Get ready for an exciting and aggressive defense in Washington next season. Gregg Williams, the Redskins' new assistant head coach for the defense, said Friday his defensive system will be versatile enough to adapt to the team's personnel—and the primary focus will be to attack the line of scrimmage.
"We don't want to be in a catch and read-and-react mode," Williams said during a mid-day media session. "We're going to try to attack and dictate as much as we can."
Williams, who joined the Redskins' coaching staff on the same day that Joe Gibbs was hired as head coach, said he would maintain the 4-3 defense in Washington, with the nickel and dime coverage packages used by many other teams.
But Williams expects to add plenty of wrinkles, many of which are a hybridized version of defenses he's studied and coached under in the past. He has 17 years of coaching, including the last three as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
"You're going to see us play coverage where we're rushing four or sometimes just rushing three," he said. "The situation will dictate what we try to do, but you're going to see us at times bring anywhere from 4-8 guys. We'll try to give the illusion to the offenses that we're bringing more than we actually are."
Williams cited the defenses of former Redskins head coach George Allen and former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan as the most influential on his own philosophy. But he has also been exposed to the philosophies of long-time defensive minds George Siefert, Dom Capers and Dick LeBeau.
All of those philosophies emphasize aggressive play—as well as team speed and hard-hitting tacklers.
"I don't like a lot of drag-down tacklers," he said. "I like those guys who want to get the big points when they knock the pads off.
"We want to be known as a defense that plays fast and plays smart. I don't know if that is expressed enough in this league. We have to do a good job of getting our penalties down—and not assisting the offense in that way."
In Buffalo, Williams compiled a 17-31 overall record. But his defense finished second in the NFL last year and consistently displayed a brand of toughness and resilience.
Previously, Williams spent 11 years with the Tennessee Titans, including the last four as the Titans' defensive coordinator. He had worked his way up from quality control coach in 1990 to defensive coordinator. In 1999, he coached the Titans' defense to the Super Bowl.
Under his leadership in 2000, the Titans defensive unit led the league in total defense for the first time since joining the NFL and the 191 points allowed were the third fewest in the NFL since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978. The Titans also ranked first in the AFC and second in the NFL in the 1999-2000 seasons in sacks with 109 combined.
Before taking over as defensive coordinator, Williams spent 1994-96 as the linebackers coach for the organization, which was then the Houston Oilers. He was the special teams coach in 1993 and a quality control coach from 1999-92.
Prior to joining the Oilers, Williams spent the 1988-89 seasons working with the linebackers as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston for former Oilers and Redskins head coach Jack Pardee.
With the Redskins, Williams said his role would be similar to defensive coordinator, but that he accepted the assistant head coach role so that the team could give the title to veteran coach Greg Blache.
Blache will have the title of defensive coordinator and will mostly focus on coaching the defensive line.
"In order to get some of the top-flight assistants that we did get, the titles were important," Williams said. "It was important for some of their careers. I just like coaching, so it doesn't make any difference to me what title [Coach Gibbs] gives me."
Dale Lindsey, formerly the defensive coordinator in San Diego, will coach linebackers while Steve Jackson (safeties) and DeWayne Walker (cornerbacks) will coach the secondary, Williams said.
Gibbs said Friday that Williams will likely call the plays on the defensive side of the ball.
"Even though you have not coached with somebody before, you kind of know a lot of people who coached with him," Gibbs said when asked how familiar he is with Williams' defense.
"What Gregg will probably tell you is hat he started back with George Allen, and then he goes back to Jack Pardee and Buddy Ryan. That's kind of like a tree. So obviously when I got the job I knew a lot about him.
"You knew he was considered one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. To the best of my knowledge, every single team that had a vacancy was after him."
Regarding the current group of Redskins defensive personnel, Williams emphasized that one of his goals is to familiarize the players with the scheme as soon as possible. Some players on the roster have played for multiple defensive coordinators in the last few years, an issue that Williams hopes to address quickly.
"As quick as we can, we want to relate the verbiage so that we're all speaking the same language," he said. "But football is football. When the brown thing moves, take off and go get it. That's it."