- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2007

Other than the generosity of Dan Snyder’s checkbook, no Washington Redskins topic generates more praise than the performance, future and personality of safety Sean Taylor.

His teammates point to his physical conditioning and mental aptitude as reasons why last year’s Pro Bowl appearance is the first of many.

He’s a beast, linebacker Marcus Washington said.

On the field, he’s an animal, safety Pierson Prioleau said.

His coaches point to his emergence as a vocal leader and unselfishness to play any role at any place on the field as reasons why he remains the right guy to build a secondary around.

It’s amazing how he’s found ways to improve, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said.

He’s getting better and better every day, safeties coach Steve Jackson said.

So is this the Season of Sean? Is this when the takeaway total escalates, the fundamental tackle is generally made and the touchdown total escalates?

Although not close to the biggest question mark on the Redskins‘ defense, the season in a sense revolves around Taylor. If he’s ready to take the next step, he could join the position’s elite. If not, then it could be another long fall for the defense.

The Redskins are banking that a simplified role will allow Taylor to present complicated problems for an opponent.

Whereas the first three years of Williams‘ defense were about throwing everything at opponents in an effort to confuse them, this year will represent a philosophical shift — putting together a game plan that adjusts to a player’s strengths rather than having the player adjust his game to fit the scheme.

What it does is remove the clutter from him, Williams said. It lets him refine his go-get-the-ball techniques. … We all get better when we shorten our checklist of what we have to work on. We’ve done a better job identifying that for Sean and other players. We’ve identified fewer things to master, and hopefully that will turn into production.

From afar, it appeared Taylor struggled last year. He had only one interception and didn’t recover a fumble (he forced three). And he missed a lot of tackles.

But, Jackson said, There were a lot of situations outside Sean’s control last year, and he was doing what he thought was best for the Redskins.

Ideally, the Redskins would like to use Taylor as a true free safety, a player who stays 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage and delivers big hits and takeaways. In 2006, his role was anything but free — it included covering the slot receiver, playing near the line to help a struggling run defense and making quick decisions on which cornerback or linebacker to help in double coverage.

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