- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2016

The Washington Redskins‘ defensive line will look different than it did last year after the team decided to move on from nose tackle Terrance Knighton and defensive end Jason Hatcher, who then retired after 10 seasons.

They didn’t draft a defensive lineman until they selected Temple’s Matt Ioannidis in the fifth round. Washington opted for more versatility by adding players in free agency such as Kendall Reyes and Trent Murphy bulked up in the offseason to switch from outside linebacker to defensive end entering his third season.

Coach Jay Gruden has referenced how often the defense is expected to be in its nickel package, rather than its base 3-4 scheme. Because of this, the Redskins believe 11-year veteran Kedric Golston can fill the void at nose tackle. It’s also why they liked Ioannidis, a versatile rookie who is expected to be used at both defensive end and tackle.

As the Redskins retool the defensive line, they’ve bucked defined roles such as a traditional nose tackle. That said, how often the team will be in nickel will likely create stiff competition for roster spots and playing time.

Defensive line



Roster locks: Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois, Reyes, Stephen Paea

Likely: Murphy, Golston, Ioannidis

On the bubble: Corey Crawford, Jerrell Powe, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier

What to expect: Baker played 58 percent of the defensive snaps last season, most of any defensive lineman. In a breakout season, Baker supplanted Paea for the starting left defensive end job and had six sacks. Entering 2016 in the final year of his contract and the leader of the defensive line, it’s expected he’ll be on the field often.

The good thing is that the Redskins should have the depth so they don’t have to rely solely on Baker. Reyes, who had 10.5 sacks in his first two seasons with San Diego, had just three in 2014-15 and is looking to get back on track with Washington. The Redskins presumably will have a strong rotation at right defensive end with Reyes and Jean Francois. Paea was limited in 2015 with a back injury and ended the season on injured reserve with a toe injury. Entering the second season of four-year, $21 million contract, the Redskins expect more from Paea, who could work in with Baker at left end.

The Redskins asked Murphy to pack on weight and he responded by returning to organized team activities at 290 pounds. That’s a lot of commitment from Murphy and I expect the team to find a way to work him in.

With Golston and Ioannidis‘ ability to play nose tackle when needed, it could be difficult for Powe to make the roster. Crawford stuck on the Redskins‘ practice squad in 2015 and showed improvement in the spring, but it’ll be difficult for him to crack the 53-man roster.

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