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Redskins Hope Bigger Is Better On Defensive Line

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You know the TV show, "Two and a Half Men?" That title could describe each of the Redskins' defensive linemen.

They are size guys. Large and (hopefully) in charge. Hulky and bulky.

In switching from a 4-3 front to a 3-4, the Redskins decided that XL needed at least another X or two. They added some bigger folks but also asked others to alter the composition of their bodies.

If bigger is better, the Redskins will be better. No question they're bigger.

"In a 4-3, you want penetrators up front. In a 3-4, there's three defensive linemen and we're two-gapping and you need bigger guys to do that," says Adam Carriker, the defensive end acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Rams.

The two-gap scheme gives the defensive linemen twin responsibilities. They must tie up two areas and blockers, rather than shoot through to make plays. Size matters.

The common nickname for these brontos around the NFL is "space eaters." That's not all they must consume to maintain proper tonnage.

Carriker came to the Redskins weighing 298 pounds. He's up to 311. He prefers the 3-4 to the 4-3 because it suits carrying more girth.

"In St. Louis, I was trying to lose weight because I was in a 4-3," he says. "For me, it's tough to lose weight."

Carriker doesn't categorize himself as one of those quick guys who get up the field with a lightning release. He's more of an occupier, a presence who holds the point of attack.

"I'm 6-6, and my body type is prototypical 3-4 end," he says.

Big is not big enough. When the Redskins signed veteran Vonnie Holliday, they told him to pack on a few pounds and he's no swimsuit model.

"He's a big, square guy, the kind we're looking for," defensive coordinator Jim Haslett says. "He needs to put on a little weight. He's already put on eight pounds."

The Redskins listed Holliday at 285 on the roster when they signed him. So he was at least 293 at last week's weigh-in.

"I am a little undersized compared to some of the guys they bring in here," Holliday acknowledges. "They definitely want a big defensive front and I'm going to do my best to put the weight on but at the same time being able to compete at the level I'm used to playing at."

How much is too much?

"It seems like all the guys, once they gain 10 pounds, they gain five more. So I'm going to try to put on 10 more pounds," Holliday says.

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Greg Peterson (Ned Dishman Photo)

It's not as much fun as it sounds. Forget pizza and doughnuts. The proper diet, nutritional supplements and hard work with the coaches in the weight room add muscle and move the needle on the scale.

"I'm probably the strongest I've ever been," says Carriker, entering his third season.

A big front probably understates the case. Pick a better word than big. We're talking a wall of humanity here.

If Albert Haynesworth reports at his stated 350, he's the largest of the lot. Maake Kemoeatu is 345. Howard Green is 320. Greg Peterson is listed at 315. Makes Phillip Daniels (305) look like a pee-wee, but he's a power lifter extraordinaire. He doesn't need 10 more pounds.

The Redskins ranked 16th in the NFL in rushing defense last season and opponents averaged 4.0 yards per rush. They were eighth in 2008, allowing 3.8 per carry. That was playing the 4-3 front.

Those numbers don't always mean a lot. A team that finds itself behind late in games, as the Redskins did last year, will surrender rushing yards to their opponents who are mostly trying to milk the clock without risking a turnover.

They may rank higher in pass defense, because the other teams don't throw on them late in games, and lower against the run, because that's all they'll see at the end.

This group's story is yet to be written. The one thing it is safe to say is that these defensive linemen will not be pushed around. Not easily, anyway.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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