The Redskins' Defensive Line Pass Rush, Jason Hatcher and D-Linemen Age (Part 2)

Ronald Martinez

The Addition of Jason Hatcher & Friends

Check out Part 1 of the series to find out why it was so important for the Redskins to upgrade their defensive line.

The newly formed Bruce Allen brain trust clearly knew that the defensive line was a problem area for the defense (one among many).  They've demonstrated this to us by signing 3 new linemen over the past 2 weeks (Jason Hatcher, Clifton Geathers and Brandon Moore).  Let's address the "and friends" part of this equation first.  Prior to joining the Redskins, Geathers and Moore had been on a combined 9 NFL teams in a total of 5 years.  Between the two of them they have only produced: 1 NFL start, 1 NFL sack and 11.5 college sacks (3 of which came from Moore's community college stint).  There is a reason for this, and that reason is that there is no indication that they are anything more than a couple of JAGs (just-a-guy).  They will add depth to the D-line and their size could help in the run game; however, it's highly unlikely that they will add any value to this group's pass rush.  At least there is no way that we can rationally expect them to.

Finally, we've arrived at Jason Hatcher.  This year's flag carrier for the Redskins' annual big free agent splash signing.  In 2013, Hatcher ranked 1st, 13th, 4th and 4th in sacks, QB hits, QB hurries and total pressures respectively among defensive tackles.  He instantly adds credibility to the Redskins anemic defensive line pass rush, and it's hard to argue against labeling him the best pass rusher of the bunch. Like most Redskins fans, I am very excited about adding a player of this caliber to our team, but at the same time I think it would be wise for us to consider all of the facts before we anoint Jason Hatcher as the savior of the defensive line.

I, for one, am also a little concerned about pinning the hopes of revitalizing the D-line's pass rush on a player who achieved over 40% of his production in just one of his 8 years in the league.

Jason Hatcher Career Statistics
Games Played Sacks Turnovers (FF, Int, SFTY, KB) Pass Deflections
2006-2012 Totals 104 16 3 4
% of Career Total 87% 59% 60% 57%
2013 Totals 15 11 2 3
% of Career Total 13% 41% 40% 43%

This was a year in which he spent most of his time playing as the 3-technique defense tackle in Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli's 4-3 Tampa-2 defense.  The 3-technique is the key position in that defensive scheme.  It basically allows for the defensive tackle to be matched up one-on-one against a slower and less athletic guard.  If the DT in question possesses the requisite quickness and power, then he should thrive in this role.  Unfortunately for Hatcher, the Redskins run a base 3-4 defense, so he will likely not spend the majority of his time lined up as a 3-techique DT.

Many will likely argue that: A) Hatcher also performed well as 3-4 end in 2011 and 2012 for the Cowboys and; B) so much of his production came from 2013, because he had only been a full-time starter for the past 3 years.  To test these theories I compiled the stats from all of Hatcher's 42 career starts and separated them by starts in the 3-4 and starts in the 4-3.  Due to the fact that he started as a 3-4 DE in a disproportionately high number of his starts, the numbers below are displayed on a per start basis.

Jason Hatcher Per Start Statistics
Snaps/GS Pass Rush/GS Sacks/GS Hits/GS Hurries/GS Pressures/GS PD/GS FF/GS
3-4 Per Start (27 GS) 42.15 25.19 0.28 0.44 1.44 2.17 0.07 0.00
4-3 Per Start (15 GS) 51.53 31.47 0.73 0.47 2.20 3.40 0.20 0.13
% Increase in 4-3 Defense 22% 25% 164% 5% 52% 57% 170% N/A

After looking at these stats it should be very apparent that Hatcher greatly benefited from Dallas' 2013 switch to the 4-3 defense.  He performed significantly better in nearly every area as a pass rusher.  The most glaring improvement came in the number of sacks.  He posted over a whopping 2 and a half times more sacks a game in the 4-3.  You might also notice that he received over 20% more opportunities to rush the quarterback as a 4-3 tackle.  To account for this, I took it a step further by comparing his stats in the 3-4 and 4-3 on a per snap basis.  I've also included his total pressure % (percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a pressure) and sack % (percentage of pass rushes that resulted in a sack) from his starts, so that we can get an even better idea of how efficient he was in the different fronts.

Jason Hatcher Per Snap Statistics
Sacks/Snap Pass Rush/Snap Hits/Snap Hurries/Snap Pressures/Snap PD/Snap FF/Snap Press % Sack %
3-4 Per Snap (1138 Snaps) 0.007 0.598 0.011 0.034 0.051 0.002 0.000 8.6% 1.1%
4-3 Per Snap (773 Snaps) 0.014 0.611 0.009 0.043 0.066 0.004 0.003 10.8% 2.3%
% Increase in 4-3 Defense 116% 2% -14% 121% 28% 121% N/A 26% 111%

Looking at it this way certainly closes the gap a little bit, but there is still no denying that Hatcher was a far superior pass rusher as a defensive tackle in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 Tampa-2.  Perhaps, the Redskins will remain true to their word by allowing Hatcher to frequently play with a 1-gap role and do what he does best.  Even if they do, he will still see far less opportunities to work as a 3-technique this year in the Skins 3-4 defensive base.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I don't like this signing.  I just think that we need to have a more measured response in regards to the impact that it will realistically have on this team.  With that in mind, maybe giving Hatcher $10.5M guaranteed and what essentially amounts to a top 10 defensive tackle contract wasn't as great of a move as we thought.

Jason Hatcher Contract Values and Rankings
Average Salary Guaranteed Signing Bonus Total Contract Value
Values $6,875,000 $10,500,000 $9,000,000 $27,500.000
Defensive Tackle Rankings 7th 10th 4th 11th

Only time will tell if Hatcher lives up to his literal and figurative billing.  Coincidentally, time may actually be the biggest enemy of both Jason Hatcher and the Redskins' defensive line.

Find out why tomorrow in the third and final part of the series.

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