By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler
Twenty questions No. 9—Is the defensive line deep enough?
The 2013 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 20 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Going into last season the Redskins appeared to have a very strong top four along the defensive line. The three 2011 starters, ends Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker and nose tackle Barry Cofield, had combined for 14.5 sacks. Jarvis Jenkins, the team’s 2011 second-round pick was back from a knee injury. But Carriker suffered a torn quad early in the second game of the season. Jenkins was a decent replacement but the starting line’s sack total fell to 3.5 with Jenkins not recording any. The team’s defensive ranking fell from 13th to 28th. Do the Redskins have the depth on the line to survive injuries in 2013?
Rich Tandler: Last year Cofield played 800 snaps or 67 percent of the total defensive plays while Bowen (856) played 72 percent. That’s definitely more than they would like Cofield to play and they probably would like to give Bowen a lighter workload as well. One key is Carriker. He has said that he will start camp on the PUP list but he vows to be ready for the start of the season. If he is, the team will have that strong rotation it was going to have last year. If not, the key is Chris Baker. He can play end as well as nose tackle and he has the athletic ability to make some plays at end. If he can do that, Chris Neild can focus on spelling Cofield at nose Kedric Golston is a solid rotational player and former Dolphins second-round pick Phillip Merling could be the same. In short, if Carriker can’t go someone needs to step up.
Tarik El-Bashir: If you’re working under the assumption that the Redskins will retain six DLs as they did in 2012, then Cofield, Bowen, Carriker, Jenkins, Baker and Golston sounds like a pretty solid lineup to me. But, as Rich pointed out, there’s no guarantee that Carriker will be ready for Week 1. Would the Redskins consider using Baker as an end on the left side until Carriker returns? And deploying Neild as Cofield’s backup? That’s how they lined up during one minicamp session that was open to the media. Of course, that could create a numbers crunch when/if Carriker returned. Bottom line is this: with a healthy Carriker (and an assist from returning linebacker Brian Orakpo), the defensive line could be the force it was in 2011. Without Carriker, though, the unit appears less formidable.
Upcoming on 20 questions
- Question 8 Wednesday: Will Leonard Hankerson have a breakout season?
- Question 7 Thursday: Can Kai Forbath repeat his 2012 magic?
- Question 6 Friday: What can the rookie defensive backs contribute?