Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2009 Defensive Line Review

The Redskins top defensive ends are probably no longer linemen at all. Brian Orakpo’s successful rookie year is well documented, and the role he played last year was very similar to a 3-4 OLB anyway, so I’m not worried about him. Unlike a lot of other guys on this defense, the scheme change may maximize his abilities. Chris Wilson also played very well in essentially the same role as Orakpo. And Andre Carter has played OLB before., so I’m confident he can make the switch since age does not seem to have slowed him much. More on these three guys in the linebacker review.

I’ve already talked a lot about Haynesworth both in the post on the  3-4 defense and in his own personalized rant. To summarize: the Redskins are fortunate to have one of the most uniquely talented defensive players in football (and he does not come off the field too often, thank you very much) and it would be a travesty if he were forced into a role as a space-eater to make a 3-4 scheme work. But three posts on Haynesworth would be excessive, so on to the other guys…

There may be good depth at tackle, or maybe not. I am something of a Kedric Golston fan, as he has often shown the ability to either hold the line against double teams and to get into the backfield to break up plays. He is one of many who is stuck being a restricted free agent due to the expiration of the CBA, so I’m assuming (hoping) that we could match any offer he might get and bring him back. His exact role would be unclear – he’s powerful but I’m not sure if he could be a traditional 3-4 DT… but could he be an end? (You will find that both this post and the linebacker review will be greatly complicated by the fact that no one really knows what sort of defense the Redskins will run next year.) If he isn’t brought back or isn’t considered ideal for the tackle role, then we could have a depth issue.

Anthony Montgomery has disappointed since he’s been here, and I’m honestly surprised he even made the 2009 team, so even though his free agency is also restricted I’m not expecting to see him brought back. That leaves Cornelius Griffin as the only other full-time tackle. Griffin is still capable of playing well for short periods, but his age is apparent. About once a game he is good for putting an offensive limeman on his back, but more often he gets pushed around. I assume this is because his age has sapped his endurance – he still has a lot of strength when fresh, but just can’t stay on the field in a full time role. He also seems the least likely of our tackles to excel in a 3-4. He’s under contract and one would assume he could be useful in some way, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get cut before training camp. It’s not for nothing that we keep hearing rumors about the Redskins wanting to add a nose tackle.

There is more depth along the line, and if it was hard to classify these guys before it’s even harder now. Philip Daniels, Jeremy Jarmon (until he got hurt) and Lorenzo Alexander rotated through the end spots when needed but played a more noteworth role as DTs on passing downs.

I had expected Daniels would be a goner at his age, but WaPo says they’re looking to bring him back. It seems odd to me for a team with a lot of D-line depth to be resigning a 37 year old at a position that may no longer exist… but that is confusion about the overall defensive situation, not a criticism of Daniels. He performed quite well in 2009, although they were careful not to leave him on the field too long, and he even drew a number of double teams from the tackle position.

Jarmon unfortunately only got a little playing time before tearing up his knee, but I liked him when I had the chance to see him. Coming into the season the thinking was that he would need to basically be redshirted his rookie year to build his upper body strength, but he seemed to overpower a number of guards, so I think that physically he’s already capable of playing at this level. His play was also satisfying on the level of pure hustle and effort. One again I have no idea what position he will play next year, and he keeps getting mentioned as a linebacker. I thought he was a good use of a 3rd round pick when he came available in the supplemental draft, but the change of defensive scheme might well leave him without a position and we sure could use a 3rd rounder for other needs... It’s not his fault, or even Vinny Cerrato’s, but at this stage he appears he may be superfluous.

Finally, Lorenzo Alexander had something of a breakout season. He has always been a useful role player, and performed at a higher level than you would usually expect for a guy coming off the bench. But in 2009 he developed a wicked spin move, and spent a striking amount of time in opponents’ backfields. He may have fallen a little too in love with that one move, but it was so consistently successful you can hardly blame him. Add in the fact that he’s an effective sixth linemen in offensive jumbo packages and one of our most impressive special teamers, and he becomes one of my favorite unheralded Redskins. But the theme continues to assert itself… he is apparently being moved to linebacker. I assume he would play inside…? Alexander has been good at most every job he’s ever been asked to do, so maybe he can pick up linebacker as well. But we know he’s good on the line, and that brings me back to my primary fear with the defensive change. Why take a chance on whether Alexander and a lot of other guys can adjust to new roles?

Previous position reviews: offensive line, running backs, tight ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks, obsessive Albert Haynesworth fanboy post.

1 comment:

  1. Good article. I think the defensive line is our greatest strength at the moment.

    Little typo though, not that my grammar is perfect.

    *so may(be) he can pick up linebacker as well.