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For Taylor, A Challenging 2006 Season

Posted Jan 29, 2007

It appeared Sean Taylor was poised for a big season in '06, but he struggled for consistency. Still, he led the 'D' in tackles. Full Story

Sean Taylor decided not to talk with media most of last season--his choice, of course.

Taylor wasn’t able to fly under the radar of opponents, though.

"I have always seen the highlights--you try to catch a few plays of him," Atlanta Falcons running back Warrick Dunn said in the days leading up to the Redskins-Falcons game on Week 13. "He is a special player. He brings the wood and he always has to be accounted for. He is going to be in the same mold as the Ronnie Lotts and those types of players in the league."

Said St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt prior to the Redskins-Rams game on Week 16: "He’s a striker, a phenomenal player with a lot of range. He’s very physical. You definitely have to be aware of where he is on the football field. He reminds me of guys who fly around and are always around the ball. Ronnie Lott was a lot like that."

Compliments aside, the 2006 season was a challenging one for Taylor and the entire Redskins secondary.

Late in the 2005 season, it appeared Taylor had turned a corner in his pro career. In the Redskins’ six-game winning streak, including the 17-10 Wild Card playoff win over Tampa Bay, Taylor had 35 tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble, six passes defended and two fumble recoveries returned for touchdowns.

Last year, Taylor was still a force, particularly against the run. He recorded a team-high 129 tackles (89 solo), one interception and three forced fumbles. He was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl.

He had his best game in the Redskins’ 17-13 win over Carolina on Nov. 26: with the game on the line, Taylor tackled a Panthers wide receiver short of a first down on a fourth-down play. Then, in the game’s final seconds, Taylor intercepted a Jake Delhomme pass to seal the victory.

But as the Redskins’ defense struggled, so did Taylor. The unit finished 31st overall in total defense: 27th against the run and 23rd in pass defense.

Without a consistent pass rush, the secondary yielded 20 pass plays of 30 yards or more.

Problems were most evident in the Redskins’ last two regular-season games, when the defense allowed 934 total yards, including 458 yards on the ground, to the Rams and New York Giants.

In St. Louis, Taylor missed a tackle on a short pass to rookie tight end Dominique Byrd, allowing him to break loose for a 27-yard touchdown reception. Later, in overtime, Taylor appeared to take a bad angle on a run by Steven Jackson, allowing the back to break loose for a game-ending 21-yard touchdown run.

Midseason, Taylor drew attention for unnecessary roughness and face mask penalties, resulting in 15-yard infractions. He had two each in the Week 1 game versus Minnesota and the Week 11 game at Philadelphia.

Despite the struggles, head coach Joe Gibbs and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams remained in Taylor’s corner.

"He has played well," Williams said. "We have involved him a lot in the run front. We have given him more opportunities to be around the point of attack. He has produced all year long. We have to continue to work hard to get him into positions to do things."

Regarding the penalties, Williams described some of them as circumstantial. He referred to one play, in the Week 12 game at Philly, in which Taylor tried to pull off on a late hit along the sideline. One referee said there was no contact, but another referee tossed the flag, Williams said.

"Those kinds of things happen," Williams said. "Sean plays hard. All my life I have been trying to speed people up. I am not going to slow someone down. I want him to make better decisions, but I don’t want him to slow down."

The series of injuries to cornerback Shawn Springs last season was certainly a setback for the Redskins’ secondary. Others pointed to the absence of Ryan Clark, who meshed well with Taylor but left the team via free agency last offseason.

It is hoped that veteran Troy Vincent, who signed a multi-year deal with the Redskins last October, can provide a calming influence on Taylor and the team’s other young defensive backs. Vincent is a 15-year veteran, a five-time Pro Bowler and president of the NFL Players Association.

Said Williams: "As soon as Troy got in here that is one thing I talked to all of [the defensive backs] about was, anytime you get a chance to be around a veteran who has played as long as he has and played at a level he has, you need to make sure you do everything you can to pick his brain."

 

 

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