Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield had 32 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks last year. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post) Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield had 32 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The 2013 season was an erratic one for Barry Cofield. The nose tackle got off to a rough start when he broke his hand in the preseason and had to wear a protective club. During the first half of the year, Cofield was practically a non-factor as the Redskins’ defense struggled.

However, the 30-year-old came alive down the stretch, playing his best football of the season as the Mike Shanahan regime crumbled around him in its final days.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett remains on the coaching staff, but there are plenty of changes to the game plan under new coach Jay Gruden. Cofield is excited that the Redskins’ defense has seemingly been unleashed from a conservative approach.

“I love the aggression and I love that we are playing to people’s strengths,” Cofield said. “We have a lot of talented guys with a lot of different skill sets on this defense, and this accentuates everyone’s strong points.”

After hernia surgery kept Cofield out of OTAs and minicamp, the veteran from Northwestern looked spry and sharp during training camp, coming strong off the ball to disrupt running plays.

“I feel great. I feel as comfortable as I’ve ever felt,” he said. “Everybody is going to be put in position to make plays, so I’m extremely excited.”

At 303 pounds, Cofield is not a prototypical nose tackle — he’s about 50 pounds lighter than the average player at that position — but his size allows him to play both the run and the pass, which is what the Redskins hope to get out of him.

“He has got to be the man in the middle,” Gruden said. “He has got to work on his pass rush, obviously, but he is a tough guy and we need him. He is a good run-stopper, but he has also got enough juice to rush the passer. He is one of those few defensive linemen that has the ability to do both.”

The addition of Jason Hatcher along the defensive line should help Cofield and give the front seven a boost that can mask deficiencies in the secondary.

“I think the sky is the limit,” Cofield said. “I think we all work together. We’ll be improved upfront with our additions and everyone just getting better together and growing together, and we’ll make the secondary’s life easier. Run game, pass game, it’s all one big machine. We all have to get better.”

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