MOBILE, Ala. – Jim Haslett said Wednesday the Washington Redskins intend to keep their 3-4 defensive scheme intact entering the first season under new coach Jay Gruden, but that a lot of the decisions moving forward will be tied to the players the team is able to bring in or keep.
“Obviously, it’s all based off personnel,” Haslett said after the South Team’s practice at the Senior Bowl. “We’ll see who we have. Right now, we only have about six or seven guys that are even on the board, so yeah, let’s evaluate that as we go.”
The contracts of seven starters, as well as those of several key backups, will expire when the new league year and free agency begin in mid-March.
The Redskins went 3-13 last season, their worst performance since 1994, and finished with a defense that ranked No. 18 in yards allowed after spending much of the year floating among the bottom third of the league.
Haslett, speaking publicly for the first time since Gruden was hired on Jan. 9, said his familiarity with the team’s new coach should greatly assist the team’s operations.
Gruden and Haslett coached together with the Florida Tuskers of the minor-league United Football League in 2009, and in addition to defensive line coach Jacob Burney and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, who were each retained following the firing of then-coach Mike Shanahan on Dec. 30, the team hired Brian Baker to be the outside linebackers coach and Kirk Olivadotti to be the inside linebackers coach.
“I think as a head coach, especially a first-time head coach, you like to have somebody you’ve been with, you can trust, guys that you know what you’re going to get from them from a work ethic standpoint,” Haslett said. “I think all of that goes into it, especially with it being Jay’s first time doing it.”
Shanahan, in the fourth year of his five-year contract, was fired following a tumultuous final month of the season. In addition to the Redskins’ poor performance, there were a series of anonymously sourced reports leaked to national media outlets that undermined the relationships between Shanahan, then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, quarterback Robert Griffin III and owner Dan Snyder.
Haslett said the losing, compounded by the reports and relationships, affected the team greatly.
“There was a lot of stuff going on the last couple months, probably more than I’ve ever experienced,” Haslett said. “I hope I never have to experience it again, because I think it takes away [from succeeding]. I felt bad for the players. They had to deal with it every day. It didn’t give us a chance to win games down the stretch. You know, you’re consumed with everything else but football, and even as a coach, when you walk into a meeting room with the players – I loved being around the players and being on the field, but once you’re off the field, you’ve got to go back to dealing with all the distractions. We’ll start fresh, and we won’t have those issues. Players can come in and worry about football.”
Exactly who those players are will be determined in the coming months. Haslett has often said re-signing outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who is set to become a free agent, should be the centerpiece of the Redskins’ offseason plans. He also mentioned inside linebacker Perry Riley, cornerback DeAngelo Hall and defensive end Chris Baker among the players the team will try to bring back.
Then it will be up to the draft, where a record 98 underclassmen will fortify the crop of seniors eligible to be drafted. Haslett, Burney and offensive line coach Chris Foerster were the assistant coaches who represented the Redskins at the week of Senior Bowl practices.
“You’ve got to do a good job in the draft because you’re going to have a bunch of good football players in the fourth and fifth rounds, because some of these [seniors] are going to turn around and get knocked down to the fourth and fifth rounds because of that,” Haslett said. “We have a high [pick in rounds] two, three, four, five, so we’re going to get a couple football players that can help this team right away.”