All of the talk around the Redskins is about the possibility for changes to the offensive scheme. But there may be some tweaks to the way the defense operates as well.
“Haz [defensive coordinator Jim Haslett] is going to open up the playbook so we're going to show some new wrinkles through the season and hopefully it will keep them off balance,” said nose tackle Barry Cofield after one OTA practice.
What kind of wrinkles?
“Last year was more blitzing, a heavy dose of blitzes,” he said. “It's all different things this year. Different alignments, all different things we're going to show people that will hopefully keep them off balance.”
Talk of different alignments could mean anything from moving some linemen around to lining up in a 4-3 set on occasion. Haslett is more willing to throw in the new wrinkles because his players have been around long enough to handle them.
“I think it’s [comfort] with the front seven that you can do some different things,” he said. “Obviously it takes time to learn it and then you can add on to what you’re doing if you’ve been together.”
The three starting defensive linemen are entering their third seasons under Haslett. End Stephen Bowen and nose tackle Barry Cofield came to the Redskins as free agents in 2011, a few months after they drafted Jarvis Jenkins in the second round.
The linebackers have been with the system even longer. Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, and Perry Riley have been with Haslett since he first came to the Redskins in 2010. Ryan Kerrigan came along a year later as the team’s first-round draft pick.
“To me, the good defenses in the league, in the NFL, usually have been together for a while and they’ve played together like the Baltimores, the Steelers, those type of teams,” said Haslett. “That group’s been together for a long time. So, I do think that gives them a little more freedom and leeway to do things within the scheme.”
In particular, Haslett wants the line to be able to generate more pass pressure. In 2011 the line recorded 18 sacks including six by Bowen and 5.5 by end Adam Carriker. Last year the line got only 3.5 sacks. Bowen had only one and Jenkins, who replaced an injured Carriker for the last 14 games of the season, was shut out in the sack column.
“We’ll try to put these guys in better position a little bit to get sacks,” said Haslett. “If we get some obvious passing situations, we get a little freedom to go get the quarterback.”
The changes don’t involve just the line. Orakpo is excited about what is coming as well.
“We’ve got a few new things here and there that we’re going to incorporate through the season,” he said. “We’re going to fine tune it out here on the field and it’s going to be great for us to make even more plays, get after quarterbacks, turnovers, you name it.”
“Haz is really opening it up this year.”
How much he is opening up and in what way remains to be seen. It seems unlikely that we will see much until the regular season opens against the Eagles on Sept. 9.