- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2017

ASHBURN — When Phil Taylor Sr. tore his left quad during the Redskins preseason game against the Bengals, one of the best storylines of the offseason came to an abrupt end.

Taylor, who grew up a Redskins fan, had willed himself out of near-retirement and back from multiple knee injuries and. He had far more left in the tank than even he or the Redskins had guessed, and Taylor had established himself as the team’s would-be starting nose tackle for this fall.

With Taylor out for the year, however, the Redskins need to find another starter at a position that has given them headaches recently.

“Ziggy [Hood] can play there. Stacy [McGee] can play there some, too,” coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday. “Those guys have played well. It’s been a constant battle throughout OTAs and training camp, so those guys have gotten a lot of work.

“Coach [Jim] Tomsula’s rotated them in there, different people with different groups — part of the plan. I feel terrible for Phil [Taylor Sr.] because he did a great job at getting himself ready to play. He’s in excellent shape, but it’s just an unfortunate injury. The rest of the guys have got to step up.”

Gruden is right, particularly if the Redskins want to do better against the run next season. Washington came in at No. 27 in the league in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, a defensive line statistic which accounts for the strength of the opposing offensive line and puts more emphasis on short runs, where the linemen are more involved, than longer ones.

They were No. 26 in power success, which measures how often opponents are able to convert runs on third or fourth down with one or two yards to go, as well as first- or second-and-goal two yards or less from the goal line. Redskins opponents converted in these situations 69 percent of the time last season.

Taylor is 6-foot-3 and 343 pounds. Hood is the same height but 305 pounds. Not that that makes Hood Tinkerbell, but he is a bit trimmer in a spot where size matters. Defensive linemen are shrinking in general in today’s game, but Taylor looked remarkably nimble for his size during the preseason and, sometimes, a nose tackle just needs to eat up space.

“It just makes you versatile,” said Hood, who spent most of his career as an end but played inside a significant amount last season. “You can go in there, stop the run, and if you can rush the passer, you do it and stuff like that. You show the coaches and you show the owners that you can do it and you’re willing to do everything to try to help this team.”

McGee is another option. The Redskins felt he could play nose or end in their 3-4 when they signed him during this year’s free agent period. The Redskins also have Joey Mbu and AJ Francis on the 90-man roster as of now. Both Mbu and Francis are bigger, more traditional nose tackles, but Hood and McGee are more experienced and have performed at a higher level.

“We’ll see,” Gruden said. “A lot is going to determine that. How many defensive linemen are we going to dress on game day, that’s one. If we dress five or six on game day, how many we’re going to keep on the 53-man roster. There’s still some time for us to have those discussions and we will.”

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