Here are three options the team could pursue in free agency to address that issue:
Re-sign candidate: Phil Taylor
Taylor signed with the Redskins last year as a long shot to make the final roster. But after impressing over the course of OTAs and training camp, Taylor worked his way up to starting nose tackle, only to suffer a torn quad that would see him land on injured reserve before the season even began.
There’s no real reason not to bring Taylor back. He had earned the starting job before the injury and the Redskins didn’t add anyone else to take the job once he went down, preferring to just shuffle around the guys they already had. Even if the team looks to sign a free agent or draft a nose tackle, it couldn’t hurt to re-sign Taylor and see how he bounces back from his injury throughout the offseason.
High-level target: Sheldon Richardson, Seahawks
Richardson is likely to be the most sought-after interior defensive lineman in free agency. He was a rising star with the Jets, registering 16.5 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end in his first three seasons in New York. But the Jets asked him to drop weight and play outside linebacker in 2016 and then traded him to the Seahawks last season, where he was allowed to play his preferred position inside as a three-technique defensive tackle. There, he was able to show just how good a player he is.
Here, Richardson lines up over the outside shoulder of the Falcons’ right guard.
Straight off the snap, Richardson does a great job getting his right hand inside on the chest of the guard while also keeping his pad level low. That enables him to get under the guard and drive him back toward the quarterback, making the most of his length with a one-arm rush in the process.
The guard attempts to re-anchor and swipe Richardson’s hand away, but he’s unable to recover. Richardson drives him back far enough to be level with the quarterback and then disengages and closes on the quarterback for a sack.
Richardson isn’t just a strong pass-rusher, as he offers plenty in the run game too.
Like before, Richardson lines up over the outside shoulder of the right guard.
On this play, the Eagles run the ball to the left, but instead of trying to block Richardson normally, they attempt to cut him off from the play side of the run. The right guard blocks back to him while the tight end fulfills the guard’s responsibility on the linebacker.
Richardson uses the same one-arm technique seen in the previous play to control the block. He drives the guard inside, squeezing the hole for the running back before eventually working across the face of the guard and filling the hole himself, making the tackle for a minimal gain.
Richardson will likely command a large contract in free agency, but he’s a multifunctional player who can defend the run and provide a pass rush from the interior. Those types of players aren’t easy to find, thus making them expensive — possibly too expensive for the Redskins.
Under-the-radar target: Bennie Logan, Chiefs
Logan should be a familiar name to Redskins fans. The former Eagle visited with the Redskins when he was a free agent last year, having spent the first four years of his career in Philadelphia. He ended up signing with the Chiefs and had a solid year as part of their defensive line rotation. Logan isn’t flashy, but he is stout against the run and would fill the Redskins’ need at nose tackle.
Here, Logan lines up as the nose tackle over the right shoulder of the center.
Off the snap, the center runs away from Logan while the right guard works across to pick him up. Logan feels the right guard coming and works to get his hands inside. From there, Logan has control of the block, standing up the guard and holding him in place, giving himself the ability to work either side based on where the running back cuts. As Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell cuts back, Logan throws the guard aside and fills the hole, making the tackle for a minimal gain.
As well as being stout, Logan displays some quickness off the snap.
This time, Logan lines up directly over the center.
Logan flashes his burst as soon as the ball is snapped, using a club and swim move to skip past the center and work freely into the backfield. From there, Logan makes little work of closing in on the running back and making the tackle for a loss.
The Redskins’ run defense struggled last year, particularly after the injury to Allen. A relatively cheap defensive tackle like Logan, who is a reliable run defender and can play nose tackle in the 3-4 base front, would make for a solid addition to the rotation.