The busy portion of free agency is completed. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview. The 90-man offseason roster is full, as well. Now comes the difficult part for second-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going examine the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today: the defensive line
Tandler: The list is long on a unit that has three new members in Stephen Paea, Terrance Knighton, and Ricky Jean Francois plus a high draft pick, Preston Smith, who will jump in along the line is certain situations. On top of that, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry is installing a more aggressive scheme that will have the linemen attacking gaps instead of controlling them. The line will be going from what was a supporting role under Jim Haslett, clogging up blockers so that the linebackers could make plays, to a playmaking role that gets into the backfield and disrupts. It all adds up to a group of players learning different reads and different techniques while learning to play together.
El-Bashir: As Tandler said, developing chemistry is going to be key. There’s a new position coach, too, in Robb Akey. Another item that must be checked off in the coming months is depth and, more specifically, figuring out who best provides it. The Redskins kept seven defensive linemen last season, but just six after final cuts in 2013. Barring an unexpected upset, the first five aren’t too hard to figure out—Paea, Hatcher, Knighton, Baker and Jean-Francois. After that, you’ve got versatile veteran Kedric Golston and Frank Kearse (3 sacks in 2014) as well as hopefuls Travian Robertston, Corey Crawford, Robert Thomas and Daryl Waud battling for one or two jobs, depending on how the roster shakes out. Keep in mind, reserves play a good amount on the defensive line. In fact, Kearse took 268 snaps in 2014 (Jarvis Jenkins, now with the Bears, saw a team-leading 552) and Golston played 182. So the last couple of spots are not insignificant roles.