While the team may still re-sign
With NFL offenses shifting to more pass-heavy formations, splitting out defenses in the process, many believe the need for a true nose tackle has become less important over the years.
But Knighton -- who was used primarily on running downs and distances -- appeared on just 370 defensive plays for defensive coordinator Joe Barry last season.
The Redskins are still open to potentially re-signing Knighton, but head coach Jay Gruden believes the team can still excel without a traditional nose tackle on the roster.
“There’s a lot of dialogue with that nose guard position nowadays,” Gruden said last week at the annual NFL Owners Meeting in Boca, Raton, Fla. “The amount of times that you’re in base defense now with all the three-receiver sets and everyone throwing the ball, if you look at the numbers, it’s not that often.”
For now, Gruden is confident that the Redskins have enough versatile defensive linemen that they can still provide an impact up the middle.
That starts with 11-year veteran
Golston, the longest tenured player on the roster, isn’t necessarily viewed as a full-time starter, but the 32-year-old fits into the team’s defensive line rotation well.
“You still need to have a big nose guard in there that can stop the run and Kedric can do that,” Gruden said. “He’s proven to do that. He’s a 12- to 15-play game kind of guy. And when you’re in base defense, really you’re looking at about 20 percent of the time nowadays is all you are. So Kedric can do that.”
While Baker settled in well at defensive end last season, recording a career-high six sacks, the 28-year-old has already played nose tackle for the Redskins before.
“That’s why we like Bake,” Gruden said. “Baker is a very effective defensive lineman here because he can do so many different things. He can play four-technique, he can play three-technique, he can play five, he can play nose and he’s very effective. And I think Ricky [Jean Francois] is in that same mold. He can do everything also. And then you’ve got Paea, who is more of a three technique guy but he can kick into a five and he can do different things also, so the versatility of our guys is very good.”
And in those situations where the Redskins need to stop the opponent in a short-yardage situation, they need to have a “stout big fella” in the inside.
“I think Kedric right now is a good answer and those other guys filling in will be fine,” Gruden said.