- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2005

Washington Redskins defensive end Renaldo Wynn couldn’t wait to get back to work this offseason.

That wasn’t just because he was eager to see whether the NFL’s No. 3 defense in 2004 could be even better. Wynn also was thrilled assistant head coach Gregg Williams was back, meaning for the first time in his five years he wouldn’t have to learn a new defensive system.

“You’re behind the eight ball when you’re learning a new defense every year,” said Wynn, who came to Washington in 2002 after playing for a new coordinator during his last year in Jacksonville as well. “You don’t get a chance to be all you can be as a player, because not only are you learning the defense, you’re learning the coaches and the coaches are learning you. This year everyone knows what to expect from each other. We’ve passed the dating process. Now we’re living together. I think it’s going to pay big dividends.”

The Redskins lived large on defense last year. If they were that good while learning a new system, they can’t help but imagine how strong they could be this season with returning veterans at every spot and Williams and his entire staff back.

“We’re a lot further ahead than we were in other years,” said linebacker Lemar Marshall, who joined the Redskins in December 2001. “Now you can focus on your technique and the little things that sometimes you didn’t get enough time to work on in the past. I played in the same system all four years [at Michigan State], and I can tell you that it makes a big difference.”

Linebacker LaVar Arrington is the only member of the defense to have played in the successive systems of Mike Nolan (1999), Ray Rhodes (2000), Kurt Schottenheimer (2001), Marvin Lewis (2002), George Edwards (2003) and Williams. Arrington, who’s in the same system for the first time since 1999, his last season at Penn State, said the lack of change really hit him in meetings this spring.

“It’s complicated learning a scheme,” Arrington said. “I always used to get upset at the fact that I was never far enough ahead in terms of knowing the defense to sit there and have discussions with the coaches in the meeting rooms. I can do that now.”

Wynn said that understanding of Williams’ complicated scheme is especially apparent when the package against a particular offensive formation is communicated from the coaches to the players. That process wasn’t seamless even when linebackers coach Edwards succeeded his boss, Lewis, and retained much of the system.

“Even though George kept a lot of Marvin’s scheme, he wanted to define his own identity as a coordinator,” Wynn said. “So it might be the same play, but the terminology was different. Now we’re taking so many shortcuts as far as our terminology goes. You can say one word and know the whole defense. That’s huge.”

All of this should spell trouble for opposing offenses, starting with Sunday’s opener against Chicago, the NFL’s worst offensive team in 2004. As Marshall explained, the Redskins aren’t spending less time in meetings or watching film. They’re just spending more of that time preparing for the opponent.

“It takes away a lot of anxiety, a whole lot of pressure that you normally have,” Arrington said. “Instead of putting all the emphasis on what you’re supposed to do, you can pay attention to what the other team wants to do. The coaches have done a great job of making sure that we know exactly what we have to do. It’s up to us to take it to another level.”

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