Barry Cofield aims to spur Redskins’ defense to elite level

Barry Cofield hopes to take his production - and that of the entire Redskins defense - to the next level. (Toni Sandys/Washington Post)

Barry Cofield hopes to take his production – and that of the entire Redskins defense – to the next level. (Toni Sandys/Washington Post)

RICHMOND — The 2011 season represented the introduction, 2012 refinement, and now as Barry Cofield prepares to enter his third season at nose tackle for the Washington Redskins, he wants to take over.

“My goal is to be the best nose tackle in the league,” Cofield says. “Anything less than that, I’d be disappointed.”

Cofield’s confidence and optimism stems from the progress that he saw himself make from Year 1 as a nose tackle to Year 2. A defensive tackle in the New York Giants‘ 4-3 system for the first six years of his career, he had to change his mindset and learn new techniques in his new role.

It took the better part of the 2011 season for him to feel comfortable. He was asked to assume a more selfless role, taking on double-team blocks and clogging running lanes while freeing up linebackers to shoot gaps and get to ball carriers and quarterbacks. Then by the second half of last season, Cofield got to the point where he could play without thinking, and he found himself becoming more disruptive.

“I felt like I moved around on the field a lot faster,” he says. “I was one of the first people to the ball instead of fighting a lot of blocks. In the pass game, I definitely felt a lot more comfortable. I was able to get a lot of pressures, QB hits, still bat balls. I felt like I was pretty impactful on the game for a nose tackle.”

After recording 25 tackles (15 solo and 10 assists), Cofield last season increased his total to 36 tackles (15 solo, 21 assists). He also tallied 2.5 sacks, six pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Cofield believes he can increase his production with a firm foundation now in place.

“I feel like I’m learning nuances now,” he said. “Before, I was building that foundation, and now, I feel like I’ve got that foundation and I feel extremely comfortable, able to grow in the defense. Coach is giving me a lot of leeway to make plays up front, as far as twisting and things like that. It’s going to be a lot of new wrinkles, and I’m excited.”

He added, “Last year was much better than the first year, and I got better as the season progressed, which is what I hoped for. I had a great offseason, I was healthy and was able to come back to camp in great shape. I really feel like this defense is suited for me, unlike what a lot of people thought when I first got here. But I do feel like I’m a perfect fit, and the coaches have faith in me, and I’m going to pay them back.”

Cofield believes that he is capable of making more big plays, and getting to the quarterback more. He also believes that he can become more stout against the run.

Individual numbers don’t serve as a complete indication on how well a nose tackle is doing at his job, because their execution generally paves the way for teammates’ success.

And so, Cofield believes that the overall success of the Redskins’ defense this season will serve as the true measuring stick for his growth.

“A lot of my goals are tied into the team. I want to be a top-10, top-five defense, to match our offense. If we can do that, I feel like we can compete for the Super Bowl,” Cofield says. “I just want to continue to be solid like I was last year, but just make more big plays. I’d like to get a couple more sacks, hit the quarterback a few more times. Having a guy like [Brian Orakpo] back will help the whole front. Other than that, it’s team goals. Like I said, we just want to hit the quarterback more than we did last year and be a top 10 defense.”

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What’s ahead:

● Thursday’s practices are at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.

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