January 17, 2011

An Interview with Ken Harvey: The 3-4 Defense, Brian Orakpo, Darrell Green And More

If you didn't catch the first part of my interview and subsequent column with former Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey, check them out. Harvey talked with me a few weeks ago about his campaign against teen drinking, his involvement in the community, the state of the Redskins franchise, and gave me his thoughts on Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense after watching it for a full season.

Here's the full transcript of the interview:

What do the Redskins need to do in order to reestablish a culture of winning?

"Looking back at it, you got to realize one it's going to take time to produce any type of winning team. If you look at the history of what they've done over the years is that every other year there's been a turnover, there's been somebody new, there's been something else. So what [Snyder] has to do is give a person time to establish a team.

"Two, what I think they are doing now is they're establishing an attitude that if you're going to come to the team this is what you're going to need to expect. As much as you know [Shanahan] may have been back and forth on the Haynesworth thing, every guy coming into camp next year knows he needs to come in shape because if not he's going to be either on the bench or embarrassed and without a team. So now you're going to have guys not taking it for granted that they got a job. They're going to come here and say 'I better come in in tip-top shape' which is only going to make the team better.

"The third thing is the hiring of a new GM. It's to say 'OK we need you to identify what exactly out needs are and address those needs. In the years past you look back and you say 'well they need an O-line'. And the issue hasn't been totally addressed and so here in the end result you have a quarterback who may have been a  good quarterback, but if you're getting hit in the face every time, then it's hard to do anything.

"So now you have to address the issues. I think probably the best thing is hopefully it works well together [so] that you got a GM who can address both issues and then you got a head coach who can try and establish the new attitude.

"The biggest portion of the future is to make sure that the GM and the head coach are on the same page. If that works out I think over time you'll start seeing, hopefully you'll start seeing some results based off what they are doing."

Brian Orakpo became the first Redskins since yourself to record back-to-back seasons of 7.5 sacks or more. Do you see him as a guy the Redskins can build their defense around?

"In a 3-4 this is the reality: It's hard to build on an outside linebacker. He'll be a playmaker, he can make things happen. But when you have a [3-4] defense that defense is going to be built around guys who you don't know really that much about. It's being built around a strong nose tackle who's going to take up two or three people so the quarterback can't step up in the pocket. It's going to be built upon good [middle] linebackers who are dropping in the right coverage so that it's making the quarterback hesitate a little bit longer and then you have outside 'backers who can get to the the quarterback.

"So a 3-4 I think is going to be built up on more of team. You have some stars on the team and I think Orakpo will definitely be a star, but the D-line is going to be a huge component of how successful that team can be."

As you pointed out, a good nose tackle is critical to success in the 3-4. Is that a position the Redskins will look to upgrade this season do you think?

"I think that they will. You need to get hungry guys. I'd rather take a bunch of guys who may not be the biggest and best but that want to be the biggest and best than to take a few guys who maybe are the biggest and best, but think that they are and then don't perform like it.

"With that said yeah [nose tackle] should be an issue, but the bigger issue is you've got to start [number] one: building for the future a little bit, and [number] two: getting some offensive linemen who are going to be hungry because I think if you get an offense that can start throwing out points, then it gives the defense time to rest.

"The defense will be in the second year of this new system so they will start understanding and getting the feel for what they [need to] do a little bit more. And they [can] adjust off of that.

How long will this defensive transition take?

"It will take until halfway into next year. I mean guys will work into it. But you're still seeing that some guys are playing out of position. You've got some defensive linemen now playing linebacker. That itself takes a year to adjust to.

"Let me give you a brief [explanation] as to why. As [a linebacker] rushing now all of a sudden you have to get in a two-point stance, your take off is a little bit different than you would normally do. Now you also have to [play off the ball] where you're used to getting in somebody's

"And then you have to worry about those guys with the receivers. Who knows what [they are] doing and how [they] have to play off against [them]. Then you have to learn how to communicate to the other guys around you so that they understand [whether or not] to pick up on your guy when he comes across your field in the zone or if you're playing man to man.

"All those little things go into making something that seems like the simplest adjustment not as simple. And so you need at least a year because you can understand it on paper but in the heat of the game when everyone is going 100 percent and you're trying to figure out do I drop here, do I drop there? That split second can be the big difference between a touchdown or maybe a tackle."

Switching gears for a moment, do you still interact with former teammates you played with on the Redskins?


"I didn't play with these guys but I talked to Art Monk, Monte Coleman. He's not here but I talk to him. [Also] Charles Mann I talk to him a lot. Darrell Green I talk to him some. I go to some of the Redskins Alumni functions and so I see some of the guys who have been around.

"But I get a chance to talk to some of the guys here and there. The guys that I played with; every once in a while I've talked to Marvcus Patton. He's still looks like he can play (laughs). "You see guys and you're like 'man he has a body that looks better than mine when I played.'

"Rich [Owens], he's in Miami now. So he'll see everybody and obviously Facebook is a great tool to hang out with people and talk to people."

How close have you grown to the people through your work in the community? Do you feel as if you have a special bond with them due to your outstanding service?


"Well I mean obviously there are gifts and blessings. Sometimes you have the time to do things and as a father now you realize how valued you spending maybe an hour [with somebody] can mean. Because when my boys, when they see who they've looked up to, it definitely wasn't just me as a player because kids see other players and they are all happy to get their autographs and if that person says 'hey kid, you need to do well in school,' you can see how it can make a difference in their life.

"So little simple things even doing stuff with the military; I may go someplace and just shaking hands with the military you're like 'well yeah I'm just an average guy. You guys are sacrificing for your country,' but you realize that they are as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. So I try to do some, but at the end of the day there's only so much time in the day and you've got to allocate your time and all that, but you know. To whom much is given, much is required so I try to do a little more than I have to."

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