With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.
Will Jason Hatcher live up to his contract?
Last year the Redskins signed 32-year-old Jason Hatcher to a four-year, $27 million contract. The deal included $10 million guaranteed. They paid him in hopes that he would replicate the 11-sack season he had in Dallas the year before. But Hatcher was sidelined with injuries during parts the offseason program and training camp and he sat out the last three games of the season as well. He had just 5.5 sacks, a far cry from what the Redskins were looking for. This year, he carries a $5.2 million salary cap number, the sixth highest on the team. Will his performance in 2015 live up to his pay grade?
Tandler: It would be a mistake to judge Hatcher’s 2014 season by his sack total alone. According to ProFootballFocus.com he was the team’s second most effective defensive player and he was second on the team with 40 quarterback pressures. It’s easy to see several of those pressures turning into sacks with some improved coverage in the secondary making the opposing quarterbacks hesitate for the additional fraction of a second it would take Hatcher to get there.
Certainly Hatcher’s age is a concern. But since the NFL starting tracking sacks as a stat in 1982, a player aged 33 or older has hit double digits in sacks 40 times. Some of them were Hall of Fame types like Reggie White and Michael Strahan. But others were just solid players like Rob Burnett of the 2000 Ravens or Trace Armstrong of the 2000 Dolphins.
But on the other side of the coin, it’s very possible that Hatcher’s 2013 in Dallas was just a well-timed outlier in a contract year. He never had more than 4.5 sacks in his seven NFL season prior to that. It would be tough to argue with anyone who says that 2014 was simply a case of Hatcher regressing back to his career mean.
So will Hatcher end up being worth the $5.2 million? I doubt it. I’m going to go with the regressing to career mean theory. Although I won’t rule out the possibility that he will surprise, I think he winds up with about half a dozen sacks. I’ll view anything more than that as a bonus.
El-Bashir: Hatcher’s first season in Washington got off to a difficult start, no doubt. He began experiencing swelling and discomfort in his left knee early in OTAs, had it scoped in late June and ended up on the PUP list to begin training camp.
Hatcher was able to suit up for Week 1, but I’m not sure he was 100-percent at any point during the 2014 campaign. In addition to lingering knee soreness, he struggled with a balky hamstring, as well. I also got the sense as the season wore on that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with how he was being used, either. Added all together, the sum was a season that left the Redskins (and Hatcher) wanting more.
Fast forward a few months. Hatcher is now healthy and, just as important, excited about how he’ll be utilized in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme.
“I can get back to being ‘Big Daddy’, [getting] upfield making plays and not just holding up blockers," Hatcher said earlier this offseason. "They can kinda turn me loose and I can go upfield and do what I do. Hopefully Big Daddy will be back in the building.”
If Hatcher can stay healthy, and Barry plays to his strengths, I don’t see any reason why 'Big Daddy' can’t produce 8.5-10 sacks this season.
Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A:
- Who will start at strong safety?
- Who will return punts and kickoffs?
- Who will be the third down back?
- Which rookie will have the most impact?
- How will the carries be divvied up?
- What will the QB depth chart look like?
- Who will the third running back be?
- Which free agent will have the most impact?
- Which new assistant coach will have the biggest impact?
- What team is the biggest threat to win the NFC East?