Williams Admires Phillips' Defense

Article excerpt

Byline: Ryan O'Halloran, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Shortly after being hired as the Buffalo Bills' coach in February 2001, Gregg Williams said he was rummaging through some storage space when he discovered defensive playbooks left behind by the previous staff, headed by Wade Phillips.

Williams paid particular attention to the defensive literature because of Phillips' decades-long involvement with the 3-4 scheme. Six years later, Williams is the Washington Redskins' assistant head coach-defense and Phillips is the Dallas Cowboys' coach. And Williams still pays attention to what Phillips is doing.

"I always like to take a look at some of the top guys, and he's been one of the most successful coordinators in the league," Williams said yesterday at Redskin Park. "Some of the things are the same. Some of the things have changed. What he does a very good job of is utilizing his personnel."

Phillips has been a defensive coordinator for six NFL teams. When he replaced Bill Parcells in the offseason, he brought his philosophy to a Cowboys team that had been constructed to play the 3-4. The results have been impressive.

Entering tomorrow's game against the Redskins, Dallas is 8-1. While its offense has gotten most of the attention, the defense isn't bad, either. The Cowboys rank seventh in yards, fifth against the run and third in sacks (26) and interceptions (14).

The task facing the Redskins is different than when they played 3-4 defenses in New England and against the New York Jets.

"Wade's fingerprints on the 3-4 are that there's more movement with the fronts and more dogging [blitzing] of the linebackers," Redskins left guard Pete Kendall said. "When their linebackers dog, it's predesigned, it's at the snap and it's attacking a gap."

That mentality was evident in the Cowboys' 31-20 win over the New York Giants last week. Dallas consistently had five defenders at the line of scrimmage, and the two inside linebackers were well within the eight-yard box. Run blitzes were common. Overloading one side and having safety Roy Williams track down Brandon Jacobs from behind resulted in short gains. And DeMarcus Ware was all over the field.

The Cowboys have drafted intelligently to acquire players who fit the 3-4: big, athletic linebackers (265-pound Greg Ellis and the 252-pound Ware) who can also rush the passer from the edges. A large nose tackle (298-pound Jay Ratliff). And inside linebackers who are sure tacklers (Bradie James and Akin Ayodele have a combined 95 tackles). …