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'Skins need to find spot for LaVar

October 16, 2005 1:06 am

AS STELLAR as the Washing- ton Redskins have been, it's foolish to think that they don't need LaVar Arrington on the field. The defense has been terrific at keeping offenses out of the end zone, but the unit hasn't been able to force turnovers or get to the quarterback. Arrington made his name by creating turnovers and putting pressure on the passer, specializing in both of the defensive deficiencies hindering Washington. The bottom line is that the Redskins are bleeding, and he could very well be the team's Band-Aid. If he is in fact the team's Band-Aid, they've opted to let the blood drip. Leaving him in the first-aid kit.

Though he is a proven playmaker known for his disruptiveness, Arrington's career took its first terrible turn in Week 2 of the 2004 campaign. During just his second game under his fourth coaching staff with the Redskins, the sixth-year Penn State product suffered a severe knee injury. His season wasn't yet two games old, but when the injury occurred Arrington had already tallied 13 tackles, a sack and two batted passes. The Redskins went on without their vocal leader, posting the league's third-best defensive unit without their top player.

Arrington worked all offseason to rehabilitate his leg, meeting every requirement set by his coaches. Five weeks into the 2005 season, Arrington's knee is a non-issue and the All-Pro talent is ready to focus on ball-carriers, rather than the agility tests that kept him occupied over the offseason. Unfortunately for Arrington, though, the coaches who compose the lineup each weekend aren't nearly as eager to see the three-time Pro-Bowler make his return to glory. Gregg Williams, Gibbs' assistant head coach and the mastermind behind Washington's upper-echelon defense, views Arrington more as a liability than as a weapon.

The bottom line is that Arrington is as gifted an athlete as the Redskins have ever possessed. The team needs him as badly as Kathy Lee needed Regis Philbin. He's an engaging individual and a student of the game, who has developed into a locker-room leader over the past few seasons. At 6-3 and 255 pounds, Arrington makes a much better outside linebacker than he does a cheerleader, the role he's played this season. There isn't another team in football that would even consider sitting Arrington. He is the total package and an elite outside linebacker. A five-year starter, he is an established pass-rushing threat with enough athleticism to cover receivers in the middle of the field.

The knock on the charismatic fan favorite is that he lacks discipline and often freelances, traits that can't be tolerated in Williams' defense. I've watched Arrington adapt to every coach he's ever played under, including defensive stickler Marvin Lewis, now a head coach in Cincinnati. Under Lewis, Arrington played a defensive-end-type role for the first time in his career, giving up his roaming responsibilities to become a lineman in many packages. The result was an 11.5-sack season. Not bad for someone who can't adjust to systems or comply with a coach's requests.

The Redskins aren't built around any one player; look no further than the team's success without their highest-paid player. A quarter of the way through 2005, Washington's tied for first in its division and just a half-game back of the overall conference leader. The team's revamped offense has improved steadily each week, as only two teams have compiled more first downs than Joe Gibbs' Redskins. Defensively the burgundy and gold have been as stingy and stout as they were last season, currently ranking fifth among the league's 32 teams. In order to continue to succeed, though, Washington's defense is going to have to make more plays. Through four games, the Redskins have forced just one turnover and amassed a league-low four sacks.

It will take a handful of significant defensive plays for Washington to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs on the road this afternoon. Whether or not Arrington is involved in any of them is entirely up to his coaches. For now all he can do is wait for his chance to re-prove himself. One thing is certain about his confusing and controversial situation, though. I wouldn't want to be the running back carrying the football when his opportunity to make a difference comes.

GRANT PAULSEN is a 17-year-old sportswriter who lives in King George County. He hosts a talk show each Saturday on XM radio. He can be reached at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, or by fax at 373-8455.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.