What the Washington Redskins need are more players like London Fletcher, says former Washington Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey. The team also needs more players who are hungry, who are students of the game and play for the joy of playing. It's a different mindset than previous Redskins teams, adds Harvey.
Harvey spoke to us in his role as Washington's Director of Responsibility about the team's We don't Serve Teens campaign. Then he answered our questions about the 3-4 defense and what it takes for it to work. Here's the interview:
Redskins Hog Heaven - What is the advantage of a 3-4 defense?
Ken Harvey - The outside linebacker can dominate the offense by bringing pressure on the quarterback to throw shorter or longer than he wants, or do something else that he does not want to do. All parts have to work together because there are holes in that defense.
RHH - What type player excels in the 3-4?
KH: You must have one, two or three players that can force double or triple team (on them). The scheme demands athletic players who are aggressive and who can cover. Those players have to be real students of the game. They have to be players who study a lot.
Every part of the 3-4 has to be good. If the right side of the 3-4 defense is strong, but the left side is weak, the quarterback will just roll to the weaker side to make a play. You see that tendency less in the 4-3 defense. The 3-4 demands pressure everywhere.
Harvey cited his personal experience when he had to line up over a tight end. He struggled until a buddy showed him how to set his feet. That made all the difference.
There's not much of a speed difference between a 4.3 player and a 4.5 players, but the wrong set-up can be the difference between a stop and a touchdown. The Redskins played in the 4-3 in Harvey's active years, but the 3-4 places linebacker in coverage situations on ends and backs when they are not rushing to passer.
RHH: What are the attributes fans should look for in rookie players for the 3-4?
KH: The Redskins need players who are hungry and who are in love with the game. Look for players who study football. The previous mindset was to come to the 'Skins and get paid. You knew you might be walking into a tumultuous atmosphere, but it was worth it because you got paid. That wasn't intentional on Washington's part. It just worked out that way.
(Interesting that Harvey focused on a characteristic to answer this. I was expecting a skill or measurable here.)
Mike Shanahan has come here and let everyone know that you have to be prepared to work. Your job is in competition because the talent level from starter to first back up won't be that great, so your position is at risk. Your contract won't save you if you don't fit the scheme.
RHH: Is there anything that London Fletcher can't do?
KH: London Fletcher is the perfect guy for this defense. He's smart. He plays with heart. His motor runs all the time. He studies the game so he's always in the right spot. He's involved in the community with his charities and is an all-around good guy, 'though he does have some dog in him for games.
London reminds me a lot of (Harvey's teammate) Darrell Green. No matter how old Darrell was, he loved the game and always happy to be part of the team.
(I'll go along with that. What this team needs are more Darrell Greens and more London Fletchers. Another Ken Harvey wouldn't hurt, either.)
Former Washington Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey was a stalwart of the defense in the Norv Turner years (1994-1998) and a four time Pro Bowler.
Related story: Ken Harvey Says No to Teen Drinking.