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Secondary Stands to Benefit From Revamped Front

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There's no telling what the Redskins' defensive line might be capable of achieving.

Really. Because the three likely starters cannot (or, in one case, will not) take part in the voluntary workouts. The first of the team's OTAs (Organized Team Activities) wrapped up on Wednesday and the next commences Monday.

Players continue to learn new schemes, their proper positioning and new terminology.

On the defensive side, they're feasting on the feistiness of coordinator Jim Haslett and a more aggressive approach that they hope will lead to more turnovers.

What can we say about the 3-4? Well, the three remains a bit of a mystery.

Albert Haynesworth is not here, these workouts being voluntary. Ironic that he is at home in Tennessee, the Volunteer State. While there's been endless talk about his unwillingness to play nose tackle, he's more likely (in this typist's mind) the right end in the base alignment.

In Maake Kemoeatu, the Redskins possess an authentic, space-eating, nose tackle. At 6-5 and 345 pounds, he is not only massive but a bit shorter and lighter than Haynesworth. Believe it or not. He continues to rehab from surgery last August on a torn Achilles tendon, so he's not part of the on-field work right now.

Phillip Daniels could be the left end. And probably will be once he's back from a minor procedure on his knee. He's 6-6, 305 pounds.

Add Daniels, Kemoeatu and Haynesworth together and that's more than 1,000 pounds of meat upfront.

Until they can all work together, we won't know how the front shakes down.

We do know that the back end, the secondary, should benefit from the shakeup.

The cornerbacks, the safeties, they yearn to be playmakers. Not free-lancing wild men but attacking defenders. The vigor with which they try to strip the football in these workouts and their enthusiasm for a varied coverage package can barely be measured.

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Changing the front means changing the back. For the better.

"It gives you the opportunity to play a lot of different coverages," cornerback Carlos Rogers says. "It's hard for an offensive line to pick up all the things you can do in the 3-4 and that means there are so many more things you can run."

The Redskins' 17 takeaways in 2009 ranked last in the NFL. The six fumble recoveries tied for second worst. Four teams had fewer than the Redskins' 11 interceptions and they were Oakland, St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland. Is that the kind of company anyone wants to keep?

A well-played 3-4 causes confusion for the opposing offense. A linebacker can become a pass rusher with his hand down or drop into coverage. The zone blitz changes the pre-snap look.

The Redskins, coach Mike Shanahan said, will make their safeties interchangeable depending on formations.

Maybe the Redskins became too static in their previous incarnation. Too locked-in to much-beloved but dated concepts. Too easy to read.

"Any quarterback can sit there and see you've got a single safety high and know to throw to the outside when it's man to man," Rogers says. "That's high school."

Green Bay led the NFL in interceptions last season with 30, and that was in the Packers' first year in the 3-4. Baltimore's 3-4 has produced 65 interceptions over the last three seasons.

The Redskins have 38 over the last three seasons. So they're joining the Pack. And the Ravens. And about half of the NFL in using the 3-4.

"A 4-3 is so stagnant," cornerback DeAngelo Hall says. "Guy's going to come from here, he's going to come from there."

No element of surprise.

In 2009, the Redskins produced enough pressure to net 40 sacks. The league average was 34.4. Yet a decent enough rush – and how often were the Redskins in position to get those late 'pin your ears back' sacks – didn't yield turnovers.

The 3-4 should.

"If you have a serious pass rush, you can make a lot of turnovers," says cornerback Phillip Buchanon, a free-agent signee.

How the three in the 3-4 stack up is guesswork until all the important bodies align. In the back end, the fun has already started.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at *Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.*

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