- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS

Another week, another hole created by the Washington Redskins.

After punter Ryan Plackemeier was pink-slipped on Feb. 12, the team released starting strongside linebacker Marcus Washington on Friday.

Both moves are understandable. The Redskins were last in net punting last season, and Washington is on the downside of his career - he was banged up for most of 2008 and was relegated to first- and second-down duty.

The Redskins will sign a veteran punter (Indianapolis’ Hunter Smith, perhaps) before training camp, but Washington’s exit creates the bigger issue.

Nobody on the roster can play every down at the position, and the free agent class is thin. Baltimore’s Bart Scott is the best available player, with Buffalo’s Angelo Crowell and the Jets’ Eric Barton down a notch.

The general consensus at the NFL scouting combine was the Redskins will draft a pass rusher, but that changed with Washington’s departure. It’s becoming more likely Jason Taylor and his $8.5 million salary cap figure will return next season, mostly because the front office wants to justify giving up two picks for the aging defensive end.

For at least one year, that eliminates the need to add a first-round pass rusher. There’s no point in drafting a player that high and then putting him on the bench so he can watch Taylor and Andre Carter start.

There are several quality linebackers in the draft.

“It’s a good group this year,” Redskins director of player personnel Scott Campbell said earlier this week. “In years past, there might have been only one to two guys and then it drops off. This year, there’s some depth.”

Southern Cal’s Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews, Penn State’s Aaron Maybin and Virginia’s Clint Sintim are all highly regarded and could fit in even though they played in a 3-4 scheme in college.

The Redskins should trade down into the 20s to a team desperate for line help, acquiring a second- or third-round pick in the process. Draft the strongside linebacker first and an offensive tackle later.

Fan of Gregg

Gregg Williams will run his third defense in as many years after being hired by Sean Payton to right New Orleans’ 23rd-ranked outfit. Williams was with the Redskins in 2007 and Jacksonville last year.

“One of the things he’s been able to do in his career is that he’s been to a number of places and adjusted well,” Payton said. “I didn’t know Gregg too well other than competing against him. When he became available, I was anxious to meet him and interview him. He’s somebody who will get a grasp of our strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly.”

Payton intends to give Williams some new pieces; he listed secondary as the primary draft objective. Williams needs to have a big season because the door is closing on his chances of getting a second head-coaching opportunity.

Successful brainwashing

During the NFC playoffs and the Super Bowl, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley provided great insight into his playcalling philosophy.

During his appearance Friday, new Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley didn’t provide much insight into his philosophy.

Call it the Bill Belichick Effect. Chiefs personnel boss Scott Pioli, the former New England Patriots vice president of player personnel, watched Haley’s news conference. A sampling:

“What I’m trying to do is acquire the best players and acquire the best coaches.”

“You are what you are. The Kansas City Chiefs won two games last year, so that’s what they were.”

“I have no idea what the Arizona Cardinals have done. I’ve been in the weeds - the tall weeds.”

“I want good football players.”

Haley also said the coaching staff didn’t have titles yet because “we’re in a state of flux. There’s fluidity to the situation.”

Not biting

A year ago, former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo almost accepted the Redskins’ coaching job just days after helping the New York Giants upset the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

Now he’s the St. Louis Rams‘ coach. Spagnuolo was asked to contrast the interviewing styles of the Redskins and Rams but wouldn’t elaborate.

“They’re all different,” he said. “The way it worked out is exactly the way it was supposed to happen. I’m a very fortunate man to be in St. Louis.”

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