- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- Big milestone for Britain’s little Prince George who turns 1
- Murphy: Israel must be wary of Hamas using civilian deaths for recruitment
- Royce: Putin recruiting ‘every skinhead and malcontent around Russia’
- Nancy Pelosi is adamant: Congress worked together when Bush was president
- ‘Slender Man’ stabbing victim receives Purple Heart from anonymous veteran
- Kentucky city called socialist for buying gas station, undercutting competitor fuel prices
- Israel hits five mosques, sports complex in overnight Gaza strikes
- Hillary Clinton dogged for refusing reporters’ questions on book tour
- EPA tweet baffles: ‘I’m now a C-List celebrity in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ iPhone game
Redskins’ emphasis on 3-4 defense is evident early
Wish list shorter this year
Question of the Day
Jim Haslett entered last offseason with a wish list as long as a football field. His first year as the Washington Redskins‘ defensive coordinator was a major struggle following coach Mike Shanahan’s mandate to install a 3-4 alignment mostly with players assembled by the previous regime to run a 4-3.
The growing pains were deep, and numerous holes were exposed. The defense forced more takeaways, as Shanahan hoped, but it allowed more yards than all but one team in the NFL.
Seven months later, at the dawn of a new campaign, Haslett’s list is considerably shorter. Shanahan prioritized defensive upgrades in the draft and free agency, giving the unit a facelift that should move the Redskins closer to achieving their vision for the 3-4 scheme.
“I think it’s a big upgrade for us,” Haslett said Saturday.
As understatements go, that’s near the top. Of course, it wouldn’t have taken much to improve a defense that surrendered 5.9 yards per play, but Shanahan followed through.
Haslett openly lobbied at the end of last season for the Redskins to use their first- and second-round picks on defensive players. Shanahan drafted outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan 17th overall and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins in the second round.
Before the lockout, Haslett helped sign free agent free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. And last week, the Redskins signed free agent nose tackle Barry Cofield, defensive end Stephen Bowen and cornerback Josh Wilson.
Atogwe, Cofield, Bowen and Kerrigan are expected to start, and Jenkins at least will regularly factor into the defensive line rotation. Wilson might start, depending on whether the Redskins sign another cornerback.
Shanahan believes the most important additions are to the line. The trio of nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu and ends Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston was a liability last season. Too often they were pushed off the line of scrimmage. Kemoeatu was cut last week, Golston is a free agent who remains unsigned and Carriker is in camp.
“You got two guys [Cofield and Bowen] who are 27 years old, natural leaders, and that’s to me how you build a football team. You build it up front,” Shanahan said. “It starts with that defensive line and that offensive line. We’ve got a couple young guys that, I believe, are future captains, guys that can lead and play well.”
“That’s the big thing,” Haslett said. “We had some age last year up front. You could see we wore down as the season wore on.”
The Redskins expect the new additions to generate a pass rush that was almost nonexistent a year ago. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had a team-high 8.5 sacks, six more than any defensive lineman. Washington ranked 29th in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
“As a defensive lineman, you should feel like no center should block you one-on-one,”said Cofield, unknowingly acknowledging one of Kemoeatu’s shortcomings last year. “That’s something you should relish. I think I can do a great job collapsing the pocket here.”
The Redskins expect Kerrigan’s pass-rushing prowess to balance the pressure Orakpo provides from the right. They hope the attention Orakpo commands from blockers will free Kerrigan for sacks and to create turnovers.
The latter is where Atogwe comes in. Over the past four seasons, his annual total of interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries has averaged 8.75.
“Just all around play-making ability, I believe I’m one of the best,” he said. “I come up with turnovers when we need it.”
“He’s a ballhawk,” Haslett said. “I just think he kind of settles everybody down. He’s got a great demeanor, and he’s a good tackler.”
All of the additions reflect well on paper, at least. Now they must learn the Washington’s defense before the season opener Sept. 11 against the New York Giants.
The lockout delayed free agency until last week, so Cofield, Bowen and Wilson just now are being introduced to the Redskins‘ scheme. Bowen at least came from the Cowboys’ 3-4; Cofield played in the Giants’ 4-3, so his learning curve is steeper.
Atogwe has a feel for what Haslett wants because of their time together in St. Louis. Kerrigan got to know a bit of the playbook and terminology at the players-only offseason workouts. Jenkins did not attend those.
“We’re going to have guys that it’s going to take them a little while to learn,” Haslett said, “but that’s kind of how the game is right now.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- REDSKINS 2013: Washington seeks staying power among NFL's elite
- NFL 2013: Ranking all 32 teams in terms of staying power
- REDSKINS 2013: Breaking down the schedule, game by game
- Redskins receiver Leonard Hankerson learning to manage family life with football career
- With no blueprint, Redskin Hankerson seeks success as dad
Latest Blog Entries
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- YOUNG: A sinking presidency, deeper after November?
- Hillary Clinton dogged for refusing reporters' questions on book tour
- PRUDEN: A deadly enemy within exacerbating immigration crisis
- Rep. Jared Polis' anti-fracking crusade riles Colorado
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- MERRY: Handicaps in Hillary's way
- Blunder on the bases costly in D-Backs' 4-3 loss
- Nancy Pelosi: Congress worked together when Bush was president
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq