Not too long after coach Gruden addressed his team’s status with the media, citing Jason Hatchers tweaked knee, it was revealed that Hatcher would go under the knife for arthroscopic surgery and miss 4-6 weeks.
The second most daring free-agent signing of the Redskins off-season, Hatcher did arrive to great expectations here in Washington after a double digit sack season. As an interior lineman, Hatcher dialed in a stellar 2013 performance from a position where the Redskins found little success in pressuring the quarterback, and even though he performed his magic out of a 4-3 alignment, he is looked at as the skeleton key to getting more pressure on opposing quarterback by opening doors for defensive ends Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Like Hatcher, fellow high profile signing DeSean Jackson was a castoff from one of the Redskins divisional rivals this offseason, which raises expectations all the more. Both were acquired with a “buyer beware” sticker attached, but are proven players who fill specific voids for the Redskins on either side of the ball.
The cause for concern is somewhat nominal, as Hatcher could return to good form after the proper medical attention, but he also won’t be playing downs for last years Redskins. That is to say, before predicting the typical mediocrity from another free-agent patch job, mirroring the likes of Alvin Harper, Jeremiah Trotter, or Donovan McNabb, consider the Redskins stockpiling of rotational players and the maturation of the 3-4 defense in it’s fifth incarnation.
Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris have an array of players to sculpt a defense with, and many of them are not newcomers to the system, but are rather a group of mercenaries who are chomping at the bit to make a solid impression. To fill Hatcher’s place while he recovers, there will be a bevy of familiar faces who have been part of the building process and understand where the team is and where it wants to go.
“We have seven and eight guys in the rotation right now that are all playing really well,” commented Gruden, “We feel good with the depth of our defensive line, we’ve just got to continue to coach them.” With leadership from Barry Cofield, Kedric Golston, and even a recovering Hatcher, the Redskins are still on course to pursue their return to NFC East superiority.