When Barry Cofield left the New York Giants and signed with the Redskins in 2011 he made two major moves. One was the 220 miles from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey to FedEx Field in Landover. The other move covered much less distance but was far more important.
With the Giants, he was the left defensive tackle in a 4-3 defensive scheme. In Washington, Cofield moved a few feet over to the right and checked in as the nose tackle in the Redskins’ 3-4 defense.
As one of four linemen in New York, Cofield lined up over the guard and made plays. In 2010 he played 789 snaps and made 40 tackles. As the man in the middle for the Redskins his primary job is to occupy blockers and let the linebackers make the tackles. In 800 snaps last year he has just 15 tackles.
It was an adjustment process for Cofield.
“When I first got here I was a defensive tackle playing nose tackle,” said Cofield after the Redskins’ OTA on Thursday. “But now I'm a nose tackle. I embrace it, I enjoy it, and it's gotten easier each day.”
Cofield does not fit the traditional mold of an NFL nose tackle in terms of size. The mold, in fact, is substantially larger than he is. Cofield is listed at 6-feet-4 and 318 pounds, a few inches taller and a few dozen pounds lighter than the prototype.
That may hurt him some in terms of occupying blockers to stuff the run. But the NFL is a passing league and, per Pro Football Focus, Cofield was the most effective nose tackle in the league when it came to getting pressure on the quarterback. PFF credited him with three sacks, 14 quarterback hits and 15 QB hurries in 2012.
Cofield hinted at some changes that will be made defensively this year that could lead to him getting even more pressure on opposing QB’s.
“[Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] is going to open up the playbook so we're going to show some new wrinkles through the season and hopefully it will keep them off balance,” he said. “Last year was more blitzing, a heavy dose of blitzes. It's all different things this year. Different alignments, all different things we're going to show people that will hopefully keep them off balance.”
With the team coming off of a division championship, Cofield said that while the players are happy and excited about it, none of them is satisfied.
“We've got big goals. Coach Shanahan said that there's only one team that's happy at the end of the year,” he said. “So obviously that doesn't include division champions, it's only the Super Bowl champions. That was part of our goal last year and we're optimistic that we can reach it this year.”
You get the feeling that the more comfortable Cofield gets the better chance the Redskins will have of reaching their goal.