Over the next few weeks, CSNWashington.com’s Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2013 and evaluate the outlook for 2014. This morning, we’re examining the situation along the defensive line. This afternoon, we’ll take a look at possible solutions, so be sure to come back.
2013 starters (in Week 17): DE Jarvis Jenkins, NT Barry Cofield, DE Chris Baker
Key reserves: Stephen Bowen (injured reserve), Adam Carriker (injured reserve), Kedric Golston, Chris Neild, Doug Worthington (injured reserve).
Free agents: Baker, Worthington
Rewind: Injury and suspension depleted this unit before the season even began. After multiple surgeries on his right leg, Carriker started the season on the PUP list and did not take a snap all year. Jenkins was suspended for the first four games due a violation of the NFL’s policy on banned performance enhancing substances and Worthington suffered a season-ending biceps injury in minicamp.
Injuries struck during the year, as well. Bowen suffered a torn PCL in his right knee and missed the final six games after undergoing microfracture surgery on the same knee. Neild, meantime, missed a chunk of the season with a calf muscle strain.
In between the rough start and Bowen’s season trip to IR in December, there wasn’t a whole lot to celebrate. Cofield was steady and solid again, pretty much matching his totals from 2012. Golston was adequate, while Jenkins and Neild (both 2011 picks) showed some flashes late in the year. The one notable for the D-line was the emergence of Baker, who plays nose and end. Playing right end in the season finale, the 26-year-old registered a career-high seven tackles and three stuffs.
Overall, the Redskins’ run defense ranked 17th in 2013, down from fifth a year earlier. Several lineman also said in training camp that there would be an emphasis on pressuring the quarterback and accumulating sacks. The unit ended up with only 5.5 sacks, led by Cofield’s 2.5.
Fast forward: GM Bruce Allen could have some work to do here depending on the health of the unit’s injured players.
Cofield, a unit captain, is entrenched as the starter at nose tackle. Baker surged late and should be high on the Redskins’ list of free agents to re-sign, while Jenkins must build on his late season surge.
After that, well…there are a lot of questions.
When Bowen had surgery in early December, former coach Mike Shanahan said the 29-year-old faced a six-month recovery, which would put him back on the practice field mid-summer. Carriker, who has been sidelined since Week 2 of the 2012 season, hopes to get cleared in time for offseason activities.
A healthy Bowen and a healthy Carriker lining up on either side of Cofield (like they did in 2011) sounds like a nice trio of proven starters up front. Add to that Jenkins and Baker rotating in as reserves, and it sounds even better.
Unfortunately, it’s way too early to count on that because.
If management still has questions about Bowen and Carriker's availability, expect the team to make a move to bolster the line in either free agency or the draft.