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Archuleta aims to regain focus

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Seven months ago, Adam Archuleta spurned a chance to play for one of his favorite coaches to sign the richest contract ever for a NFL safety and join a top Washington Redskins defense.

When the Redskins start the second half of the season Sunday at Philadelphia, Archuleta -- who was given a six-year, $30 million deal -- will be watching more than playing. Troy Vincent will receive most of Archuleta's playing time.

The poster child for the Redskins' ill-advised offseason spending and defensive troubles, Archuleta did not start last week's win over the Dallas Cowboys, only the fourth time in 80 career games he hasn't started.

Yesterday at Redskin Park, Archuleta admitted disappointment in his performance and how he approached the transition to a new team and system.

"It was a unique situation for me to come in here with as a high profile as I did -- I'm not used to that," Archuleta said. "I allowed that, as well as some other things, to be a distraction. I let those things get in the way of what is truly important. Who I am and what I've done to get this point in my career and the player I was, I lost sight of that and lost focus during this process."

Archuleta, who was expected to sign with Chicago and be reunited with Bears coach and former St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, has 54 tackles for the Redskins. But he was limited to playing on third down against the Cowboys because of his struggles in pass coverage.

The Redskins rank 30th in pass defense and last in interceptions (two), touchdown passes allowed (16), 20-plus-yard completions (35) and 40-plus-yard completions (nine).

Although Archuleta isn't the only player at fault, he has caught the brunt of the blame.

"I've had a lot of adversity thrown my way, and this, for whatever reason, is the situation that has presented itself," he said. "It's a matter of me getting back to who I am and playing the game through my eyes, not somebody else's."

A linebacker at Arizona State, Archuleta was converted to a safety in St. Louis, which selected him in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. With the Rams, he played close to the line of scrimmage, blitzed and played run support.

With the Redskins, he has played the majority of snaps in coverage. Against the Cowboys, he was beaten for a 28-yard completion that set up a potential game-winning Dallas field goal. The kick was blocked, and the Redskins won 22-19.

Archuleta has only three interceptions and 22 passes defended (none this year) in his career.

"Every player has strengths and weaknesses," he said. "In my opinion and the opinion of a lot of people, I excel underneath [close to the line]. A lot of people have said throughout my career that I can't cover. Do I agree with that? No. Are there safeties better in the passing game than I am? Absolutely. Unfortunately, our secondary has given up some big plays, and I've been a part of that."

Archuleta labored in the preseason games defending the pass, showing he often would take a step toward the line of scrimmage before retreating into coverage or would lose sight of the football and get turned around.

"As I look back [at the preseason], as players and coaches, sometimes we make things more complex than they really are, and I think that's what happened," he said. "Do I think this scheme is that complex? In reality, it's not. There are fundamentals and basics to it, and there's a lot of camouflaging, disguise and window-dressing. But when you strip it down, the fundamentals are the fundamentals. Making things a lot more complex was my fault."

While Archuleta tries to right his game, Vincent is expected to receive the bulk of the playing time opposite Sean Taylor.

So how will Archuleta be used?

After the Dallas game, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams shrugged off the move, refusing to say Vincent is the new starter and Archuleta has been benched except for certain situations.

"In our classroom, we talk about how we have 20 packages on defense and how much you play is predicated on the cooperation of the other team," Williams said. "I do that with all those guys who are in those situations.

"I have a hard time trying to fault the fact that when we have a guy who has [47] interceptions in Troy Vincent and we're trying to get a takeaway, not getting him on the field as much as possible. ... Adam will be more of the pressure guy along the line of scrimmage, and we had him down there a bunch [against Dallas]. Hopefully, we can continue to create situations so he can excel in those ways."

The best case for Archuleta during the last eight games is the Redskins coaches using him in the way he's most comfortable and effective.

"There are a lot of parts to the equation -- there are some things I don't need to get into at this point," Archuleta said. "But at the end of the day, it's my responsibility when I'm on the field, and it's up to me to play well and to make plays.

"I've always had detractors and people trying to pull me down, and this is just one more thing. Everything happens for a reason, and this will make me a better player. You better believe I will come back and play the way I'm capable of playing."