With all the talk surrounding Albert Haynesworth and his less than certain future with the Redskins, everyone is overlooking the fact that Washington has managed to compile a solid group of players along the defensive line.
Vonnie Holliday, Adam Carriker, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Anthony Bryant and Howard Green are amongst the new faces who will be hunkering down up front in the Redskins new 3-4 scheme.
None of these players come close to the talent Haynesworth possesses, but they all are aware that if they play in their specific roles according to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's new scheme, good things will happen.
The 'Skins are widely expected to use a 3-4 as their base defense, which means the defensive line must be strong at the point of attack. Sacks and gaudy stats aren't the objective for the group. Their goal will be to fill gaps and occupy bodies at the line of scrimmage, leaving the linebackers free to stop the run or rush the passer.
The new Redskins defense could best be described as organized chaos. The front seven must create as much havoc as possible in the hope of forcing more turnovers and sacks. The defensive line in this scheme must give the linebackers plenty of open field to work with.
Haynesworth would give Washington the perfect body to anchor the line, but since Haynesworth seems completely against sacrificing his stats, he likely won't play at the nose tackle position.
Haynesworth refuses to play in a 3-4 because aside from Richard Seymour and Jay Ratliff, there are almost zero defensive linemen in a 3-4 who post high sack totals. Haynesworth doesn't want to be a space-eater, he wants to make plays.
Fortunately, the Redskins prepared for life without Fat Albert this offseason. Kemoeatu and Green both have experience playing the nose tackle position, both having learned the 3-4 under the guidance of defensive guru Rex Ryan.
Granted, neither player can measure up to Haynesworth yet both have a work ethic and a team-first mentality.
Assuming Kemoeatu fully recovers from an Achilles injury that forced him to miss the 2009 season, he will start at nose tackle. However, the defensive line is expected to consist of a rotation of players each week.
Holliday and Carriker are both prototypical defensive ends for a 3-4. Holliday is a grizzled vet who has the size (6-5, 285) to hold the edge for whichever linebacker lines up to his outside. He will split time with Kedric Golston at one DE spot
Carriker was projected to be a 3-4 end out of Nebraska and though the former first-round selection has yet to meet expectations, he is only entering his fourth year as a pro. Injuries are a huge concern, but should he remain healthy, Carriker will be able to draw frequent double teams with his 300-pound frame.
The other end who will see time is longtime Redskin Phillip Daniels. Daniels is respected in the locker room and having his presence is vital to keeping the players in sync. On the field, he is still a contributor coming into his 16th season.
Daniels is another guy who will command attention with his size (6-6, 305), giving the Redskins four players who should combine to help control the line of scrimmage.
Throw in youngster Rob Jackson who saw some playing time last year, and Washington has to feel confident that they will have a good defensive line anchoring the 3-4.
Three down linemen don't have to rack up sacks. All Carriker, Holliday and the rest of the unit must do is create opportunities for the rest of the defense.
Should Haynesworth play, it could only get better, but at this point Washington has to feel that they don't have to have him on the field in order to win.