Scot McCloughan signed Stephen Paea away from the Bears to step in and play nose tackle for the Redskins this fall.
McCloughan's motivation to add Paea became clear as the Washington GM focused on improving a defense that ranked near the bottom of the league. Paea had the size and experience, and last season recorded a career high six sacks.
When Broncos nose tackle Terrance Knighton became available later in free agency, the Redskins pursuit seemed more of a fantasy than a reality. As things progressed, it became clear Knighton could actually land in D.C., and then it happened.
While the improvement on the Redskins defensive line with Paea and Knighton is obvious, it also creates a bit of a logjam at the nose tackle position. Paea showed well in 2014, but Knighton is a star at the position, he even has national commercials that poke fun at his "Pot roast" nickname.
So what will happen with the two men? Paea doesn't seem concerned.
"It's gonna be a big plus for our D-line," Paea said. "I'm excited for our scheme, our defense."
The NFL's best defenses have a deep defensive line, and by bringing in Paea and Knighton, not to mention Ricky Jean Francois, the Skins should be much deeper and better up front. Position wise, the suspicion would be Paea and incumbent starter Jason Hatcher line up at the tackle spots with Knighton in the middle, but the Skins have already shown some different looks during OTAs.
"It's just a scheme. When we go sub, we still have the package where I play nose," Paea explained. "Or I'm with TK [Knighton] and he plays nose. I like it, versatility like that."
New defensive coordinator Joe Barry has made clear he will play to his units strengths, and maximizing reps for his best players would be in that vein.
"We are very multiple," Barry said. "We’re going to give you a bunch of different looks."
The sheer bulk of Knighton would be a difficult matchup for any offensive lineman in a one-on-one battle, and that should be accelerated as Pot Roast moves around the defensive line.
"Terrance is more athletic than most people thing," Paea said. "I don't know how much he weighs but that's a big man right there."
At nose tackle, Knighton usually gets double teamed by the center and guard, or the guard at least chips down on Knighton. Lined up across the tackle or in the guard/tackle gap, doubling is trickier with a pass rusher coming from the edge.
"He's not just taking double teams, he can get to the quarterback," Paea said of Knighton.
With more talent up front, it's hard to imagine the Redskins defensive line will not improve. The unit will need to for Washington to become a better team in 2015.