As they evaluated their defensive line this offseason, Redskins coaches believed that they had some quality pieces in place, with nose tackle Barry Cofield leading the way. But they also concluded that in order to maximize Cofield’s impact, they needed to give him more help. So, they acquired Dallas defensive end Jason Hatcher.
Coach Jay Gruden has said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will use Hatcher in a variety of ways. After hearing that and more from his coaches, and after getting the chance to talk to Hatcher, Cofield has high optimism about the kind of impact his new teammate will have.
“I think he’s definitely going to be a big help,” Cofield said Monday, following Washington’s first day of offseason workouts. “It’s always great to be able to get a division rival and take someone from their roster that was big for them and bring him to your home. That’s almost a double-whammy on that part. And on top of that, he brings a completely different skill set from the guys that we have. He’s very unique in that way and I think he’ll complement everybody on the line extremely well. He’s a great guy. I got a chance to meet him and talk with him, and he’s very excited, and I think we’ll look a lot different even within the same defense. There will be a lot of wrinkles and things that will make us better.”
Hatcher enters his ninth NFL season and his fourth as a starter. In recent years, he has excelled as a pass rusher. He recorded 4.5 sacks in 2011, four in 2012 and then a career-high 11 in 2013. Haslett plans to change the way he has his defensive line attack opponents to take advantage of Hatcher’s strengths as a pass rusher, and to put Cofield in more positions to get into the backfield as well.
Cofield believes that the new creativity and Hatcher’s versatility will serve Washington well.
“Realistically, I think from a scheme he came from, it was almost the opposite end of the spectrum from what we were doing here with the way Dallas was playing and getting upfield aggressively and forcing themselves into the backfield,” Cofield explained. “That’s what the whole [Dallas] defense is predicated upon – an aggressive front – while here, we were a physical front tasked with keeping the linebackers clean, and allow them to make plays and be free flowing, which we’re still going to do. That’s why I say he’ll complement. We’re not going to come in here and be the Dallas Cowboys. But he’s going to come in here and bring what he’s learned and what he does well and get into the backfield and rush the passer. We have guys that have that talent and will work well with him, and we have guys that will play the run until we get into passing situations. That’s what I mean. If we can force them into passing situations, stop the run, isolate him on the field, unleash the rush with him.”
Cofield and his teammates have only received a brief overview of what Haslett has in store for them. But the veteran says that ultimately, scheme doesn’t matter if players don’t do their jobs.
“Really, it’s going to come down to execution,” Cofield said. “But I continually say that. That is the plan. We’re going to do some different things up front. It’s not just D-line, but linebackers included and we’ve really bought into and that should allow us to be in the backfield more and to hopefully make big, disruptive plays on the quarterback. We’ll see. It comes down to execution because the offensive line still wants to block you, and if you’re not beating people, it’ll all be for naught, so we’ll just see how it plays out.”