I said a year ago here on the blog that, the Redskins with the draft of Brian Orakpo seemed to be hoping to land a coach (whom at the time I believed was Bill Cowher) who would transition them towards the 3-4 defense. Former Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache had used a few 3-4 formations each year, but that percentage was very slim. When the season ended, and Zorn was gone... I waited and waited to hear about the Redskins grabbing Cowher. They instead brought in Mike Shanahan, and he brought with him, Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett.
At that very moment, the world knew the Redskins would be transforming their defense to a more physical, less and ready-to-react version of the 3-4, with hints of the 4-3 still spiced in. Haslett played it down, not wanting to call it an all-out 3-4 defense, but the basis of his entire scheme revolves around the 3-4.
Where it gets scary for opposing offenses is you just took a great defense, and are now putting them in position to make plays to their strengths and find themselves on the path to a top 3 defense.
Carlos Rogers has always been one of my favorite man-to-man defenders. He's shut down some of the best year-in and year-out. When coaches became unhappy with him in his "no-jam" role... he became unhappy with them for the poor utilization of his talents. Sure he's had some of the unluckiest hands on the team, but he's never been in position to just let the ball come to him, he's usually tied up knowing the ball will be placed perfectly, and have to hit the receiver to jar the ball loose rather than have it land in his lap. Haslett has fallen in love with Rogers this offseason, and knows he can play him the way Gregg Williams did, and have him looked at as one of the better corners in the league. Hall has been asked to get more physical which isn't strength he's displayed before, but with the pressure the front-7 will create, he's got every opportunity to play his ball-hawking style.
Another member of the defense whom Haslett has fallen head over heels for, is LaRon Landry. The Safety has been out of position ever since mid-season of his rookie year, when he was asked to break out of the long-tenured plans to play Free Safety following the death of then All-Pro Safety Sean Taylor. Landry knew he needed to play, and made the transition. At times it was smooth, other times it was rough, but Landry's only complaint was that he likes to bust heads and be in the mix, which is what he was drafted to be and his natural fit. He gets to be that this year. No more sitting back waiting for Brandon Jacobs to find him backpedaling... he's going to be headhunting (hopefully not literally because we don't need any stupid penalties or fines, he's already done those to put himself on the map) everyone, and able to come full-force and speed to the ballcarriers.
Now that my prediction has come full-circle, we find ourselves wondering and guessing what this defense will look like. Several weeks without Kareem Moore should give Doughty and Horton a new chance to reprove themselves to coaches (though it was believed all of our safeties would play significant time in rotation). The DB's are expected to get back to a very strong point this season, and the front seven will be sick.
The verdict is still out on the offense, but defensively, we'll give the offense plenty of opportunities to flash.