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Offseason Bolsters Defensive Line's Growth

With new faces and a new rotation, the Washington Redskins' defensive line has used the offseason months to learn more about each other before they join forces on the field.

From Day 1 in his tenure with the Washington Redskins, Terrance Knighton has noticed a shared mindset amongst his fellow defensive line members.

The Washington Redskins announced Wednesday, March 11, 2015, the signing of free agent defensive lineman Stephen Paea. Here's a gallery of photos from his career.

While every individual member of the group certainly wants to make individual plays that stand out, there aren't any "me guys" in the whole unit, Knighton said.

"That's what it's going to take to win in this league and as long as we're putting in the work and everybody's thinking about winning, whether in the building or at home and hanging out and doing the right things in their community, you'll get your money's worth on the field," he told reporters Tuesday. "That's what it's about – doing the right thing."

Knighton certainly knows what it takes to be successful in the trenches, especially during his recent two-year stint with the Denver Broncos, where he recorded 61 tackles along with five sacks and four passes defensed.

After being with a team for a long period of time, it isn't always that easy to jump right into a new organization, sometimes one that has a completely different structure and culture.

After spending his first eight seasons in Dallas, Jason Hatcher experienced both the ease and difficulties of adjusting to a new team last season.

"It was an adjustment, just getting here and feeling out the locker room and stuff like that," he recently told Larry Michael in an appearance on "Redskins Nation." "I think the GM did a good job of bringing in the right guys and so we can take this thing in the right direction. It was very uncomfortable, I'm not going to lie, but coming in here, seeing some stuff how it was done, but it's definitely changed this year. I feel at home; I feel comfortable."

Knighton said he felt the same sort of change when he was signed by the team this offseason, and made it a point to ensure his fellow defensive linemen began hanging out often away from Redskins Park.

"We get together twice a week and hang out," he said. "We've been watching the NBA playoffs, eating dinner together and just mingling. It's good to know the person personally that you're playing with next to you. So that's just something I brought here. The first week I said, 'You guys don't hang out all the time?' and they were like, 'Nah.' Well now we hang out twice a week so it's good."

How significant is building that camaraderie?

"It was very important," Knighton said, referencing his Denver days. "You've got a lot of different personalities but on the field everybody has to be together. You have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware who are totally different personalities but on the field they're the same guy and that's what it's about."

Outside of Knighton and Hatcher, the Redskins also have, among others, Stephen Paea, Ricky Jean Francois, Chris Baker and Frank Kearse.

Defensive coordinator Joe Barry wants to make sure these guys are really setting the tone for the pass rush this season, something Paea eagerly awaits.

"I look at the position I'm playing right now, which is what J.J. Watt is playing on the left hand," he said. "It's more attacking. Obviously J.J. Watt has 50 sacks in three years. I look up to him, and I want to bring that type of attacking mentality to this defense. I come here every day and work on my craft, getting off the ball and cause havoc in the backfield. If I can do that and bring that mentality to the defense, all the 10 other guys will benefit from that."

A countdown of the top-10 images of defensive lineman Chris Baker during the 2014 season.

And with offensive lines being forced to account for Knighton's every move in the middle, Paea believes the rest of the defensive line's matchups will play to their favor.

"Obviously we bring in TK [Knighton], and [he'll be] taking on double teams and triple teams," he said. "I get the one-on-one block. I don't get to get the double teams, like I've been doing the previous four years."




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