The Washington Redskins and their fans last season had a bad experience with trying to convert a 4-3 defensive tackle into a nose tackle as Albert Haynesworth wanted to remain a sackmaster rather than double- and triple-team-absorbing anchor to the line.
Washington has moved on from Haynesworth and has turned on to Barry Cofield, who comes from the New York Giants, who ran the 4-3. Cofield last week agreed to a six-year, $36 million deal with $12.5 million of it guaranteed — significantly less than the $41 million Haynesworth was guaranteed. But Cofield will tell anyone that will listen that they need not worry about his willingness to convert to nose tackle.
“I’m excited about that,” said Cofield, who for his career has averaged 42 tackles a season and has missed only one game in five seasons. “A lot of it’s a mind-set. If you don’t want to go in there and play nose tackle, handle that physicality and that grunt work, it’s going to be hard for you no matter how big you are. But I’ve got the mind-set, the work ethic and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Cofield also points out that playing nose tackle, and the mindset required, isn’t new to him. As a rookie, he played for Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, who previously had coached on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ staff. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett played for the Steelers and shares some of the same philosophies. So Cofield already has a preview of what to expect.
“Our defense [as a rookie in New York] was very similar to what the Steelers run here in Washington,” Cofield recalls. “I played ‘zero-nose’ that year. A lot of people don’t realize that, so I have some experience with that. I’m excited about the talent we have, we have a great secondary with the acquisitions that we made, and London Fletcher and Orakpo: a lot of talent at the linebacker position. And with me and Bowen coming in to help the D-line, I’m really excited about the defense.”
In addition to embracing the physical role, Cofield also has no problem playing in the shadows of his teammates, who will own the spotlight while benefiting from the open blitz lanes that the nose tackle creates for them. He believes if he does his job correctly the people that matter will recognize his contributions.
“Being in New York, playing with those defensive ends and playing with those stars we had up there, I didn’t get a lot of accolades and attention as it was,” Cofield says. “But the Redskins obviously saw something in me. And when they watched the tape, I played in Washington quite a bit, and I’ve had some of my best games right here on this field, so I’m excited about it. Guys know Vince Wilfork and Casey Hampton. People know those names and if you play nose tackle well, you do get recognition. You do end up in Hawaii and that’s my goal.”