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Back In Coaching, Jim Tomsula Pushing Redskins Defensive Linemen


A splash hire to the coaching staff in the offeseason, defensive line coach Jim Tomsula discussed the Redskins' group of linemen for the 2017 season including first-round pick Jonathan Allen.

Washington Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is not a depth chart guy. He doesn't care who is penciled in on paper as a starting left defensive end or as second-team nose tackle.

If a defensive lineman is on the 53-man roster and active on game days, they'll have a role on the field.

"A depth chart kind of takes care of itself and we don't have shoulder pads on, so right now we're seeing how guys fit and how they move and things like that and their assignments; they're all kind of working together," Tomsula said this week at minicamp. "Then, you get a couple of guys working together and see how they work together. Then, you kind of mix it up but we don't have a depth chart on the D-line per se."

Tomsula was hired in January to oversee a defensive line overhaul.

Last season, the Redskins allowed nearly 120 rushing yards per game and struggled to give off the field on third downs. The defensive linemen also weren't nearly impactful enough in getting to the quarterback, as they combined for just 7.5 sacks.

Veterans Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois departed in March, but the Redskins replaced them with Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee.

Then in April's NFL Draft, the Redskins snatched Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen – considered a top-five talent – with the No. 17 overall-pick.

Washington has been easing Allen into action, having him mostly work with the second-team defensive unit, but Tomsula said he's been "everything" the team expects him to be for his NFL career.

"Coming in, I mean there is a big curve here and I'm not going to throw him to the wolves," Tomsula said. "I have a president and a vice president and a head coach and a defensive coordinator that agrees with that idea of things. You know, everybody wants to see him walk in and sit in that spot and go. I mean, we're not going to do that. We're going to let him learn and understand what we're doing and then go after."

The Redskins have signed defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Take a look at photos from McClain's career.

At nose tackle, meanwhile, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden joked that Tomsula is going to make a special player at that position. While Tomsula politely backed himself out of the belief he can automatically do so, he did say that the Redskins won't be any "fat guys" anchoring the line.

"The guys that we have here at the nose guard position…again we've got a lot of guys who can play that position, but I mean you look at the guys we have in there and they're really working their tails off," Tomsula said. "The truth is going to come when we have shoulder pads on. And a great thing about it is how good our offensive line is. So we will get a real good gauge on just how good we are before we have to go into a preseason game and things like that."

Two potential options at nose tackle will be Phil Taylor and Joey Mbu, two players fighting for time on the field but with drastically different backgrounds.

For Taylor, he's just seeking another NFL opportunity. Due to injuries, the one-time Pro Football Writers Associations' All-Rookie Team selection hasn't seen regular season action since 2014.

"Don't you have tremendous respect for that guy?" Tomsula said. "What he has overcome and the ways he's moving around right now is really awesome to watch, it really is. Phil's doing really well."

Mbu, meanwhile, saw the most run with the first-team defensive unit during offseason workouts. Undrafted out of the University of Houston, the 6-foot-3, 323 pounder spent the 2016 season on Washington's practice squad.

Another player that got a significant amount of offseason playing time was Anthony Lanier, who was one of the Redskins' pleasant surprises in 2016.

A college free agent signing out of Alabama A&M, Lanier appeared in four games during his rookie season before suffering a season-ending shin injury.

With a season of NFL experience under his belt, Lanier has bulked up this offseason in an effort to be more of an impact player.

"When I met him in February he was 271 pounds and not very strong," Tomsula, said. "I mean, the other day I saw him at 291 pounds and saw him squatting 600 pounds. So that's what I see with Anthony Lanier. Obviously a big, long, really good athletic guy, so I'm excited about the whole group."

After a season away from football following a tough road as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, Tomsula is excited to be focusing all of his coaching efforts on defensive linemen once again.

"Maybe this isn't the most popular [position group] but they are to me," Tomsula said. "They're really a fun group to coach and I really am excited about what they're doing. …D-line, you've got to be pretty smart for what we're asking them to do, but they're a bit nuts.  It's almost like the Muppets in there you know what I mean? And I'm a Muppet, so there it is."

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