS TE

REC 57

YARDS 734

TD 6

 

DEFENSE

ROCKYMCINTOSH

POS WLB

TACKLES 28

SACKS 0

INT 0

PHILLIPDANIELS

POS LE

TACKLES 37

SACKS 3

 

CORNELIUSGRIFFIN

POS LT

TACKLES 50

SACKS 1

 

JOE SALAVE'A

POS RT

TACKLES 18

SACKS 0

 

ANDRE CARTER

POS RE

TACKLES 56

SACKS 6

 

MARCUSWASHINGTON

POS SLB

TACKLES 86

SACKS 2 1‚ÅÑ2

INT 0

 

CARLOS ROGERS

POS CB

TACKLES 79

INT 1

 

SEAN TAYLOR

POS FS

TACKLES 111

SACKS 0

INT 1

 

LONDON FLETCHER(New Aquisition)

POS MLB

TACKLES 146

SACKS 2

INT 4

 

LARON LANDRY(R)(New Aquisition)

POS SS

TACKLES 64

SACKS 1

INT 3

SHAWN SPRINGS

POS CB

TACKLES 38

INT 1

 

DERRICK FROST

POS P

PUNTS 81

AVG 42.9

SHAUN SUISHAM

POS K

FG 9-11

POINTS 41


NEW ACQUISITION

(R) Rookie (college statistics)

> 2006 RECORD 5-11 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 4/21/13 DEFENSE27/23/31

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 MIAMI

17 at Philadelphia (M)

23 N.Y. GIANTS

30 Bye

OCTOBER

7 DETROIT

14 at Green Bay

21 ARIZONA

28 at New England

NOVEMBER

4 at N.Y. Jets

11 PHILADELPHIA

18 at Dallas

25 at Tampa Bay

DECEMBER

2 BUFFALO

6 CHICAGO (T)

16 at N.Y. Giants

23 at Minnesota

30 DALLAS

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank T18

Opponents' 2006 winning percentage .500

Games against playoff teams 9

(M) Monday (T) Thursday

SI.com/redskins

Instant access to the latest and best Redskinsstories, stats and blogs from across the Web, handpicked by SI's editors.

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS Handoff
Given the top job, Campbell showed promise in his seven starts lastseason.
PHOTOWILLIAM E. AMATUCCI JR./WIREIMAGE.COM ILLUSTRATION

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)