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For a change, focus on Jim Haslett

ASHBURN, Va. -- Attention has been showered on the arrival of Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, the acquisition of quarterback Donovan McNabb and the absence of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

Throughout the offseason, however, one of the most overlooked people in the organization has been Washington's new defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett.

During the season he spent out of football, Haslett spent time with Shanahan. The two men studied film together in Denver. They discussed the principles and details of the 3-4 defense. Their time together turned into an unintentional job interview. And the more it went on, the more Shanahan knew he had the man he wanted to lead his defense.

What Haslett demonstrated last season is what has been on display this summer. He has instilled his aggressive attitude into the Redskins. Haslett also has personally looked out for Haynesworth and tried to prevent the organization from losing him mentally.

But it's not just what Haslett -- the former Saints and Rams head coach -- can do. It's also the personnel he has.

Washington's linebackers are as good, if not better than, the unit that Haslett fielded in Pittsburgh from 1997 to 1999, when he was the Steelers' defensive coordinator. His linebackers were Jason Gildon, Levon Kirkland, Earl Holmes and Greg Lloyd.

Washington can line up outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, and inside linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher. Few teams can match this type of potential and production at linebacker.

Eventually, watercooler conversation will go from Haynesworth to Haslett, and the sooner the better for the Redskins. But the football world has missed the real defensive storyline in Washington.

• When Shanahan coached in Denver, his offensive tackles were Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman and Tony Jones. In Washington, Shanahan has two tackles who can mean as much to Washington as Zimmerman and Jones did to Denver.

Washington used the fourth overall pick on Trent Williams and then traded an improved draft position but no extra picks to New Orleans for Jammal Brown. Now Washington has two former standout Oklahoma tackles who give Shanahan the chance to run many of the successful plays he used in Denver.

Williams has athleticism that cannot be taught. His talents are obvious. "He's a total stud," Shanahan said.

In one offseason, Washington has solidified its offensive tackle position, which could be as good as any in the league.

• One look at Washington's depth chart reveals the difficulty former Steelers running back Willie Parker could have making the Redskins' final roster. Parker is listed as the Redskins' fourth-string running back, behind Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Ryan Torain, whom Shanahan and Redskins running back coach Bobby Turner coached in Denver. Shanahan and Turner always have liked Torain, but the running back has struggled throughout his career to stay healthy. If he stays healthy this summer, he could wind up costing Parker a roster spot.

• Shanahan is conducting an interesting experiment with some of his former players. In the past couple of weeks, he has turned to his former standouts to help teach these Redskins his system. Former Broncos star Terrell Davis spent more than a week with the Redskins, helping pass along the lessons he learned in Shanahan's offense.

Former Buccaneers and Broncos running back Michael Pittman has done the same. Former Raiders, Panthers and Broncos quarterback Steve Beuerlein has been brought in to work with Redskins quarterbacks. And even former Broncos and Jets safety Steve Atwater is now in Washington, working with Redskins defensive backs. The former players have enjoyed getting a taste of the coaching life.

• Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong has impressed in training camp, but he has done that before on Dolphins and Redskins practice squads. He needs to do it in preseason games.

• Every team has unsung and underrated players. One of Washington's is free safety Kareem Moore. He makes plays and has quickly gained Haslett's attention. He's not the only defensive back to play well this summer: Former first-round pick Carlos Rogers also has impressed. He has been good enough to hold down the starting right cornerback job.

• Miami and Baltimore didn't think quarterback John Beck could play, but the Redskins are sufficiently intrigued. Beck is playing in an offense similar to the one in which he excelled at Brigham Young and which contributed to him becoming a second-round draft pick. Don't write Beck off just yet.

• And now, on to Nashville, Tenn., and Titans camp.


Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.