Over the next two weeks, CSNWashington.com Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2012 and evaluate its outlook for 2013. Previously, we looked at the offense (offensive tackles, the interior offensive line, wide receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, and tight ends). So far on defense we’ve looked at the ends. Today, it’s nose tackles
Position: Nose tackle
2012 starters: Barry Cofield
Key reserves: Chris Baker
Key free agents: None
Cofield was better in his second year at nose tackle than he was in his first but there are still questions as to whether or not he can function at a high enough level at the position for the Redskins to be a top defense.
As one might expect from an undersized (6-4, 318), more athletic nose tackle, he was better at rushing the passer than he was at defending the run. Cofield’s 2.5 sacks, 15 QB hits and 14 hurries all were at or near the top of charts for defensive tackles. He also batted away six passes at the line.
But it was a different story against the run. The evaluators at Pro Football Focus ranked him as 31st and last against the run of all of the nose tackles and 4-3 defensive tackles who played at least 60 percent of their teams’ defensive snaps. It didn’t appear that his play was quite that bad. The Redskins did finish fifth in the NFL against the rush and it’s hard to do that if your nose tackle is the worst in the game. Still, PFF’s ranking is an indication that they could use some improvement there.
Baker was solid as a fill in, playing 219 snaps, including the playoff game. A competition for the backup job between Baker and 2011 draft pick Chris Neild ended before it really got started when Neild tore his ACL in training camp.
It does not appear that the Redskins are going to try someone different in the middle of the line. They are in a passing division (it doesn’t appear that Eagles will pass significantly less under Chip Kelly than the did with Andy Reid) and in a passing league. The thinking could be that they are willing to work with whatever shortcomings Cofield might bring when it comes to stopping the run in exchange for a strong ability to provide some pass pressure.
We will see if the 360-lb. nose tackle becomes an anachronism much like the in the box, run-stuffing safety has become. They seem to be harder and harder to come by and if they can’t help when every down is a passing down then it’s hard to justify keeping a player like that around. Cofield is signed through the 2016 season.
It looks like Baker and Neild again will compete for the backup job. It appeared that Baker had the inside track on the job when Neild got hurt so Baker would go in as the favorite.