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For all the talk of DT Albert Haynesworth and his ongoing saga with the Redskins, the other defensive linemen on the team will have a lot to say about how successful the defense will fare this season.
The team went to great lengths to improve the front seven with the idea that it will be switching to a 3-4 scheme this season. And if Haynesworth falls in line with the team and plays hard, he and the newcomers could help make the front line a very solid group.
Although defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has a reputation for being an attacking play-caller, the 3-4 linemen's jobs often will entail holding up multiple gaps and freeing up the team's strong LB corps to make plays. This, in essence, is one of the reasons Haynesworth is said not to like playing nose tackle in this scheme.
If Haynesworth doesn't fly right, or remains with the second team for some reason, it would be Maake Kemoeatu's job on first and second downs. He's big and strong and has appeared mostly healthy coming off a season-ending Achilles' heel injury. But one observer said Kemoeatu had been pushed back on double-teams — which is what nose tackles face on almost every play in a 3-4 — more often than you'd like to see.
The returns on the DE spots have been a little more positive. Adam Carriker quietly has put together a nice preseason and figures to start on one side. He appears to be a better fit, as scouts had thought, in a 3-4 scheme where he can be an anchor against the run and not have to rush from the edges.
Phillip Daniels right now is in line to start opposite Carriker, though Kedric Golston and Vonnie Holliday are other viable options. Daniels is better suited for a 3-4 defense at this stage of his career and has the ideal makeup for the job. He's a strong run defender and one of the trusted leaders in the clubhouse.
In a perfect world, Haynesworth would do his best to put aside his rift with head coach Mike Shanahan and aim to be a force. Although a 3-4 scheme doesn't suit his skills ideally, Haynesworth will be used on specialty packages, such as the two- and even one-man lines (called the "fast nickel" package) the team has been experimenting with in the preseason.
There's ideal talent at linebacker to make big plays in this scheme. But a big factor in their success will be how the D-line holds up.
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