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Roster Review: Nose Tackles


With free agency underway and the NFL Draft fast approaching,'s Brian Tinsman breaks down the Redskins' roster position by position. Up next: nose tackles.

Last offseason, the Redskins had a glaring need at nose tackle and sought out linemen in free agency and the NFL Draft.

The team signed division rival Barry Cofield away from the New York Giants. A defensive tackle in the 4-3 formation, Cofield had never played nose tackle, but embraced the opportunity to learn.

He started all 16 games for the third year in a row, and brought an element of leadership to the defense. Even while learning on the job, he mentored younger players.

Cofield finished with 63 tackles, six for a loss, three sacks, 18 quarterback pressures, a fumble recovery and a lead-leaguing nine passes defended for a defensive tackle.

With the 253rd overall pick in last April's NFL Draft, the Redskins selected Chris Neild from West Virginia. In his senior season with the Mountaineers, Neild anchored a line that finished first in the nation for run defense, with 86.5 yards per game.

Neild developed from an unknown talent in training camp into a lineman with regular repetitions during the season. He had his breakout performance in Week 1 against the Giants, twice bursting through the line to get sacks on Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

He finished the season appearing in all 16 games and recording 10 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks.

The Redskins also developed Chris Baker on the practice squad.

Midseason, the team promoted Baker to the roster, but he suffered a season-ending quad injury on his very first practice of the week and he was placed on injured reserve.


The Redskins appear set at nose tackle with Cofield as the Redskins' starter. He proved he could be an impact nose tackle after years as a defensive tackle in the Giants' defense.

Cofield could be even better in his second year with the Redskins.

Neild showed he could be a solid backup. After an impressive start, he took a businesslike approach the rest of the season.

Like Cofield, Neild should improve in his second year.

Baker could be a player to watch in training camp. Coaches added him to the roster last season even though Cofield and Neild were healthy, so clearly they see an upside in him.

The Redskins may add a free agent veteran or a mid-round draft prospect to add competition in preseason. The draft is thought to be deep in quality defensive tackles.

Three NFL Nose Tackles Eligible for Free Agency

As of March 16, 2012; names listed are in no particular order

--Brodrick Bunkley, Denver Broncos: Bunkley has experience in both the 3-4 and 4-3 scheme and is familiar with the NFC East from his five seasons in Philadelphia. At 6-2, 306 pounds, Bunkley is slightly undersized for the position, but the Redskins tend to favor more athletic linemen on both sides of the ball. He is 28 years old.

-- Aubrayo Franklin, New Orleans Saints: As one of the best nose tackles in football, Franklin's 2011 season proved that the transition between 3-4 and 4-3 can be difficult and ultimately disappointing. Franklin, 31, suffered injury and ineffectiveness in the Saints' 4-3, and will be looking for a 3-4 system to rebuild his value.

-- Shaun Rogers, New Orleans Saints: Rogers had a disappointing season playing next to Aubrayo Franklin on the Saints' line. At 33, Rogers is on the downside of his career and has missed games in each of the last four years with injury. At 6-4, 350 pounds, he can still play in a rotation and could flourish in a return to the 3-4 defensive scheme.

Three Nose Tackles Available In NFL Draft

As of March 16, 2012; names listed are in no particular order

-- Michael Brockers, LSU: Brockers has been moving fast up draft boards and he could be a game-changing talent. The 6-6, 306-pounder is still somewhat raw, especially rushing the passer, but his instinctive play and nose for the football should allow him to dominate as a run-stuffer as a rookie. He logged 54 tackles, including 10 tackles for a loss, and two sacks last year.

-- Brandon Thompson, Clemson: Thompson has been compared to Jarvis Jenkins, the Redskins' second-round draft pick last year who sat out last year due to a knee injury. (Jenkins starred at Clemson as well.) Thompson, 6-2 and 311 pounds, has shown a strong burst off the snap, making him especially stout against the run. In four years at Clemson, he logged 161 tackles and 4.5 sacks.

-- Dontari Poe, Memphis: Poe was one of the star's of the NFL Scouting Combine, registering an impressive 4.98 40 despite a 6-3, 346-pound frame. For good measure, Poe recorded a combine-high 44 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press. In three seasons at Memphis, he logged 101 tackles, including 21.5 for a loss, and five sacks.

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