USA TODAY Sports
Ex-Dallas Cowboys ace Jason Hatcher will dominate during his first season in Washington.
Jason Hatcher is the best signing this team made during the offseason. The experienced defensive tackle gives the Washington defense something it sorely lacked in 2013: pressure from the interior.
He is as dynamic an inside pass-rusher as any player in the game. He offered ample proof of that last season by collecting 11 sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles, per stats from NFL.com.
His impact in Washington will be even greater. His ability to collapse the pocket inside will boost how the entire defense generates pressure.
It will prevent double-teams on the outside against edge-rushers Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and rookie Trent Murphy. But Hatcher will also draw blockers away from nose tackle Barry Cofield, another capable pass-rusher through the middle.
Of course, Hatcher's role won't just be about diverting attention away from others—far from it. The threats posed on the outside will naturally leave him facing some single blocking, which is a recipe for disaster for any offense.
More specifically, he has given coordinator Jim Haslett a player who expands how the front seven can rush the passer. Hatcher's presence makes the use of more stunts, twists and different looks possible.
He is athletic enough to twist to the outside around Orakpo, allowing the outside 'backer to crash over a guard. Alternatively, Hatcher could easily slant across Cofield, while the nose tackle loops around him on an inside game.
Those are just two basic examples of how Hatcher expands things up front, but the overall possibilities add up to significantly more. Haslett is keen to use more attack-minded principles up front, per ESPN.com reporter John Keim: "But the plan and thought is to be more aggressive with their primary rush -- using more one-gap system rather than the two-gap in which the linemen are just there to hold up the blockers."
Haslett can shift Hatcher along the front into different gaps to set him free. He will be the key to a more dynamic and interesting pressure defense, something new head coach Jay Gruden wants to show quarterbacks, according to another report from Keim: "As you know, great quarterbacks, if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."
With Hatcher on board, this defense certainly won't be vanilla. If he delivers, the former Dallas Cowboys star can emulate Houston Texans ace J.J. Watt, another dominant interior rusher who claimed the league-wide award in 2012.