- The Washington Times - Friday, October 2, 2009

When Greg Blache visits a casino, he doesn’t frequent the high-stakes poker room or the $10 blackjack tables. For him, it’s all about the one-armed bandit.

“I’m a slot machine guy - it’s a good, mindless way to give your money away,” Blache said. “Playing cards takes too much concentration.”

For one season plus three games, Blache has coordinated the Washington Redskins’ defense in similar fashion, asking his players to perform in a disciplined system that wasn’t high risk and didn’t depend on a barrage of pressure packages.

That might be changing.

With his defense last in third-down percentage and struggling to produce sacks and turnovers, Blache did an about-face Thursday at Redskin Park, which could signal a more aggressive game plan when the Redskins host Tampa Bay on Sunday.

“I have to be more of a maverick, not necessarily a McCain-Palin maverick but a Bart and Bret Maverick and be more of a riverboat gambler,” Blache said. “I can’t worry about giving up a play; I have to worry about making a play. That’s where I can help my guys a little bit more.”

Blache turned the attention on himself after confirming that starting strong safety Chris Horton will be replaced by Reed Doughty. Blache then channeled Joe Gibbs and said the defensive problems begin with him.

“Quite candidly, when things go bad, somebody has to go under the bus. And being the leader of this defense, I should be under the bus, and I’ll dive under,” he said. “Going under the bus is going to hurt your feelings a little bit. And at worst, you end up with [tire] marks on both sides of your shorts. I can deal with the hurt and go on.”

Even though the Redskins were facing a rookie quarterback (Matthew Stafford) in Detroit on Sunday, Blache dialed up only four blitzes in 25 first-half drop-backs. The Redskins are tied for 24th with one interception and tied for 22nd with five sacks. Most troubling is their performance on third down. Opponents are 22-for-43 (51 percent) and have converted at least six third downs in each game.

“If the calls aren’t really good, that’s my fault. If the players don’t play with detail, that’s my fault,” Blache said. “That all comes back to coaching. If we didn’t have talent, then you would say it’s a talent issue. We have talent. In our league, the most talented teams don’t always win. The teams that play the best win. I thought we were the better football team Sunday, but we didn’t play better.”

Blache’s approach might have been affected by coach Jim Zorn. A team source said Zorn instructed his staff this week to coach with abandon, be free and ignore the outside speculation. That could have served as the approval Blache wanted to use a more exotic game plan.

The plan may change, but safeties coach Steve Jackson said he hasn’t noticed a change in Blache’s demeanor.

“He’s pretty much the same all the time,” Jackson said. “There’s always a sense of urgency. That’s how he is. He’s a high-performance, high-octane type of guy.”

Blache may be high-energy, but the Redskins’ defense seems to lack vigor. As early as the Lions’ third possession, Blache was inserting reserves Doughty, Jeremy Jarmon, Chris Wilson and Lorenzo Alexander.

On Monday, Zorn pointed to the defense losing one-on-one battles as a reason for the struggles, but Blache said it’s his job to create more conducive matchups.

“[What] I can do is not put them in one-on-one situations,” Blache said. “If I’m putting them in a situation [where] they can’t win, that’s not good coaching. If I have a situation where we can’t win a one-on-one, don’t put them in that situation. … You have to be ready and not be afraid to roll the dice from situation to situation.”

Several Redskins players, including cornerback Carlos Rogers, said the defense isn’t playing with the same passion and that the team isn’t celebrating even after the good plays.

“When you make plays, you strut your stuff,” Blache said. “When you’re not making plays, it’s hard to strut. You have to make plays to have a swagger. That’s one thing I have to help them with - make better calls to put them in a better position to make some plays where they regain their confidence and their swagger.”

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