Washington Redskins: Shaun Ellis and 11 Stop-Gap 3-4 Veterans to Consider
Members of the Washington Redskins hierarchy are making a concerted effort to field a considerably younger team in 2011.
But youth can only take a franchise so far and if the Redskins hope to return to contention sooner rather than later, then sprinkling in some established veterans will be key.
Positive steps have been taken on defense with top draft picks Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins, along with free agent O.J. Atogwe to join players such as LaRon Landry and Brian Orakpo and form the makings of an exciting young nucleus.
Yet one of the Redskins biggest problems last season was attempting to force a 3-4 blueprint onto players comfortable with 4-3 schemes. With Kerrigan, Jenkins and Otogwe all used to performing out of a 4-3, the Redskins must be wary of repeating the same mistake.
With young players like Anthony Bryant and Kevin Barnes possibly in line for bigger roles, sprinkling in a few evergreen 3-4 practitioners could be greatly beneficial.
Adding some extensive experience and knowledge of the 3-4 system could aid a quicker defensive turnaround and ease the pressure on the younger defenders to sink or swim right from the start.
This is not a call for a return to the days of the "over the hill gang," nor is it a suggestion that the Redskins undermine their burgeoning youth policy.
But bolstering young talent with veteran know how could help eradicate any lingering growing pains the defense still encounters in fully transitioning to the 3-4.
With that in mind here are 11 veteran 3-4 defenders the Redskins should consider adding to the roster.
11. Pat Williams, Minnesota Vikings
Currently pondering retirement, the Minnesota Vikings' mammoth nose tackle Pat Williams could offer a lot of value to 3-4 teams. If Williams decides to play on a little while longer, he would be a useful stop gap contributor in the Redskins' defensive line rotation.
Williams has plenty of 3-4 experience from his days working for Wade Phillips with the Buffalo Bills. He possesses the size, strength and sharp hands technique necessary to occupy and split double teams. Williams is exactly the kind of two-gap plugger the Redskins' defensive scheme needs.
He could use his experience to mentor youngster Anthony Bryant and rookie Chris Neild. Williams would form an effective rotation with Bryant. If used in a situational role Williams could be a productive player for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
He may only have a year left, but Williams can still give opposing offensive linemen plenty of headaches and would help shore up the Redskins' run defense.
10. Gerad Warren, New England Patriots
Pending free agent Gerard Warren could be a smart signing for the Redskins. Warren adapted well to a 3-4 while playing for the New England Patriots in 2010. The 32-year-old logged 28 tackles and notched 3.5 sacks.
Warren is an extremely powerful and aggressive player who excels at applying constant pressure on the pocket. At 6'4" and 330 pounds he is the perfect size for a three-man front. Warren is flexible enough to operate at end or nose tackle.
He is a decent pass rusher who offers a threat when moved inside in nickel packages. Warren could step in and start at right defensive end, allowing rookie Jarvis Jenkins time to develop his game and learn the nuances of the 3-4.
The only drawback to Warren is that he has been inconsistent throughout his career. His numbers certainly do not match his talent level. But in the right environment and encouraged by defensive line coach Jacob Burney, Warren could finish his career in style.
9. Eric Barton
If the Redskins lose both Rocky McIntosh and H.B. Blades in free agency, the team will be perilously thin at inside linebacker.
London Fletcher will certainly start. After that there is second-year man Perry Riley and possibly Lorenzo Alexander who could be asked to learn yet another new position.
Eric Barton is an experienced 3-4 linebacker who makes plenty of tackles and always gives maximum effort. His hard work, energy and penchant for being around the ball could be valuable assets in a diminished role on the Redskins defense.
At 6'3" and 245 pounds, Barton has the ideal size to cope with the physical demands of patrolling the middle in a 3-4 front. The former Cleveland Brown is never going to be a prolific playmaker but he would be a solid and dependable deputy for the Redskins.
8. Jarvis Green, Houston Texans
Since Wade Phillips took over the Texans' defense and switched to a 3-4 scheme, it's possible he could find use for Jarvis Green. But if not, the Redskins could do worse than swoop for the former New England Patriots defensive end.
Less of a dominant two gapper and more a pressure specialist, Jarvis Green proved himself to be a useful sub package pass rusher during his time with the Patriots, logging 28 sacks.
Green's long arms and sound hands technique allow him to quickly penetrate into the backfield. He could have some value for the Redskins in a situational role.
Washington tried a similar experiment with veteran Vonnie Holliday in 2010 which yielded limited success. Free agent Green could be a major upgrade at this position.
7. David Bowens
Capable of playing at inside or outside linebacker, 34-year-old David Bowens could be a useful veteran presence on the Redskins' defense.
Released by the Cleveland Browns once they decided to implement a 4-3 scheme, the 6'3" 265 pound Bowens would bolster the Redskins depth and be able to contribute in nickel and dime packages.
A good pass defender with an ability for the big play, Bowens has 34 pass breakups, four interceptions and eight forced fumbles for his career.
The Redskins are short on quality backups for their linebacking unit and the versatile Bowens could help out on a short-term deal.
6. Kenyon Coleman
Another casualty of the Browns' purge of 3-4 personnel, Kenyon Coleman offers extensive system knowledge and expertise.
Standing 6'5" and weighing 295 pounds Coleman is an aggressive and relentless 5-technique defensive end. A decent but not dynamic pass rusher, Coleman excels at holding up blockers and creating lanes for linebackers to attack behind the line of scrimmage.
A sound defender against the run Coleman uses his long frame and powerful upper body to regularly push the pocket.
The former UCLA standout would not post eye-popping statistics in D.C. But the 32-year-old would be an active part of the line rotation and a willing participant in much of the dirty work that can help make 3-4 defenses successful.
5. Adalius Thomas
Out of football altogether in 2010, 33-year-old Adalius Thomas could still have plenty left in the tank. A 3-4 veteran, Thomas offers the knowledge gleaned from system grand masters Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick during his days with the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.
The 6'2" 270-pound Thomas is an explosive all-rounder. He has the athleticism and smarts to be a factor in pass coverage as well as the strength and aggression to be stout against the run. Thomas is also a dangerous edge rusher, evidenced by his 53 career sacks.
Thomas has had trouble getting along with coaches in the past but when motivated and happy he is a dangerous playmaker and would add some fiery passion to the defense. If the Redskins don't retain Chris Wilson in free agency they will be left with weak depth at outside linebacker.
A call to Thomas could be the answer. Mike Shanahan could do for Thomas what Bill Parcells did for Bryan Cox while with the New York Jets in 1998.
4. Jamal Williams
Injuries have blighted Jamal Williams during recent seasons. But when healthy the former San Diego Charger still has the ability to dominate a game from the nose tackle position.
At 6'3" and 348 pounds Williams has the size and strength to clog up the middle of any blocking scheme. He also possesses surprising quickness and lateral movement for his size, allowing him to ably attack either center-guard gap.
His form has dipped in the last few years as injuries have taken their toll on his leverage and the speed of his takeoff. He endured an unhappy 2010 with the Denver Broncos and was quickly released by the new regime of head coach John Fox.
Williams could be keen to prove he still has something left and is an appealing option for a 3-4 scheme. If the Redskins decide that his namesake Pat is too old to justify a one year veteran salary, then Jamal Williams would be a strong alternative to consider.
3. Ken Hamlin, Indianapolis Colts
Former Dallas Cowboy Ken Hamlin began the 2010 season with the Baltimore Ravens but ended the campaign warming the bench for the Indianapolis Colts.
A pending free agent, Hamlin could have some value to a Redskins team with its own issues at the backup safety positions.
With Reed Doughty and Kareem Moore unconvincing and Chris Horton injury prone, the Redskins could look to upgrade their depth in the defensive backfield. Thirty-year-old Ken Hamlin could be the answer.
A veteran of 3-4 schemes from his time in Dallas and Baltimore, Hamlin offers valuable system knowledge, as well as NFC East experience.
Hamlin is a true "feast or famine" kind of player. He is a heavy hitter who is aggressive in run support. But he can be beaten in coverage, where he often takes the wrong angles and is guilty of poor judgement.
Hamlin's system knowledge gives him the edge over some of the current Redskins' supplemental safeties. He would make more big plays than Moore and Doughty but could equally give up as many.
2. Drayton Florence, Buffalo Bills
With Carlos Rogers seemingly on his way out of Washington, many have speculated that the Redskins will either plug youngster Kevin Barnes into a starting role or pursue a high profile free agent such as Jonathan Joseph or Nnamdi Asomugha.
One player who is often forgotten in such discussions is nine-year veteran Drayton Florence. The 30-year-old has extensive 3-4 experience and is the kind of solid and reliable presence the Redskins need to add to their secondary.
A dependable player like Florence would be a nice compliment to a gambling ball hawk like DeAngelo Hall. Florence has the size at 6'0" and 195 pounds to comfortably execute the press style zone coverage favoured by most 3-4 teams.
Florence enjoyed a strong 2010 campaign and the Buffalo Bills would likely make a strong effort to retain him. But Florence would still come cheaper than a lot of the cornerbacks ticketed for free agency and could be just the right fit for Washington's secondary.
1. Shaun Ellis, New York Jets
In the AFC divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots, Shaun Ellis proved that even at 34, he is still capable of dominating a game against top quality opposition. Ellis would be a smart signing for a Redskins team hoping to elevate themselves to similar status.
The 6'5" 290-pounder is the perfect 5-technique defensive end. Technically sound and highly aggressive, Ellis is equally adept against the run as he is rushing the passer.
After the Jets selected two defensive linemen in the 2011 draft and with the team also facing a litany of free agency priorities, Ellis could be deemed expendable.
A short-term deal guaranteeing Ellis decent playing time would be a good scenario for the Redskins. A proficient lineman like Ellis would be a threat in base and sub packages, granting coordinator Jim Haslett lots of scheme flexibility.
There are plenty of veteran 3-4 performers for the Redskins to pursue. These players could play vital situational roles in 2011.
Mixing some veteran savvy with the enthusiasm of youth could accelerate a defensive renaissance and hasten the Redskins' attempts to get back to respectability in the NFC East.