Training Camp Preview: DBs
By: Fran Farren 
Posted: 2004-06-23
Category: Washington Redskins News
When considering the defensive backs for the Redskins, there are essentially two big stories coming into training camp this year: Champ Bailey, and Sean Taylor. For the first time since 1999, Champ Bailey will not be around as the Redskins take the field at the start of training camp. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Those fans that think it's a good thing are of the belief that Bailey's performance has faltered recently and that his reputation as a "shut down corner" is based on past-performance, not present production. Those fans that think it's a bad thing are convinced that Bailey is (and will always be) one of the league's best cornerbacks. Whatever your opinion, the Redskins secondary will need some help without Champ Bailey.

Enter Sean Taylor. For those of you that may have attended the Redskins draft day party this year, you heard a very loud roar among the crowd as the announcement was made that the Redskins drafted Safety Sean Taylor (Miami) with their 5th pick. Taylor will be expected to make an immediate impact in a Redskins secondary going through a period of transition. Make no mistake, his linebacker side and cornerback speed should make a huge impact on the Redskins secondary this year.

What can we expect from these Redskins defensive backs this year? Let's take a look...

Fred Smoot
CB Fred Smoot

Height: 5'11"

Weight: 174 lbs

Born: 4/17/79

Fred Smoot will be entering his 4th season after being drafted out of Mississippi State in the 2nd round in the 2001 draft. Don't look now but the same energetic, loud, boisterous, and arrogant player we saw enter the league has slowly developed into one of the Redskins team leaders on the defensive side of the ball. Smoot's talent at the cornerback position is improving every year and many people are labeling him as an early favorite for his first Pro Bowl birth after the 2004 season. Smoot played through injury and diversity last year to be, arguably, the Redskins best cornerback last year, leading the team with four interceptions. He also led the team in interceptions in 2002 and 2001, becoming the first player in Redskins history to individually lead the team in interceptions in three consecutive seasons. Look for Smoot to continue to improve in 2004 and continue to grow as a team leader...and don't be surprised if he, once again, leads the team in interceptions for a 4th consecutive year.

Shawn Springs
CB Shawn Springs

Height: 6'00"

Weight: 204

Born: 3/11/75

Shawn Springs was signed by the Redskins as an unrestricted free agent on March 4, 2004 in an effort to take the place of departed Champ Bailey. Entering his 8th season and wearing #24, Springs is considered to be an extremely versatile cornerback with the ability to handle the toughest opposing receivers. His career highlights include:

74 Solo Tackles in 2000
1 Forced Fumble in 1997, 1998, and 2000
7 Interceptions in 1998
142 Yards of Interceptions Returned in 1998
2 Interceptions Returned for TDs in 1998

The only concern fans seem to have about Springs is his health. If Springs can stay healthy and give the Skins 16 solid regular season games, look for Springs and Smoot to be one of the best cornerback tandems in the league.

Sean Taylor
FS Sean Taylor

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 231 lbs

Born: 4/1/83

Prototype free safety, line backer size, corner back speed. These are among the descriptions you will hear about one of the Redskins' newest players, Sean Taylor. Taylor is an extremely hard hitter and it certainly is a bonus that he has excellent coverage skills and is also quite proficient in run support.

Many Redskins fans have drooled over this picture:

Sean Taylor

. . . dreaming of the day we all see Sean Taylor lay out Terrell Owens or Keyshawn Johnson like that.

In his 34 games with Miami, Taylor recorded 188 tackles (130 solos) with a 4-yard sack, seven stops for losses of 21 yards and two pressures. He also blocked two kicks and intercepted 14 passes for 306 yards in returns (21.9 avg) and three touchdowns.

Make no mistake about it, this young player has all of the tools. With the guidance of Joe Gibbs & Company, he will certainly develop into one of the best, if not thee best, free safeties in the game in a very short amount of time.

Matt Bowen
SS Matt Bowen
Height: 6'02"

Weight: 207

Born: 11/12/76

Last year Matt Bowen started for the first time in his career as free safety for all 16 games. A player with big-hit potential and excellent speed, Bowen numbers for 2003 were fairly impressive with in 94 tackles, 3interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. Bowen made mistakes, however, and was often times was seen last year taking bad angles on plays leading to lard gains by the opposing team.

One word can explain why Bowen's performance last year was less than stellar: "coaching"....or, to put it more correctly, "lack thereof".

Bowen is still a young player with a huge amount of potential. It will be up to the coaches to bring out the best in this player. With the signing of FS Sean Taylor, Matt Bowen will move back to his more natural position of strong safety. With one year of full-time experience under his belt and with the dramatic improvement in coaching on this team, look for Matt Bowen to have a break out year (if there can be one for a strong safety) for the Skins in 2004.

Ifeanyi Ohalete
S Ifeanyi Ohalete
Height: 6'02"

Weight: 222 lbs

Born: 5/22/79

Ifeanyi Ohalete played in 15 games in 2003 and started 14 at safety, teaming with Matt Bowen, Fred Smoot and Champ Bailey to form the NFL's 14th-ranked pass defense. In addition to posting 78 tackles (46 solo), three interceptions with one returned for a score (78 yards), two tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble and one fumble recovery, Ohalete was a standout special teams performer.

There will certainly be a competition between Ohalete and Bowen to determine who will start opposite Sean Taylor. Many fans believe the early money is on Bowen, however, Ohalete has a strong fan base since he has been a Redskin for many years now. Not only is he a formidable player in the secondary, Ohalete has grown to be quite an impressive player on special teams as well.

Yes, many people will be watching this young Redskins secondary develop as new players learn to communicate with and depend on each other. As the "chemistry" grows between these players, don't be surprised if this group develops into one of the hardest-hitting, dominate group of defensive backs in the NFL.
As always, be sure to keep your eyes on for the progress of the defensive backs during training camp.

-Justice Hog
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