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Behind Enemy Lines: Profiling the NFC East's right side edge rushers

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This is the first in a series of articles profiling the primary opponents of the Redskins 2015 draft picks. First up is the NFC East's edge rushers on the right side that will likely face off against the Redskins first round pick Brandon Scherff.

DeMarcus Lawrence- Dallas Cowboys
DeMarcus Lawrence- Dallas Cowboys
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins selected offensive tackle Brandon Scherff out of Iowa with the fifth overall selection in the 2015 draft. If all goes according to plan, Scherff will be a bookend along with Trent Williams and man the right tackle spot for years the same way we saw Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen do after the turn of the new millennium. If he is a bookend tackle for the Redskins for an extended period of time, he'll get to know the following division rival edge rushers well as he'll be facing them twice a year for the foreseeable future.

Scherff is a beast in the weight room but when you hit the NFL just about everyone else you face is a beast as well. Here's a breakdown of his primary one on one matchups within the division.

Dallas Cowboys Right Defensive End: DeMarcus Lawrence

The Cowboys traded up to get Lawrence in the second round of the 2014 draft. Due to injuries he was limited to only nine games last year so his pro career provides a small sample size. He did however play in both of the Cowboy's playoff games and registered a sack and a quarterback hurry in each of them. With a small sample size in the pros, it's wrong to judge Lawrence off of only nine games, even if he did trend in a positive direction as the season went on and his health improved.

Entering only his second year in the league, and his first chance to play the entire season, Lawrence has solid raw tools that could provide a strong rivalry between him and Sherff. As pointed out by our friends at Blogging the Boys, Lawrence has great vision, diagnoses plays well, is highly athletic, and has great body control. He needs to improve his physical strength as he can get pushed around in run defense and isn't strong enough to overpower strong right tackles when pass rushing.

The Cowboys have the luxury of having a high second round pick as their left defense end. Many teams keep their best ends to rush opposing quarterback's blindsides (there are exceptions such as Ryan Kerrigan) but with Randy Gregory being a potential high risk, high reward player and the current starter Jeremy Mincey manning the right side of the Cowboy's defensive line, Dallas can afford to have Lawrence develop on the left. Lawrence also told Fox Sports that he prefers the left side of the line "I feel like I get off way better on my left side, keeping my right hand down."

Philadelphia Eagles Right Outside Linebacker: Brandon Graham

Graham has had quite a journey with the Eagles since he was drafted 13th overall in 2010. From angry coaches to transitioning to a 3-4 front, Graham has gone through the rigors of the first few years of an NFL career and has been rewarded with a starting job. While many thought Graham would test the waters of free agency to look for a 4-3 front that he would feel more natural in, he has re-signed with the Eagles and is currently at the top of their depth chart.

As a rotational player behind Trent Cole and others, Graham has played well in pass rush situations and run defense but lacked coverage. Last season he recorded six sacks and thirty-nine quarterback hurries. His pass rushing productivity, which Pro Football Focus (PFF) calculates using sacks, hits, and quarterback hurries, was 18.8 from the right side in 2014. That puts him near the top of the league in that category. He's also top ten in run stop percentage and number one in the NFC East.

Going into the 2015 season Graham is working on trimming his body down to a more prototypical 3-4 edge rusher. PFF has him listed at 274 which is high for a player at his position. Losing weight and having another year to transition may help Graham in a large area of need, pass coverage. In 2014 according to PFF, Graham allowed an average of 2.09 yards per coverage snap. That's worst in the NFL among outside linebackers that dropped into coverage more than 50 times.

New York Giants Right Defensive End: Jason Pierre-Paul

In the past the New York Giants have had a nearly endless supply of large, fast, and skilled defensive linemen. This stems from their drafting philosophy and has been a major part of Super Bowl success. They don't have the defensive line that they used to, but Jason Pierre-Paul is an at times dominating player who can give the Redskins fits. Last year in the Redskins/Giants week 15 matchup Pierre-Paul had three sacks, three quarterback hits, and three quarterback hurries. That was against a Redskins line that has not been a strong point of the team, but Pierre-Paul had thirteen total sacks last year including ten against non-Redskins opponents.


Pierre-Paul ranked #59 on CBS's top 100 lis, but the question to many is "is JPP elite?" Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolio answered that question by saying

"He looks pretty elite to me... Anybody can put a highlight film together and make a play look great. If you just watch tape with JPP out there, it is evident to me that he is an elite defensive end and fits a 4-3 system, which is exciting."

JPP will be the biggest challenge for Brandon Scherff and will give Redskins fans a good gauge on how Scherff will handle higher tier talent.


The right edge rushers of the NFC are an interesting batch. You have an established rusher in JPP, a former first round pick getting his first starting job in Brandon Graham, and a high second round pick in DeMarcus Lawrence.
Facing a mixture of 3-4 and 4-3 base sets in addition to other fronts that they'll face throughout the year, Brandon Scherff, or any other right tackle for the Skins, will have an opportunity to do what good offensive line should, make us not talk about how much the quarterback is on the ground.

All depth charts are via CBS Sports