The Redskins made a sizable investment in the defensive line this offseason when the team signed pass rusher Jason Hatcher to a four-year, $27.5 million contract.
And while adding Hatcher was indeed a bold and necessary move, Coach Jay Gruden acknowledged this week that the unit is also counting on increased sack production from the other key linemen, in particular 26-year-old ends Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins.
“We expect big things out of Chris and Jarvis,” Gruden said. “Baker’s going to be a major part of our nickel pass rush also, as is Jarvis Jenkins at some point.”
In 2013, the entire Redskins’ defensive line accounted for only 5.5 of Washington’s 36 sacks, a total that ranked 21st (tied). Baker notched one sack as a reserve, while Jenkins chipped in with two after missing the first four games due to a PED suspension.
It almost goes without saying that the stakes will be higher for both players this season. Baker signed a three-year, $12 million extension in February and figures to ascend to a full-time starter. Jenkins, meantime, is under pressure to break out as he enters the final year of his contract.
With the offseason program set to wrap up next week, Gruden said he’s pleased by the line's progress as the tackles and ends adjust to scheme and technique tweaks aimed at bolstering the rush.
“They’re doing a much better job of getting off blocks and transitioning from a run-type of front to a pass rush on the play actions,” Gruden said. “Everybody down there, all those defensive tackles. Kedric Golston is doing a good job. They’re all rushing the passer a lot better.”
Gruden added: “They’re still maintaining their run gaps and playing good run defense. Transitioning from a run-style stance to a pass rush [stance] isn’t easy for a lot of our people, but our guys are doing a good job.”
Injured linemen Barry Cofield (hernia surgery) and Stephen Bowen (microfracture surgery) will not participate in veteran minicamp when it begins Tuesday. But both veterans say they expect to join Hatcher, Baker and Jenkins when training camp opens July 24 in Richmond.