Over the next two weeks, CSNWashington.com Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2012 and evaluate its outlook for 2013. Previously, we looked at the offense (offensive tackles, the interior offensive line, wide receivers, running backs, quarterbacks, and tight ends). Today we start our look at the defense beginning with the ends.
Position: Defensive ends
2012 starters: Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker/Jarvis Jenkins
Key reserves: Kedric Golston and Doug Worthington
Key free agents: Golston
Rewind: The Redskins’ defense, as a whole, did not perform up to expectations in 2012. And the ends faced adversity right from the start.
Adam Carriker suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury on the second play in Week 2, a 31-28 defeat in St. Louis. Losing Carriker dealt the Redskins’ front-7 a blow, particularly when combined with the season-ending pectoral injury to linebacker Brian Orakpo that also occurred against the Rams. Carriker was coming off a season in which he recorded 34 tackles and a career-high 5.5 sacks.
With Carriker sidelined, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett turned to second-year player Jarvis Jenkins, who was coming off a knee injury that scuttled his rookie season. Jenkins started the final 14 regular season games in Carriker's place and proved to be strong against the run while improving in other areas throughout the season. But he did not record a sack in 602 snaps.
On the opposite side, veteran Stephen Bowen saw a decline in his stats after a career-season in 2011, when he recorded 41 tackles and six sacks. This season, he was officially credited with one sack and 25 tackles and played the final three-plus games with a torn biceps tendon in his left arm. ProFootballFocus.com also credited Bowen with six quarterback hits and 21 hurries, second only to Ryan Kerrigan's 51.
Overall, though, Bowen performed solidly and also produced one of the most important plays of the season in Philadelphia. With the Eagles pressing for the game-tying score in the final seconds, Bowen chased Nick Foles from the pocket and forced an illegal forward pass, ending the game.
While the run defense ranked fifth in the NFL, one of the Redskins' persistent problems for much of the season was the lack of a consistent pass rush. And while there are many reasons for the drop off – injuries and a struggling secondary rank high among them – the decline in production for the ends is noteworthy. In all, the five ends on the roster (including reserves Kedric Golston and Doug Worthington) produced a combined one sack, a year after the two starters (Bowen and Carriker) totaled 11.5.
Fast forward: Carriker had surgery four days later after getting hurt and, at the time, the recovery period was said to be five months. Assuming Carriker's recovery remains on track – and the coaching staff believes he’ll return to full strength by the start of the 2013 season – it’s possible the Redskins won’t make any significant changes at end.
It’s also reasonable to expect a healthy Carriker and Bowen to be the frontline force they were in 2011. But, as we saw with Jenkins, getting back on the field and getting back to being productive are two separate things. So Carriker’s recovery bears watching. Bowen said his biceps injury will not require surgery and he'll be 100-percent with some rehab.
While it's unclear how the Redskins will deploy Jenkins next season, the 24-year-old Clemson product showed in the second half that he can be a key contributor and, perhaps, be the starter on the left side. Jenkins recorded 13 of his 25 tackles in the final five regular season games, including a career-high five against Baltimore.
Golston proved to be an important depth player, taking 404 defensive snaps, and he also contributed on special teams. The 29-year-old, however, is an unrestricted free agent.
Worthington, meantime, was signed from the team's practice squad after Carriker went down. He suited up for seven games and played only 47 snaps, including the playoffs. But at 6 foot 5, 311-pounds, he’s the biggest player on the roster and remains an intriguing prospect.