Thursday, July 15, 2010

Redskins position preview: Defensive line



I posted my 53 man roster prediction on Tuesday without commentary, so as promised starting today I will be posting somewhat in-depth evaluation of each position group.  These will be going up every 2-3 days, power throught the start of training camp, and will all be wrapped up before the Redskins take the field for their first preseason game.
First up - the defensive line.
Confidence Level: 4 out of 10
Hopeless roster prediction:
8 keepers

Tackles: Albert Haynesworth, Kedric Golston, Maake Kemoeatu, Howard Green

Ends: Philip Daniels, Adam Carricker, Vonnie Holliday, Darrion Scott

Cuts: Rob Jackson, Trey Jacobs, Anthony Bryant

Let's start with the tackles.
I have made the case ad nauseum that Albert Haynesworth actually was a very effective player last year (an no, he did not rotate out of the game more than would be expected). Haynesworth has taken on his share of blockers, and certainly has the ability to play nose tackle when needed - although it is not even close to being the best use of his exceptional skills. That said, he will hopefully be spending a fair amount of time way outside as a 5-technique end, where he will be better equipped to wreak havoc. When he does play inside, the performance of Jay Ratliff in Dallas provides some evidence that a NT in the 3-4 can in fact make plays in the backfield - but of course until we start seeing some game action we really have no idea how Jim Haslett actually intends to use him.

Kedric Golston is another guy who is a tackle by trade but will probably be redefined this year. He's "only" 300 pounds and therefore isn't really cut out for the traditional nose tackle role (compare to the listed weights of the three true NTs that have been brought in - 364, 365 and 376). Don't get me wrong - he is a very strong player and can stand up against blockers. But he's a bit too good at absorbing a block then shedding off to make a play to be left standing there holding the entire interior offensive line at bay. He does quite well int he middle of a four man front, but just may not have the bulk to survive all alone as a nose tackle. Golston has long been terribly underrated. No one outside of DC knows who the guy is, but over the last 4 years he has steadily made (unnoticed) plays despite having to share playing time with the released Anthony Montgomery, who was considered to have more upside but never came close to matching Golston's on-field production. The official roster lists him as a DT, but I could see him excelling as a 3-4 end so I'm hoping we see him get moved around the line some.

That gets us to the true nose tackles who were brought in this offseason. The major acquisition was Maake Kemoeatu. He has played well before, but he missed all of 2009 with a torn Achilles tendon and he is still trying to recover in time for camp. So obviously depth here is important. Both Howard Green and Anthony Bryant are journeymen veterans who have bounced from team to team, but at least they fit the mold. I'm picking Green to make the roster simply because he has played for Haslett before (in New Orleans).

I intially only had three guys making the roster as "official" ends - that's because Haynesworth and maybe Golston should be rotating through the end spots, and because when the Redskins go to four man fronts some of the guys we now call outside linebackers would be back in their old end position, so it wouldn't actually be as shallow as it appeared with just three guys listed up there. But just look at those guys - Phillip Daniels is ancient (37 years old), Vonnie Holliday is well over thirty himself, and Adam Carricker has been constantly injured during his young career. To me, that meant an eighth defensive lineman was necessary, so I tacked on Darrion Scott because he's another guy who has played in a Haslett defense before.

As for the confidence level grade of 4, I was a bit conflicted. There's talent on this line, but too many causes for doubt:

- Haynesworth: Out of position and pissed off. If he shows up at all.
- Golston: Out of position
- Maake: Recovering from major injury
- Green: Mediocre
- Bryant: Mediocre
- Daniels: Crazy old, like Mr. Burns old

- Holliday: Just regular old

- Carricker: Major injury history
- Scott: In the UFL last year
- Jackson: Out of position

- Jacobs: Undrafted free agent
Honestly, the only reason I gave a grade as high as 4 out of 10 is that if everything goes right there's a number of guys on this unit (Haynesworth, Golston, Maake, Daniels, Carricker) who have the potential to perform at a very high level. If everything goes right.
A final note: The offseason acquisitions along the defensive line really caused me to doubt the Redskins' arguments that Albert Haynesworth didn't need to worry about the new defense limiting his effectiveness. There has been lots of talk about multiple fronts and so on, but most teams that do that - think Patriots - stock up with versatile players so that the coordinator can call different formations with the same personel. Instead the recent additions seem like pure 3-4 guys. The nose tackles are obvious. But there's also Carricker - he played 4-3 with the Rams but out of college was touted as an ideal 3-4 end and was generally considered to be playing out of position in the pros. I am eager to see what the defense looks like on the field, but for the moment I'm not quite buying the Shanahan/Haslett line.
Next up: Linebackers (rest assured this one will include even more belly-aching over the scheme change).  Check back this weekend.

18 comments:

  1. Have you seen the piece that Warren Sapp did on Haynesworth vs the Cowboys on MNF last year? Pretty convinving, and I have a pro-92 bias like you do.

    http://blogs.nfl.com/2010/08/09/sapp-haynesworth-needs-to-stay-on-field/

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  2. Haven't had a chance to watch the video yet but I've heard its pretty damning. Torn on this because I consider Warren Sapp to be a blowhard but people have told me he makes a solid case.

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