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Defensive Line Setting Tone For Redskins

Posted Aug 25, 2014

The Redskins' defensive line continued its strong preseason Saturday, holding a stout Ravens rushing attack to just 82 yards -- about 100 less than they had been averaging.

While legendary Redskins linebacker London Fletcher used to explain that the linebackers set the tone on defense, so far during the 2014 preseason, it’s been the defensive line that has led the way to three stout performances by the unit.

Against the New England Patriots in the preseason opener, the Redskins' defense gave up only 63 rushing yards. In their second game, the Cleveland Browns’ only success in the game came very late in the fourth quarter.

And on Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens, the defense neutralized a rushing attack that entered the game averaging a league-best 194 rushing yards per game to just 82 yards.  

Defensive end Chris Baker, who got his third start of the preseason and logged three tackles against Baltimore, said the entire unit deserves credit, but that Jason Hatcher’s presence was a clear game changer.

“We did a good job of applying pressure and stopping the run,” Baker said after the game. “It always helps to have a guy with his pass-rush ability. Having a guy like him who draws that much attention helps us all out.”

Hatcher, making his Redskins debut, recorded a key sack midway through the first quarter when the Ravens were trying to advance out of their own territory. The 2013 Pro Bowler, who recorded a career-high 11 sacks in 2013, swallowed up Joe Flacco with relative ease.

“That's what I came here to do,” Hatcher said of the sack. “It's like a bear lifted off my back, so I'm happy I was able to come out there and get a sack.”

Baker said the Redskins' defensive ends' versatility is one primary competitive advantage they have over their opponents. Both Baker and Hatcher -- and others along the Redskins' defensive line -- can play both sides and are interchangeable without a drop-off in performance.

“I love (the versatility),” Baker said. “When I first got into the league, they always told me the more you can do, the better off you are. So the fact that we have a lot of guys on the line who can do everything is really going to help out.”

And while Hatcher and Baker got the start against the Ravens, fourth-year defensive end Jarvis Jenkins also provided quite the spark coming off the bench.

He recorded two clutch tackles, one of which help stalled a Raven drive that had reached the 50-yard line.

“They put me in (a) short-yardage (situation) and it was a play I was supposed to make, and I made it,” Jenkins said. “It’s just a matter of confidence. We have a deep, deep line and we’ve just have to keep playing and building together.”

Jenkins -- who started the first two preseason games before Hatcher's arrival on Saturday -- said that his mindset doesn't change just because he's subbing in as a backup.

“I still have a job to do, and just go out there and give it my all no matter if I’m first string or fourth string,” Jenkins said. “I went out there and did what they asked me to do.

“I’m not going to play down. I’m still going to do what I’m supposed to do and play ball.”

Jenkins said with all the defensive linemen's strengths they bring to the table -- and the fact that their camraderie is continuing to grow -- that special things could be in store for the unit.

“We have a chance to be one of the best (defensive lines in the league),” Jenkins said. “It takes consistency, it takes hard work and it takes a swagger. We have to go out there and believe that we are the best defensive line. With Hatcher’s energy, Barry Cofield, Baker and Stephen Bowen coming back, it could be a special season. ... We just have to stick together.”

Baker echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“The sky is the limit for us,” Baker said. “We’ve just have to keep playing together and keep executing on defense and showing out the way we did (Saturday).”

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