After months of hand-wringing over the state of the defensive line, the Redskins certainly addressed the position group in the NFL Draft. The first two picks went to the front seven, first with Jonathan Allen to play defensive end and second with Ryan Anderson to play outside linebacker.
The additions of Allen and Anderson will boost the D-line immediately. That's clear.
Yet it's also clear that the Redskins did nothing to address the nose tackle position. Even with 10 picks, and four picks in the last two rounds, Washington chose to again ignore the middle point of the team's three-man front.
It doesn't sound like it was an accident either.
"I feel good," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of nose tackle after the draft. "I think a lot of people don’t know the guys we’ve had here or the guys there were on our practice squad."
The "guys that are here" include Matt Ioannadis and free agent Phil Taylor. The practice squad guys would be Joey Mbu and A.J. Francis.
It's entirely possible Mbu or Francis can develop into rotational pieces at the nose. Both undrafted, Francis goes 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, while Mbu stands 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds. They have good size and work hard, in the weight room and on the field. Still, neither player has a single start in two years in the league.
Ioannadis, who is 6-foot-3 and 309 pounds, did not make a start for the Redskins last season as a rookie. In fact, he was active for only 10 games and registered six tackles. For a fifth round pick, his impact was negligible.
Then there is Taylor, the true wild card for Washington at nose tackle. A first-round pick in 2011, Taylor is a D.C. native looking to again prove he belongs in the NFL. He missed the entire 2015 and 2016 seasons, and played just five games in 2014. Injuries derailed his career, but his first three seasons in the NFL, Taylor showed he could be a force.
At 6-foot-3 and 337 pounds, Taylor goes about 30 pounds more than the other possible Redskins nose tackles. And he's performed at a high level. As a rookie in 2012, he started 16 games, made 37 tackles and logged four sacks.
"We added Phil Taylor. He’s an ex-first-round pick, had a couple of injuries but he’s looking good out here. He looks healthy and [he is] rolling," Gruden said.
May is the time for optimism, and in Taylor's case, his return would be a boon for the 'Skins. He's signed to a minimal deal. If he can get back, and it's a huge if, could be true value for the defense.
Washington does not seem overly concerned about the nose tackle position. Remember Gruden explained at the NFL Owner's Meetings in March that he fully expects defensive line coach Jim Tomsula to "make" a nose tackle.
"If you look at his track record, you look at the nose guards he’s had, none of them have been priority first-round draft choices," Gruden said of Tomsula. "He’s made nose guards. He coaches that position extremely well, and I have faith that he’ll do that."
Beyond what Gruden said about Tomsula, the quotes might reveal an organizational mindset about the position. Fans might overestimate the importance of the nose, or at least what should be invested in the position.
Consider that nose tackle is one of the most physically demanding positions in football, and add in that playing nose requires serious size, particularly weight, and it can be hard for guys to maintain their endurance while carrying 325 lbs. or more year after year.
On most defenses, resources get spent in two main areas: sacking the quarterback and defending the pass. The big money goes to the edge, pass rushers and cornerbacks. Those two positions also tend to dominate draft capital.
The Redskins are no different. The highest-paid players on Washington's defense are Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman. The team's first two draft picks will be expected to pressure opposing QBs, and their third-round pick is a cornerback. The team also added two safeties and another corner in the later rounds of the draft while not drafting a nose.
The lesson? Gruden's comments, and the team's action made it clear: Nose tackle just isn't the priority that some Redskins fans want it to be.
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