So, now we know the Redskins defense will be coached by Jim Haslett, who has been a successful defensive coordinator and a occasionally-successful head coach in the NFL. There has been talk that head coach Mike Shanahan wants to run a 3-4 defense in Washington and Haslett played in and coached a 3-4 defense for many years. However, he's also coached the 4-3 defense and either is possible next season. The Redskins could also play a hybrid defense, switching between 4-3 and 3-4 depending on matchups and game situations.
It's believed that Shanahan wants Haslett to run a 3-4 scheme, which would place more of a premium on the pass-rush in 2010. With the arrival of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in '09, the Redskins increased their sack totals and there's reason to believe that outside linebacker Brian Orakpo could flourish in a 3-4 defense. I think Haynesworth's talented enough to play either nose tackle or defensive end in a 3-4, but I'm not sure Andre Carter will make a smooth transition to being an outside linebacker.
As I've already stated, it will be tough for a smaller player such as London Fletcher to function in a 3-4 scheme because he'll have to fight off 330-pound guards on a regular basis. If the Skins are truly going to make this transition, you'll see them draft some completely different types of players than in the past. Zimmer transitioned into a 3-4 defense for Bill Parcells in Dallas, but he was more comfortable using a 4-3 scheme. I think Haslett's a little more open-minded when it comes to the two schemes, so you could see some type of hybrid used until the Skins have the right personnel to make a complete transition.
I think players such as LaRon Landry and Rocky McIntosh should be thrilled with the arrival of Haslett. He'll do a better job of putting them in positions to succeed. Landry too often goes for the big hit and he's been awful against the deep ball. I think Haslett will play Landry closer to the line of scrimmage and allow him to function more like a linebacker at times.
My view is that the Redskins don't have a real nose tackle to play the 3-4 right now and they'll need to find one because I think Haynesworth will kick up an awful stink if he's asked to play nose tackle. The guy who plays nose tackle endures a terrible beating, gets constant double teams and doesn't make a mark in the stats book -- very few sacks or tackles. The job of the nose tackle is to occupy space and offensive linemen so others, particularly linebackers, can make plays. And there's very little freelancing allowed the nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. This isn't going to suit Haynesworth at all. In addition, the physical demands of the position, the beating taken, will probably be too much for Haynesworth, who misses 4 games every year at defensive tackle. I wonder how long he'll last at nose tackle.
Fletcher definitely does look too small to play middle linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Those interior linebackers are usually very big guys because they almost play like defensive tackles and they often have to fight through offensive linemen to get to the ball-carrier. Fletcher is under-sized [but very effective] as a standard middle linebacker. There isn't an interior middle linebacker playing a 3-4 defense in the NFL who is nearly as small as Fletcher.
So the Redskins will need a real nose tackle and at least one, maybe two, interior linebackers. We will see if they can obtain these things during an offseason when free agency is likely to be more limited than at any time since 1993. It might be wiser to either to stick with a 4-3 defense or use a hybrid, employing the 3-4 defense only when the Redskins have the personnel to make it work.