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Williams focused on Jacksonville overhaul after Washington exit

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had several former colleagues at practice Tuesday, most of them watching him work with his new team for the first time.

Reputation precedes him


New Jaguars defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has directed a top 10 defense in five of his 11 seasons as a coach:

» 2007: 8th ( Redskins)

» 2006: 31st ( Redskins)

» 2005: 9th ( Redskins)

» 2004: 3rd ( Redskins)

» 2003: 2nd ( Bills)

» 2002: 15th ( Bills)

» 2001: 21st ( Bills)

» 2000: 1st ( Titans)

» 1999: 17th ( Titans)

» 1998: 16th (Oilers)

» 1997: 22nd (Oilers)

They got to see Williams put his players through various drills, formations and schemes. They also got a firsthand lesson on dodging questions.

Speaking publicly for the first time since joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in February, Williams refused to talk about his seemingly awkward departure from the Washington Redskins.

"I'm happy to be a Jaguar," he said. "Any other questions about the Jaguars?"

Not yet. Williams met with Redskins owner Dan Snyder four times about succeeding head coach Joe Gibbs and probably could have provided the most continuity for a team coming off a postseason berth. But Williams got passed over for the job and then fired.

The only thing Williams would say about the situation Tuesday was that he never had an agreement with Snyder to take over for Gibbs.

"There's a lot things written many, many, many times that's incorrect," Williams said. "I just choose not to correct people."

The fiery assistant landed in Jacksonville a few days after parting ways with the Redskins and became a key part of coach Jack Del Rio's defensive makeover designed to close the gap on AFC powers Indianapolis and New England.

Del Rio released aging veterans Sammy Knight, Terry Cousin, Aaron Glenn and Grady Jackson, traded oft-injured defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and retooled his defensive staff with four new assistants.

He signed free agent cornerback Drayton Florence, then used two first-day draft picks on pass rushers in hopes of solidifying the team's biggest weakness.

Now it's up to Williams to make it all work.

"Everywhere I've been I've had to adapt to who's there," Williams said. "I think the mark of a good staff is to decide what the players can do best and make sure we put them in those positions and let them do the best, and we're doing the same thing right now."

Williams has put together some of the league's top defenses in recent years, helping Tennessee (1997-2000), Buffalo (2001-03) and Washington (2004-07) reach the upper echelon in just about every statistical category.

The Redskins ranked in the top 10 in total defense three times, but they also had an embarrassing 31st-place showing in 2006.

Williams wouldn't say what kind of scheme he planned to use in Jacksonville, but most expect it to be his typical aggressive, attacking style that tries to create turnovers.

"We're going to play everything that's ever been played in football before," Williams said.

Although Williams could have changed Jacksonville's defense completely, installing new formations, terminology and hand signals, he chose to keep most everything intact. Instead, he opted to handle all the adjustments himself by learning Jacksonville's play book. It was the first time in his NFL coaching career he didn't do things entirely his way.

"We want the learning curve for the players to be the shortest," he said.

Still, there have been changes.

The most notable is Williams' far-from-coddling approach to players. He yells and chastises them for mistakes, much different from the way former defensive coordinator and current Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith used to handle practice.

"Gregg is a little more vocal," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "That is pretty much the big difference. He's involved in pretty much everything. It's cutthroat. He's going to let you know how it went when it went that way. He's not going to give you time to linger on and think about if you did it right or wrong. He's going to let you know right then and there if you did it right or wrong."

Williams also has made practice more intense with several competitive drills, including "up-downs." More common at the high-school level, they typically require a player to run in place, then at the coach's command, drop to the ground for a series of push-ups.

"We like to compete in every aspect of practice," Williams said. "I'm not going to apologize for being competitive. ... All those little bit tougher drills, little bit harder drills, I think that carries over a little bit into how we're going to play defense."

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