Redskins expect defense will rally around a healthy Jason Hatcher

August 11, 2014

Jason Hatcher, center, works out during training camp last week. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND – With the return of defensive end Jason Hatcher, the Washington Redskins expect their defense to come together.

Hatcher, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee June 20, missed the first two weeks of training camp. Activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list Saturday, he will participate in individual drills until receiving medical clearance for full-squad work.

Hatcher already has been ruled out of Monday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. And considering how cautiously management has handled Hatcher, it wouldn’t be surprising if he sat out the entire preseason.

For the Redskins, the good news is that Hatcher, guaranteed $10.5 million this season, is working with his teammates instead of rehabbing with trainers. That’s progress, nose tackle Barry Cofield said.

“Just the thought of having him back, the possibility of it, was exciting. To actually have him back is great,” Cofield said. “We’ve played well without him [in training camp and the preseason opener], but he’ll be one of the better players on our team.”

The Redskins are banking largely on Hatcher to bolster their porous defense – Washington tied for 30th in the NFL in points given up – by improving the pass rush. Last season, Hatcher, listed at 6-foot-6, 299 pounds, led the rival Dallas Cowboys with 11 sacks.

It’s worth noting, however, that despite Hatcher’s success, the Cowboys’ defense ranked last in yards per game and 30th out of 32 teams in passing defense. In the NFL, it takes more than one standout player on a unit to make a major impact on the whole group. The Redskins get that, they say. Adding an elite pass rusher, however, should help spur change, Cofield said.

“He has got a very unique skill set. It’s something that we need and every team needs,” Cofield said.  “A guy with that type of athleticism and length can really push the pocket. He’ll be extremely valuable. We’ve got a great plan to utilize him. He’ll make everyone’s job easier.”

Jason Reid is a sports columnist with the Washington Post. He joined the Post’s Redskins team in 2007 after 15 years covering many beats at the Los Angeles Times.
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