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Gruden praises Redskins' pass rush prospects

The SportsXchange

ASHBURN, Va. -- The linemen aren't expected to be sack machines in Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme. However, in 2011, starting ends Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker and starting nose tackle Barry Cofield combined for 14.5 of Washington's 40 sacks.

In 2013, the since-released Carriker spent the season on injured reserve, the same place where the now-recovering Bowen was for the final seven games after a severe knee injury. Cofield recorded 2.5 of the entire line's 5.5 sacks. The rest of Haslett's defense produced 30.5 sacks.

While new coach Jay Gruden retained Haslett, his boss with Florida of the UFL in 2009, the protege wants the mentor to ask more from the guys up front when it comes to getting after the quarterback.

Signing end Jason Hatcher, who led Dallas with 11 sacks last year, was a big step in that direction, but Gruden also expects holdover ends Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston to step up, too. That's especially true after Wednesday's revelation that Hatcher will have his left knee scoped although he's expected for the start of training camp on July 24.

"We don't feel it's a long-term thing, but anytime you have a surgery there's a little concern," Gruden said. "From what I'm told the severity of it is not that great. There's no damage in there whatsoever."

Still, the Redskins should be concerned because Hatcher, who'll be 32 next month, posted a career-high in sacks during a contract year in 2013. Hatcher had just 8.5 sacks combined during his two previous seasons as a starter and just 16 total during his previous seven seasons overall.

Which brings us back to Hatcher's linemates.

"We expect big things out of Chris and Jarvis and they're doing a much better job of getting off blocks and transitioning from a run-type of front to a pass rush on the play-actions," Gruden said. "Golston's doing a good job (too). They're all rushing the passer a lot better. They're still maintaining their run gaps and playing good run defense. Baker's going to be a major part of our nickel pass rush as is Jenkins at some point. The more the merrier as far as guys rushing because you want to keep those guys fresh with the no-huddle attacks."

And while Haslett, like so many defensive coordinators, likes to come up with so many packages to try to confuse the offense, Gruden believes that the Redskins can get sacks without blitzing that often.

"If you (can) get pressure with four guys, you have a much better chance," Gruden said. "You saw the success Seattle had. They very seldom blitzed. They just got pressure with their four guys. They were able to mix their coverages up, play good sound defense. We have the ability ... that we can get pressure (and have) a pretty formidable pass rush without having to blitz."

Aside from Hatcher, Washington also signed ends Clifton Geathers, previously with Dallas, Miami, Indianapolis and Philadelphia and Frank Kearse, late of Carolina and Dallas. Backup nose tackle Chris Neild is also on hand as are end Doug Worthington, who got into six games during the Redskins' 2012 NFC East title-winning season, and rookie free-agent nose tackle Robert Thomas.

"We have multiple players that can come in and rotate in there, be effective and stay fresh," Gruden said. "That's the important thing. We're not just limited to two, three or four guys. We have seven or eight guys in the rotation that are all playing pretty well. We've got guys who can stop the run that are very powerful and not allow linemen to get out to the linebackers so that our linebackers can roam freely and we've also added some guys that can rush the passer, which is very important. So, we feel pretty good with the depth of our defensive line."
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