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Sporting News: Draft Dish: Redskins take safety Taylor at No. 5


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Redskins take safety Taylor at No. 5


Safety first.

Given the expected choice between tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and safety Sean Taylor, coach Joe Gibbs sided with the defense in his first NFL draft in 12 years.

The Washington Redskins chose Taylor at No. 5 overall Saturday, the highest spot for a safety since Eric Turner was taken No. 2 by the Cleveland Browns in 1991. Taylor also was the first defensive player selected, following two quarterbacks, a tackle and a receiver.

"Obviously safety is a place where you say that has to be an unusual person there," Gibbs said. "But we felt like he was very unusual."

Either Taylor or Winslow, both from the University of Miami, would have filled a need in the Redskins lineup, but safety has been a particularly bothersome revolving door in recent seasons.

At 6-foot-2, 231 pounds, Taylor is projected as a rare game-changing free safety, a hard-hitting ball-hawk with the height, speed and range of a cornerback. He will allow Matt Bowen to move to Bowen's natural position of strong safety, displacing Ifeanyi Ohalete, and will join cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot to solidify a defensive backfield that lost four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.

"He'll be a very good fit for what we want to do on defense here, to keep the attacking principles going," assistant coach for defense Gregg Williams said.

Taylor is a first-team All-America who declared for the draft after his junior season. He had 10 interceptions last year and returned three for touchdowns. He also made 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Taylor's downside is a tendency to be overaggressive, the trait that has also plagued linebacker LaVar Arrington, and the Redskins certainly don't need those two key defenders playing out of control at the same time.

But Williams said he won't try to curb Taylor's drive.

"As a coach, I'll never want to slow them down," Williams said. "I've been all my life trying to speed them up. Those guys make fast decisions. They play passionately. They play aggressively. That's what you want as a coach. Those kind of guys don't need an awful lot of motivation."

Winslow would have been a perfect candidate for the H-back for Gibbs, who coached Winslow's father as an assistant in San Diego. The selection was a reminder that the offense-minded Hall of Fame coach won Super Bowls by taking care of both sides of the ball.

"I think they get the impression after a while how much I care about defense - because I want to keep my job," Gibbs said.

A potential sticking point with Winslow was the Redskins' relationship with his agents, the Poston brothers. The Postons also represent Arrington, who is claiming the team cheated him out of $6.5 million when he renegotiated his contract in December.

Without referring directly to the agent situation, Gibbs said: "Believe me, every last detail was minutely studied. And we thought, in the end, we felt our choice really needed to be Sean."

Gibbs said the Redskins were never serious about moving up in the draft. There were offers to move down, but the team felt none of the deals were better than the sure thing of getting the impact defensive player at No. 5.

As for Taylor, his first assignment might be to learn more about Gibbs, who won his first Super Bowl before Taylor was born.

"I've heard about him. I know a little bit about him," Taylor said. "I'm not sure I know all the ins and outs, but I do have a little bit of history."

The Redskins entered the draft with only one pick on Saturday, having traded their other two away. The second-round selection went to Denver along with Bailey for running back Clinton Portis, and the third-round choice went to Jacksonville for quarterback Mark Brunell.

The light day allowed Gibbs to fly by helicopter to the Redskins' stadium in Maryland, where he spoke an estimated 35,000 fans attending the team's official draft party.

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