Redskins plan to use ‘new toy’ Hatcher in a variety of ways


Defensive end Jason Hatcher joins the Redskins after spending the first eight years of his career in Dallas. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

During his time in Dallas, Jason Hatcher lined up primarily at right defensive end when the Cowboys were in a  3-4 front, and then at defensive tackle when they switched to the 4-3 last season. But look for Redskins coaches to move their “new toy” all along the line.

Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will take a more aggressive, less rigid approach to his play-calling now that Jay Gruden has arrived. The goal: apply more pressure to the quarterback.

And so the Redskins’ decision-makers believed they needed to add another disruptive player to their defensive line rotation. They saw Hatcher as the answer.

“We needed some more depth on our defensive line. I felt like we needed – other than [Brian] Orakpo and [Ryan] Kerrigan on the outside – we needed more of a pass rush mentality from an interior type player,” coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday in Orlando. “Obviously [defensive linemen Barry] Cofield and [Chris] Baker can rush the passer. We need another presence especially in nickel to get someone rushing the passer from the inside. We felt he had one of the better years an inside rusher had in the last few years. He was a priority for us.”

Hatcher, who had 4.5 and four sacks in 2011 and 2012, respectively, erupted with 11 sacks last season. The career-best sack total came with Hatcher in playing in a 4-3 scheme, but the Redskins remain confident that he can have an impact for them. They reviewed his film in the 3-4 and were impressed.

Gruden said that they will line the 6-foot-6, 299-pound Hatcher up in a variety of different positions to maximize his potential.

In the base 3-4 front, he likely will line up at one of the two end positions, which coaches describe as the “4 technique” (just over the offensive tackle’s inside shoulder). In pass-rushing, or nickel  packages, when Washington traditionally shifts to a 4-3 look, Hatcher could line up as a “5 technique” defensive end (just over the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder), or as a 4-3 defensive tackle (also known as the “3 technique”) with Orakpo or Kerrigan joining him on the line as edge rushers.

“There’s a lot of different fronts we can play, that [Haslett] can play. [Hatcher] can do a lot of different things,” Gruden said. “That’s why he’s so important to us because he’s so versatile.  There’s not a position on that defensive line he can’t play. We’ll go out and play with our new toy when we get to training camp and figure out what we can do with him. In talking to him, after we signed him, Jason is champing at the bit. A lot of people had him viewed as, ‘I just want to be a 3-technique in a 4-3.’ that’s not true at all. He wants to move around, be a 4, be a 5, be a 3. That makes him more effective.”

Have a football question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

More from The Post:

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · March 26

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