Midseason Grades For The Washington Redskins Defensive Line

Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker (92) celebrates against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins had a patchwork group of veterans on the defensive line to start this season. How have they fared thus far in 2016?

Coming into the season, one of the glaring weaknesses for the Washington Redskins was their defensive line. The team had a couple of solid players on the unit, but they were mostly relying on a crew of unproven draft picks and mediocre veterans to gel and become a solid group.

In a dream world, the team would have been able to accomplish that. They could have gotten their lineman to play at an average level and finish off the solid defense that they were building.

Well, that has not been the case thus far. The team has not been very good as a unit, because the parts have not done well individually. Without further ado, here is a look at midseason grades for the Redskins defensive line.

Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston (64) is looked at by team trainers during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Kedric Golston

The 2016 season was not kind to Kedric Golston. He was entering his 11th season with the team, and he had secured the starting job heading into the season. Not too much was expected of Golston, a strong run stuffer, but it appears as though his career may have ended.

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In the second game of the season, Golston went down on the second play. He had suffered a hamstring injury and was placed on the injured reserve as a result. The 33-year-old veteran’s body had just given out, and he was not able to continue.

That play likely will be the last he commits as a Redskin. The team needs to upgrade their defensive line, and they could target a nose tackle in free agency or the draft. Golston was a mediocre option coming into the year anyway, so it is not like he was the long term fix at the position. It is difficult to say this, but Golston’s days in the NFL are numbered. Because of that, he deserves a failing grade.

Golston’s Midseason Grade: F

Aug 31, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Redskins defensive tackle Matthew Ioannidis (98) during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Washington Redskins defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Ioannidis

The Washington Redskins spent a fifth round pick on Matthew Ioannidis. He was a big time player at Temple, and the team hoped that he would be able to play a role on their defensive line. That did not happen right away.

Prior to the season, the Redskins waived Ioannidis amongst their final cuts. It was widely expected that they would put him on the practice squad, which they did. Ioannidis stayed there for two weeks before being promoted in the wake of the Golston injury.

Since then, Ioannidis has played sparingly for the team. He has essentially been one of the backup linemen, but he appears to be low down in the rotation. He may keep losing playing time if he cannot have an impact. Thus far, he has not done much so the team has to be discouraged by that.

Ioannidis may just need some time to develop. Still, the team may have expected more from him than they have gotten. Maybe he will have an impact in the future. For now, he is just a below average backup.

Ioannidis’ Midseason Grade: D

Oct 28, 2016; London United Kingdom; Washington Redskins helmet at practice at the Twyford Avenue Sports Ground in preparation for game 17 of the NFL International Series against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Lanier

The other rookie defensive lineman on the Redskins is Anthony Lanier. The undrafted free agent was an absolute monster in the preseason, and the coaching staff was excited about his potential. As a result, he made the initial 53-man roster. However, Lanier had been inactive in every week until last week’s game against the Bengals.

In that game, Lanier saw a handful of snaps with the defense and he looked decent. He was able to recover a fumble, but aside from that he did not record any stats. Still, he flashed some potential so the team should be happy with that.

Overall, we have not seen a lot from Lanier. He is a player that we have to grade more on potential than production. I was tempted to give him an incomplete grade, but decided against it. He is still just a below average player that needs to develop.

Lanier’s Midseason Grade: D+

Jan 3, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford (7) is sacked by New York Giants defensive end Robert Ayers (91) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (99) during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Eagles won 35-30. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cullen Jenkins

Cullen Jenkins’ inevitable decline has continued with the Washington Redskins. The veteran signed with the team prior to the season to be a do-it-all backup and many were excited about his potential. Jenkins actually ended up being a surprising cut by the team prior to Week 1, but he re-signed shortly after the first game. Since then, Jenkins has not done much.

Overall on the season, Jenkins has just 9 total tackles. He has not had much of an impact on the defense, and he has not been able to put much pressure on the quarterback. His skill set is simply eroding, but the Redskins are continuing to use him.

Perhaps Jenkins will have a good game before the season ends, but the team may want to consider taking away some of his playing time. They have a couple of young players who need to get some snaps to jumpstart their development. Jenkins is probably outperforming them now, but in terms of long term upside he offers nothing.

Overall, Jenkins’ signing has been a disappointment. The veteran simply is not the player he once was. He is now a below average player at best.

Jenkins’ Midseason Grade: C-

Jan 10, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois (99) pumps up the crowd from the field prior to the NFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Jean-Francois

In his second year with the Redskins, Ricky Jean-Francois has been exactly as advertised. He is a solid rotational lineman. No more, no less. Unfortunately, the team has been forced to use him in a starting role, and that has hurt him a bit.

Jean-Francois is a good run stopper who has some decent pass rushing skills. He is a jack-of-all-trades type of player, but he does not do anything particularly well. This season, he has been decent as expected and has already pretty much equaled his stat total from 2015. On paper, that may seem like a good thing. However, his increase in playing time is part of the reason for this.

In reality, Jean-Francois has had a few splash plays this season. He had a big sack in Week 6 against the Eagles, but aside from that he has not made many highlight reel plays. He has gone under the radar, but he just is nothing special.

That said, I like Jean-Francois. He has been a key cog for the defensive line. I just would prefer to see him coming off of the bench. Perhaps he will do that during the 2017 season.

Jean-Francois’ Midseason Grade: C

Sep 18, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Ziggy Hood (90) lines up against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ziggy Hood

One of the most pleasant surprises of the year for the Redskins has been the emergence of Ziggy Hood. Hood, a former first round pick, had struggled early in his NFL career and was an afterthought when the Skins agreed to sign him during the 2016 Super Bowl. However, over the course of the offseason, Hood proved his value to the coaching staff and he earned a starting role.

To begin the season, Hood was the starter at left end. He performed well in the first contest and was able to get some pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Hood also was strong in run support, and that was what led the coaching staff to play him at nose tackle after Golston’s injury.

Hood has been good at the nose, but he was definitely stronger at the end position. Playing the nose does not give him as much of an opportunity to rush the passer, and that has limited him in a sense. Still, this is likely the best season of Hood’s career.

Because of his unexpected resurgence, Hood is going to get a good grade. He is far from elite, but he has been a pretty solid starter for the Redskins. That is all that they can ask for.

Hood’s Midseason Grade: B-

Oct 2, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker (92) celebrates with Redskins defensive end Ziggy Hood (90) against the Cleveland Browns in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 31-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Baker

The best defensive lineman for the Redskins has far and away been Chris Baker. Baker has been a solid starter for the team for the past couple of seasons, and this year has been no different. Baker has once again been a great run stuffer that offers some good skills in the pass rush department as well.

Thus far, Baker has had to do quite a bit of work by himself. He is the only viable pass rusher on the team’s three man front, so a lot of the interior pressure has to come from him. If he cannot do that, it makes life a lot more difficult for the edge rushers.

Despite the pressure put on Baker, he has met expectations. He has a couple of sacks already, and he has done a nice job of battling offensive linemen.

At the end of the day, Baker is a versatile player who does what is asked of him. He is not too flashy, but he is solid. The Redskins coaching staff loves him as a player, and he is without any doubt the best interior lineman on the team.

Baker’s Midseason Grade: B+

Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive end Chris Baker (92) and Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois (99) celebrate while leaving the field after their game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. The Redskins won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Overall Defensive Line Game

The Redskins cannot be happy with the overall performance of their defensive line. The team’s back seven (or eight) have played very well this season, and if they had a better defensive line, the defense could be borderline elite. Instead, they have struggled to stop the run and that has really hurt the secondary.

Scot McCloughan has to consider upgrading the defensive line at some point in the near future. Simply put, it is the biggest problem spot on the entire Redskins team. They have to draft somebody to help improve their talent level.

Overall Defensive Line Grade: D

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