The Washington Redskins went into this past scouting combine with many needs, and they still have plenty of them.
One of those needs should NOT be defensive-end.
One of the benefits of two miserable years of re-shaping the roster is that the defensive side of the ball is stocked with some talent, and has fewer holes than the offense.
The offensive side of the ball figures to get the most attention this off-season, but the defensive side is where you can still win championships, as the Giants can attest.
While upgrading the offense, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have a responsibility to NOT ignore the defense, which clearly is the better of the two units, but it is far from perfect.
Cornerback, safety, inside linebacker (regardless of London Fletcher) are all areas that need upgrading. I think the Redskins are fine at nose-tackle, with Barry Cofield and Chris Neild. I don't think they have an elite run-stuffer on the line, either at the nose or at the end spot - but one guy (Adam Carriker) is the best of a talented, interesting, mostly 27-and-under bunch, and maybe, with another infusion of youth it will get even better in 2012.
Specifically, the re-addition of Jarvis Jenkins to the fold, should spark an even better run defense performance. Jenkins, tore his ACL in the middle of August last year, and has repeatedly told ESPN 980 and other members of the media, that he is well ahead of schedule.
If there was a silver lining in the injury rainbow, it happened early enough to give Jenkins extra time to get back and be close too or at 100%.
Even with Jenkins returning, you just never know what he is going to be and how he is going to bring it - so you have to be prepared. The Redskins re-upped Darrion Scott on Monday to a veteran contract, and along with Doug Worthington -- Scott provides depth and some versatility if/when Adam Carriker and Kedric Golston's situations are determined.
However, I think you have to bring a minimum of four defensive ends with you on 53-man roster, and at least five, if not six defensive ends to training camp for competition and depth. Jenkins, Scott, Worthington and Stephen Bowen appear to be locks to move forward, and I believe, if the Redskins are going to take the next step, both Kedric Golston and Adam Carriker should be Redskins next year and moving forward.
Great organizations layer their talent. Bad organizations always think they have enough, when they really don't. Again, the Giants defensive line and pass rush depth has continuously proved that you can cover up for a lot of mistakes and talent issues, with a great pass rush or great depth in a critical area.
Golston is a solid veteran, who was having a quiet but effective year before a season ending knee injury, which cost the Redskins depth and hurt them dearly on field goal block situations.
Carriker, continues to emerge as one of the hidden gem decisions of the Redskins current brain trust. The Redskins acquired the former first round pick right before the 2010 draft from the Rams as the teams agreed to swap picks in the fifth and seventh rounds as compensation.
In other words, they got Carriker for virtually nothing. Another trade that has worked out brilliantly. Shanahan and Allen, along with the pro scouting staff have not received anywhere near enough credit for the Carriker deal, along with acquiring Jabar Gaffney for Jeremy Jarmon (Denver released him), John Beck for Doug Dutch (Baltimore released him) and Tim Hightower for Vonnie Holliday.
Not every trade or maneuver is going to work out, but nobody has given this regime any credit for the moves that have worked and cost virtually nothing. Don't forget the stunning brilliance of the draft last year, and how they basically took the # 10 pick and turned it into Ryan Kerrigan, Leonard Hankerson, and Roy Helu.
Going back to Carriker, if you got him for virtually nothing, and he has done nothing but produce - why would you give up on him and not reward him for staying healthy and being productive with limited opportunities to rush the passer?
Multiple league sources have indicated that the Redskins have tried to bring back both Golston and Carriker, so they should be given some credit for the attempt. What is unclear, is how favorable for the player, are those efforts? The clock is ticking, towards unrestricted free agency and Carriker should and will receive good interest, early on.
Carriker, left the door open recently on ESPN 980 about his chances that he will come back to the Redskins, and his impending free agency.
"I have no idea, and that's an honest answer. I don't know the offer is going to be from the Skins. I don't know what it's going to be from other teams. I can't talk to anybody until free agency starts. I would like to be back, but at the same time, it's gotta be a fair deal and I feel like I've gotta fit into the plans and scheme well -- not just here and there."
Carriker was drafted by the Rams 13th overall in 2007, but St. Louis gave up on the Nebraska product pretty quickly and for whatever you want to say about the Redskins dysfunction, how do you think the Rams feel right now?
They simply had no reason to give up on Carriker as early as they did, and he has proven that the 'bust' label is something he could never accept. Now he's poised to capitalize on his hard work and cash in somewhere.
"I'm excited. I'm not nervous at all. When you're getting drafted, you gotta convince everyone to pick you. Coming out of high school, you get recruited. Just from talking to Barry (Cofield) and Bo (Stephen Bowen), it's gonna be more like coming out of high school. Teams are coming to you. You're gonna be taking tours of facilities, fly all-around. They're going to try to convince you to come there, with the offer, with what they want to do with you."
Carriker added further that his options are open and plentiful; "I'm pretty sure there's going to be somebody out-there that wants me. As far as testing the waters, I'm very excited. I'd love to come back to DC. We'll just see what happens with free agency."
Carriker, is coming off a season at left defensive end where he started 15 out of the 16 games, he and the Redskins played. The only exception? Washington started off in a nickel front, in Week 2 against Arizona's high powered passing attack. He had 5.5 sacks, including 1.5 against the nearly invincible Cam Newton, and 34 tackles (official via NFL.com).
The Redskins as every other team does, issue statistics compiled by the coaching staff, who grade the coaching film and meticulously track everything. Per the Redskins staff, Carriker had 49 tackles, including 6 for a loss, the 5.5 sacks which resulted in 28.5 lost yards, and 9 quarterback pressures, which placed him fifth on the Redskins.
The 'lack' of pass rush opportunities for Carriker, makes his sack total stand out a little more. It's certainly important as he looks forward to the next phase in his career, despite the notion that defensive ends in a 3-4, do not usually rack up big sack statistics. His role in whatever scheme he lands in, is a front burner issue.
"That's part of what I want to find out, what teams are going to say. I want to see what their offer is, and how many years, what's the dollars, but I want to see how they want to use me. I proved last year, I saw somewhere, somebody wrote - I had 174 less pass rushes than some other guys, and I had just as many sacks as some guys. We have a lot of good players on our team. I proved I can do it, either way."
Carriker, has made the most of his opportunities since coming to Washington, who converted to a '34' front when Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett took over, with Carriker playing in all 32 games, starting all but the one. In 2010, as he got comfortable in the scheme, and aftermissing the entire 2009 season - Carriker racked up 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks - but make no mistake about it - he is not a one trick scheme pony.
"I won't be politically correct here, I'll just be honest. In my mind, I think I can play a4-3. I think a lot of things happened in St. Louis, really, I was played out of position. If I'm going to be truly honest, I know that most people don't agree with what I'm saying, and they've labeled me as a 3-4 end, and that's totally cool with me too, because there's no doubt I can play as a good 3-4 defensive end."
But Carriker won't shut the door on what he was for his entire career, before coming to Washington. "I realize if a 4-3 team approaches me, I'm wide open. I also realize the book on me is 'he's a really good 3-4 end.' There's worst things. I think that's a pretty good label to have."
In talking to a NFL scout, he noted that the knock against Carriker being only a 3-4 end is somewhat ridiculous. "He's played every position in a 4-3 and a 3-4, what else do you want a guy to do?"
Brian Baldinger, a former NFL offensive lineman and longtime NFL analyst for NFL Network, and formerly of FOX -- broadcast several Redskins games this year on Compass Radio Networks. Baldinger, said of Carriker via text - "He's a good five-technique (3-4 DE). He's a good fit for the Redskins defense."
In talking to Jim Haslett throughout the season, there is no doubt that the Redskins are maximizing Carriker's ability - based on his strength and body type BUT they also control and perhaps limit how many opportunities he gets as a pass rusher in nickel situations, because of the prescence of Bowen and Cofield.
Still, Carriker is on the ascent because he has erased any and all questions about his health, by playing in all 32 games he could with the Redskins. He's erased doubts about his versatility, by playing in the current scheme/front, while also having a good deal of experience in the 4-3, (St. Louis, Nebraska).
Carriker is 27 years old, and has the ideal build (6'6",300) and strength for a 3-4 end, he has proved that his body is changeable, and figures to just be hitting his peak now.
ESPN 980 front office insider, J.I. Halsell, who has negotiated contracts before as a member of the Redskins front office, and as well currently on the player agent side, with Priority Sports, suggests that Carriker is likely looking at a three to four year deal, with about 5-6 million guaranteed, along with possible other roster bonuses and incentives.
Possible interested teams could be Indianapolis under new head coach, Chuck Pagano. The Pittsburgh Steelers would be ideal if they had any salary cap room. The New England Patriots are a hybrid 3-4/4-3 team and DE's Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are both free agents. How about the New York J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets? San Diego and Kansas City are also possible spots in the AFC.
In the NFC, the Dallas Cowboys lost both Stephen Bowen and Igor Olshansky at the DE spotslast year, and DeMarcus Ware was banged up at OLB at the end of the year, plus Anthony Spencer is a unrestricted free agent. The Cowboys desperately need to upgrade their pass rush to assist their beleaguered secondary.
Green Bay is a possibility as they could use a pass rush boost, along with some defensive line infusion since losing Cullen Jenkins. Perhaps, the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals or another team could be in the mix.
Whoever lands Carriker, and wherever he chooses to go, one thing is for certain, that team is getting a player who has his best years ahead, is never going to be a problem in the locker room, and who could be an important piece of the puzzle towards winning a championship.