When the NFL season came to an end last Sunday night, the Redskins' defense was ranked 31st in the NFL--27th against the run and 32nd against the pass.
Troubling numbers, to be sure.
Add in that the Redskins forced just 12 turnovers--setting a new NFL record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season--and recorded a league-worst 19 sacks, it's evident that the defense was lacking in playmakers.
The last two games of the regular season revealed something else that troubled assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams. The Redskins were not a good tackling team in 2006.
The Rams' Steven Jackson and the Giants' Tiki Barber were able to break into open space and weave their way through the Redskins' defense for big plays.
Said Williams: "I'd say the number one priority heading into the offseason is we have to tackle better. We've been real prideful that for the last two years we've been a real good tackling team. This year, our tackling skills have been up and down. We're going to have to do a better job of that. We have to do the fundamentals better.
"The best defensive ball teams are the ones that get off blocks and the ones who do a great job of tackling."
It's more than just getting back to the basics, Williams said.
"We've got to start at square one," he said. "We're going to tear it down and start over, just like we did when we first came here [in 2004]. When we first came here, we took a look at everything, from what we were doing on defense to adapting the systems to the players that are here, to taking a look at every drill, every meeting and every scheme. Everything. We're going to look at it from top to bottom."
It may not be a complete overhaul of the defense, but it certainly sounds like Williams and his coaches are re-evaluating their defensive approach last season.
Williams, the architect of the one of the NFL's top defenses in 2004-05, said after last Saturday's 34-28 loss to the Giants that the review process is ongoing and will continue through the month of January.
"It will not be a situation where we have an answer in a week," he said. "We're going to take the whole month of January and work out a lot of things and set up plans for what we need to do to get better. We can't settle for what we are right now. We want to make positive steps and we want to do what's best for the Redskins.
Williams added: "We've got a core group of players that we continue to build around and improve off of. You always add some guys here or there, but we have a good group of core guys. We'll start over and get better. We will."
For the season, safety Sean Taylor led the Redskins with 129 tackles, ahead of linebackers Lemar Marshall (119), Marcus Washington (106) and Warrick Holdman (101).
It's probably never a good sign when one of your safeties leads the team in tackles. That Taylor topped the Redskins' list for 2006 is another indication of the way the team's defense struggled.
Key players such as Washington, Cornelius Griffin and Shawn Springs missed games due to injuries. Beyond that, this defense just was not a good tackling group collectively.
Actually, in the tackling department one of the best games turned in by a Redskin this year came from safety Vernon Fox in the 37-31 overtime loss at St. Louis on Week 16. Fox, the 5-10, 200-pound fifth-year player, came up with a team-high 10 tackles and six special teams tackles in the Edward Jones Dome.
Fox, a prospective free agent this offseason, was a professional at tackling that day, but once again it's not a good idea to have one of your safeties leading the way in tackles.
Williams said on the whole the defense had its share of "good plays" and "tough plays" in 2006.
One of those "good plays" came in a 22-19 win over Dallas on Nov. 5, when Marshall charged through to tackle running back Julius Jones in the end zone for the first safety of his five-year NFL career.
It was textbook tackling and an example of the defense capitalizing on its aggressiveness.
Too often last season, that wasn't the case. Somewhere along the line, Williams's unit lost its way.
"We didn't overcome adversity very well," he said. "We get a questionable call, and then two plays later the offense gets a big play. Or, we drop an interception, and then two plays later the offense scores a touchdown. We didn't overcome the negative things that good defenses do.
"And that comes from confidence. That comes from feeling like you're snake-bit. You have to work on every part of that, mentally and physically."