WASHINGTON (FNN Media) — Adam Carriker’s return to the Washington Redskins is far from a sure thing in the minds of many. Not so much because of the finish to the season, but because the team completely reshuffled their front line last offseason.
With Stephen Bowen firmly engrained at one of the end spots and Jarvis Jenkins waiting in the wings, it’s unclear whether there will be a spot for Carriker on the line next season.
The coaches outlined their plans to Carriker when they drafted Jenkins last season. It was a plan Carriker said he was comfortable with and one in which Jim Haslett had previous success with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Perhaps his future with the Redskins would be a little less cloudy if he weren’t a free agent and Jenkins had not suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason.
But those were the cards that Carriker was dealt and he understands the NFL is a competitive business.
“In the NFL there is always guys coming after your job,” he said. “There is always rookies, there are always free agents. It’s just part of the thing. When I came here somebody else lost their job. Eventually somebody is going to take my job wherever I’m at. That’s just part of it. If you worry about it, it’s going to affect your play.”
One thing the defensive lineman isn’t lacking is confidence.
“I know I’m a good enough player, somebody is going to want me,” said Carriker. “I’m going to start somewhere.”
After his first three and a half seasons in the league there weren’t many who would have agreed with that statement.
The first-round draft pick out of Nebraska wasn’t living up to expectations in St. Louis—and he knew it.
Although Carriker was voted the Rams Rookie of the Year in 2007, fans expected more than two sacks, 30 tackles and a safety he delivered. It’s the curse of having your name called in the first hours of the draft.
What many fans didn’t understand was Carriker was not playing his natural position. He was playing along the interior of the line at nose guard—a position not known for generating a high sack total. All the while, fans were still comparing his numbers to defensive ends around the league and he was coming up short in their eyes.
It wasn’t well publicized at the time, but he underwent offseason surgery after his rookie campaign.
Not wanting to disappoint his teammates or coaches, he rushed back and played hurt for the bulk of the 2008 season. By some estimates he was playing one limb at points.
Physically he was suffering and statistically he was in a sophomore slump as a result. He recorded 23 tackles and went without a sack that year.
The grumbles in the stands grew louder, but his predicament did not. He was still playing nose guard.
Missing the entire 2009 season due to injury didn’t help his cause with the fans or the front office.
The Rams decided it was time to go in another direction before 2010 and traded him to the Redskins in a modest deal. While the St. Louis fans and media celebrated the deal at the time, it was Carriker who would get the last laugh.
He entered 2010 with a new team looking to shed an old title.
“For a long time (my) name was associated with being a bust,” Carriker said. “I will be straight up honest. It was associated with being a bust.”
Since the trade Carriker has been able to largely accomplish putting distance between himself and the “bust” title. After what some described as a slow start to his first year in D.C., he turned around his fortunes and grew comfortable in the 3-4 defensive scheme. His numbers and performance were largely reflective of that.
“I never agreed with [being called a bust] whatsoever, but the circumstances and all that are irrelevant because in the past two years I think I’ve proven that to be incorrect,” a confident Carriker said while still maintaining a strong semblance of humility. “I’ve heard people call me a damn good 3-4 defensive end and I think that’s how people perceive me now. . . They were talking about both Stephen [Bowen] and I… ‘Those are a couple of damn good defensive ends they have.’ “
Bowen narrowly edged Carriker as sack leader on the defensive line this season.
But unlike Bowen, Carriker was able to notch his sacks while playing fewer downs. He was not part of the Redskins nickel package this season – the equivalent of 174 fewer pass rushes throughout the year.
In most cases, free agents coming of a career-year would be almost certain to be retained by their team. However, Carriker seems to be an exception to that rule.
It’s unclear whether the team has reached out to him about coming back next season. Both Carriker and the team are being tight-lipped about his future in Washington.
“I’m going to keep dodging that question every time I’m asked,” he responded when I asked whether he wants to return to Washington. “The problem is I have to see how it plays out. If I say something, it could sway what another team does or sway what the Redskins do.”
“It could hurt me come contract time, trying to figure out where I’m going to be, what team I’m going to be with,” an honest Carriker added.
One thing is for certain; he is very comfortable as the left end in a 3-4 scheme. Although confident he can fill whatever roll a team asks him to play, he thrives in his current role.
Drawing back to memories from his days in St. Louis, Carriker said it’s a tremendous help to be playing a position that actually makes sense.
“I’m not a nose guard,” he said. “I’m playing in the correct position.”
Follow Chuck Carroll on Twitter: @FNNChuck
This is the final installment of a three-part series featuring free-agent Adam Carriker and his future in Washington..
READ PART 1: FROM HOLD OVER TO NEARLY A PRO BOWLER
READ PART 2: WHY 2011 WAS A SUCCESSFUL SEASON FOR CARRIKER
READ PART 3: WILL HE RETURN TO THE REDSKINS NEXT SEASON?