Washington Redskins: Evaluating The Defensive Line Going Into 2014 NFL Season
The Washington Redskins easily fielded the most passive-aggressive defensive lines in the NFC last season, and it really wasn’t even close. The unit lethargically labored its way through a subpar 2013 campaign, logging seven sacks (32nd in the NFL), 32 QB hits, (24th), 66 QB hurries (28th), 94 total pressures (30th) and 1,347 pass rushes (30th).
Was it time for an upgrade in the trenches? First-year head coach Jay Gruden seemed to consider it a necessity. He made a number of strategic maneuvers to beef up the defensive line to give the pass rush a bit of a fine-tuning. Gruden also courted and signed former Dallas Cowboys DE Jason Hatcher in an effort to inject power into the pass rush.
As most would assume, the personnel shift raised eyebrows and generated intrigue among the fanbase. That said, how does the Redskins’ pass rush measure up in preseason?
It’s been said that everything is bigger in Texas, and that may be true when it comes to the Redskins’ newest DE. I hate to pour cold water over the signing of the 6-foot-6, 299-pound DE, but the level of skepticism I have of Hatcher couldn’t possibly be higher. Yes, he had a monster season a year ago, logging a career-best 11 sacks, but the man turns 32 in July. In signing Hatcher, Gruden likely just pulled off his first Albert Haynesworth as a first-year head coach.
The lingering presence of Barry Cofield is also a cause for concern along the interior of the defensive line. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound NT has posted 303 career tackles, with 201 solo and 18.5 sacks, along with a whopping 26 passes defended. But as fate would have it, Cofield just isn’t getting any younger. He is over the hill in gridiron years, and Washington can ill afford to bank on him frightening offensive lines for too much longer.
Third-year DE Chris Baker is young but has flashed promise. He brings an element to the Redskins’ defensive line that the unit hasn’t had in while: youth, gridiron intellect and athleticism. Behemoth 6-foot-4, 318-pound LDE Kedric Golston is a disruptive force currently stationed on the second-team depth chart. He is loaded with experience, but shares a common denominator with Cofield and Hatcher in the age bracket. His career numbers leave a lot to be desired, and at 31, it would be safe to say that his days in the NFL are numbered.
Jarvis Jenkins‘ game hasn’t exactly impressed coaches as of late, which means fourth-year West Virginia standout Chris Neild‘s preseason performance could receive first-team consideration, and it would be in his best interest to cash in on the opportunity.
Let’s just be blatantly honest about the state of the Redskins’ defensive line: Despite the offseason acquisition of Hatcher, the unit could really use additional marquee upgrades in the youth, experience and athleticism departments. He may have had a monster season last year, but the value of Hatcher’s stock remains in question.
The Redskins’ front four won’t be scaring opposing offensive lines. There’s a lot left to be desired, and the unit will be under continuous evaluation heading into the 2014 season.
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