Point-Counterpoint: Improving the DL

Point-Counterpoint: Improving the DL
June 3, 2011, 5:04 pm
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Friday, June 3, 2011, 1:02 p.m.CSNwashington.com

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For all the uncertainty surrounding the quarterback, running back and receiver positions, the Redskins also face question marks along the defensive line. The Redskins spent a second-round pick on a defensive end and have several linemen under contract.

In the latest point-counterpoint installment, Ryan OHalloran and Rich Tandler debate how the rotation could possibly shake down.

Ryan OHalloran: Heres what I like about the cast of defensive linemen last year for the Redskins: They were a good group of guys save for Albert Haynesworth. Thing is, they struggled in the 3-4 scheme, and its up to Mike Shanahan to allow Jim Haslett some salary space to get better production at nose tackle in particular. I like the pick of West Virginia battler Chris Neild veterans said he picked things up quickly during last weeks mini-camp. But the Redskins have to find a starter-quality nose in free agency. At the end spots, the starters right now are Kedric Golston and Adam Carriker. More production is needed from these two spots, particularly on the pass rush. The key, of course, is the starters holding down the fort on first and second downs so Haslett can deploy Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan as pass rushers.
Rich Tandler: No question, the D-line was a group of high-character guys with just the one noted exception of No. 92. While I think that Golston, who will be either a restricted or unrestricted free agent pending the settlement of the labor dispute, will be back, his role almost certainly be reduced by the arrival of second-round draft pick Jarvis Jenkins. I also see Kerrigan lining up in a three-point stance on some passing downs, further squeezing snaps from Golston. But what happens on the edges wont matter much if they dont solve the nose tackle problem. Do they try to fix it in free agency this year when it will be a sellers market for the 49ers Aubrayo Franklin and the very few other starting-caliber nose tackles out there? Or will they try to get by with Anthony Bryant, who was adequate at times when he got in the lineup last year, and Neild and address the position in next years draft?

OHalloran: Franklin should be Priority A in free agency from a defensive standpoint, because the Redskins need a guy who is able to say and show, Hey, my numbers may stink, but when I trot off the field after second down, Ive done my job. Bryant is an interesting case. The Redskins made a mistake last year in training camp by releasing Howard Green, and he ended up first with the Jets and then winning a Super Bowl ring with Green Bay. Especially defensively, I dont like placing a complete emphasis on one position, but if the Redskins are to shore up their defense, nose tackle will be the key spot -- unless Shanahan allows Haslett to play more of a base 4-3 on early downs. (An aside: After we watched the 3-4 in play last year, it continues to be comical how the Redskins thought Big Al would actually buy into playing the nose on first and second downs. Thats when the problem started.)
Tandler: Franklin will be 31 before the season starts, and although he has been sturdy, missing just five games since 2005, the Redskins need to be careful. Franklin may be a short-term fix on a team that isnt set to win for another couple of seasons. Overpaying him could wreck a lot of the good work that Bruce Allen has done in fixing the teams salary-cap situation. Back to Jenkins: I like his potential a lot. Teaming him and Adam Carriker at the end positions gives the team bookends actually best suited to be 3-4 ends and not repurposed 4-3 tackles. If Jenkins can figure out how to generate even a hint of a pass rush, the Redskins 3-4 could start to look like the turnover-generating machine it was designed to be.