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Posted at 10:48 AM ET, 01/13/2011

Lesson for the Capitals: Finding balance on a talented team

By LaVar Arrington

A reader responded to my post on the Capitals the other day with this question:

Hey Lavar - This is a nice little piece. I am interested to know if you ever encountered a similar predictment during your own career? For example, as a linebacker did you ever have trouble playing against a certain team that was adept at passing and running? Did you find that you could take away the run, but at the expense of solid pass protection? Maybe a better example might be the safe play vs. the big play. Jumping a route versus playing more conservatively. Explaining how you found that balance or a team you played for found that balance would be really interesting for us to read, especially coming from a pro athlete that has "tackled" these type of circumstances against elite competition. Thanks.

The question was left in my comments section, and I thought it was a good question,one that was worthy of a response.

There have been times in my career in which a team that I was on was very talented but needed to find balance.

I can remember my year under Marvin Lewis in 2002, when he was the Redskins' defensive coordinator. We ran a very aggressive defense and we had to figure out the little nuances of the scheme. Starting out we were better against the run than we were against the pass even though we had Champ Bailey and Fred Smoot at cornerback and Sam Shade, who was a fine player, at safety.

We knew we could cover but it was a matter of getting the linebackers -- Jessie Armstead, Jeremiah Trotter and myself -- all on the same page with one another and the secondary.

So for a period of time early in the season we faced the challenge of being very stout against the run but susceptible against the pass. We were able to overcome our lack of familiarity with the defensive system because of talent and guys like Armstead and Shade, who just had unbelievable football IQs. It helped get guys like myself up to speed more quickly, but it was a balance that we needed to find that season.

As time went on we were able to achieve that balance because we were able to disguise blitzes and coverages with movements before the snap that confused the quarterback enough for us to either cause a turnover or win the down with an incomplete pass or a good tackle against the run.

The creativity of how coach Lewis called games and us finding that balance helped me to have a career year, statistically. I was in the running for defensive player of the year and led all linebackers in sacks that year.

In the Capitals' case, it will just require time and dedication to find the balance needed for them to improve. They are almost to the All Star break, so they still have an adequate amount of time to work on getting better in their areas of need.They discovered how to be better defensively this season. Now they need to find their offense again. It's there -- they just have to find it without losing the effectiveness they have on defense.

By LaVar Arrington  | January 13, 2011; 10:48 AM ET
 
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Comments

Thanks Lavar. I really appreciate the insight.

Posted by: Cherno | January 14, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Unravelling+sports+links/4124179/story.html

Interesting article on outdoor contact sports and their tendency to produce ALS at a much higher rate than the general population. One sport with high contact, hockey, does not follow the trend.

Posted by: Coach_1 | January 18, 2011 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Lavar, I live in Dallas, and I listen to your show everyday at work. I really thought the segment on 1/18, where you were talking abt the Jets trash talking, and the franchise having trust from the owner down to the last man on the roster was off da chain. Your passion and fire got me all fired up for when the Skins organization have that kind of TRUST from top to bottom. But that made me ask, with the way Shanny handled the 2010 offseason and season, is it still possible for him to create that kind of trust in the organization? Will the players ever begin to truly feel that he has their back and vica versa?

Posted by: sam_spg94 | January 19, 2011 11:58 PM | Report abuse

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