Mysteries don't usually unfold on the football field, but the Redskins might be in the middle of one on the defensive line. Watching the first two preseason games, it seems clear what players are excelling and what players aren't, but the playing time does not exactly match up. 

New defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, formerly a head coach in San Francisco and widely considered one of the best at coaching in the trenches, likes to deploy all of his options in the preseason. Tomsula made clear he's not worried about a depth chart in August, and in his mind, "everybody with a helmet will play."


That's great in theory, but when the games matter in September, that theory will change, right?

"Whatever he’s doing is great. You just got respect the process," Redskins nose tackle Phil Taylor said of Tomsula's D-line rotation (full video above). 

Among the defensive line players, Anthony Lanier leads the Redskins with 51 snaps this preseason. Behind Lanier come Joey Mbu (41), A.J. Francis (35) and then Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis with 31 snaps.  From there, a collection of players have between 30 and 20 snaps, including Taylor near the bottom at 21 snaps. (Snap info from Pro Football Focus)

There are two takeaways. The first: Tomsula is smart to take care of his players. Taylor is coming back from two years removed in the NFL. He doesn't need a lot of snaps. The other? There is no clear depth chart on the defensive line. 


Tomsula is in the process of trying a number of different combinations among the down linemen, like a scientist tinkering with different packages. The nickel D-line looks different than the 3-4 base D-line, and Tomsula is figuring out his best run stuffers opposed to pass rushers. 

It's interesting to watch unfold, even for the players.

"[Tomsula] wants guys in when he wants them in. He wants everybody getting in the rotation, getting a good look against other guys. You got to trust the process," Taylor said. 

Trust Tomsula's process. That's the Redskins plan to fix their defensive line. Time will tell if the mystery gets solved.


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