- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 24, 2014

BALTIMOREWashington Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher played 17 snaps Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens. And for 17 snaps, fans and coaches got their first glimpse at the offseason acquisition that could help reshape their defense.

On his first play from scrimmage, Hatcher drew a double team. In his second series, he bull-rushed three-time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and sacked quarterback Joe Flacco for a 12-yard loss.

Hatcher’s presence along the defensive line was the catalyst to the unit’s strong performance in a 23-17 loss in Baltimore. But the defense also continued to show signs of progress long after Hatcher had left the game, late into the first half.

While the first-string offense struggled, the first-string defense took care of business.

“I think we got a lot to build on,” Hatcher said. “We haven’t scratched the surface. But at the end of the day, it’s on us to go out there and work hard at it and be the heart and soul of this team. So we’ve just got to go back on the drawing table and keep going.”

On Saturday, Hatcher saw his first action with the Redskins after signing a four-year, $27.5 million deal in March. In June, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. After missing much of training camp and the entirety of the first two preseason games, he was scheduled to play 10 snaps. He played 17. 

SEE ALSO: After penalty, Brandon Meriweather defends tackling style

With Hatcher, the Redskins were able to repeatedly pressure Flacco early in the first quarter. The 32-year-old end created havoc on his own while also freeing up fellow outside linebackers Trent Murphy, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.

“He looked like the same guy that was terrorizing us last year for Dallas,” Kerrigan said of Hatcher. “I’m glad he was able to come out there and make some plays, and give Redskins fans a sneak peek at what’s in store for the season.”

For the second straight game, the Redskins occasionally turned to a unique and interchangeable defensive front with Kerrigan, Orakpo, Murphy and only one true defensive lineman. The lineman, in some cases Hatcher, lined up in the middle of the formation while the other pass-rushers shifted back and forth, either putting their hands on the ground or hovering around the line of scrimmage.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett primarily used the look on third downs in passing situations. The presence of so many pass-rushing threats forced Baltimore’s offensive line to make several related adjustments immediately before the snap.

“I think it’s a headache for offensive coordinators to plan for that,” Murphy said. “They have to take time and go through all those looks, and they don’t know what we’re going to show up and do. So it’s definitely good to have that tool.”

Washington used a similar formation against Cleveland, also to great effect. When asked about each linebacker’s role in those formations, Murphy smiled. “I’ll leave that one to Coach Haz,” he said.

Perhaps aided by the pass rush, Washington’s starting secondary also had a few impressive moments. Ryan Clark lowered his shoulder toward Dennis Pitta in the middle of the field, knocking the Baltimore tight end’s helmet off with a legal hit. Brandon Meriweather blew up a play in the backfield. And David Amerson broke up a near-touchdown on a fade route in the corner of the end zone.

“It was just like when we was kids,” Meriweather said. “We was flying around, having fun, everybody doing their job.”

Keenan Robinson also showed bursts of speed and made several solid stops, including one for a loss on fourth-down during the first drive of the game.

With the positives, however, there were negatives. Meriweather on one play lowered his helmet on Torrey Smith, resulting in a penalty and likely additional punishment from the league. Amerson prolonged Baltimore’s only touchdown drive with an illegal contact penalty, and DeAngelo Hall was whistled for pass interference.

“We had some penalties and stuff on defense, but I think for the most part, we’re getting 11 hats to the football on defense,” Murphy said. “Definitely a lot to improve on, but a lot of positives to take away today.”

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