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Camp Battles: Defensive Line

Dan Ciarrocchi examines the battle for 2013 roster spots among Redskins defensive linemen.


One of the common themes you'll notice in these camp battles pieces is that there's a lot of positions that look pretty darn similar to 2012. Continuity was the theme of the offseason for the decision makers in Redskins Park, whether that's something they intended or had to grin and bear in wake of the league-imposed cap penalties. But continuity isn't a bad thing for a team that won its first division in 13 years, which is why even with money in the bank it would be hard to imagine that they would have pursued a big-name defensive lineman given the stability they've had over the last few seasons.

That stability starts with Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield who won't wow you with flashy sack totals, but they've been worth every penny that's been spent on them thus far. Although, it's worth mentioning that the return of Brian Orakpo ought to make Bowen's 2013 sack total closer to the 6.0 mark he set in 2011 compared to just the one he had a season ago. Cofield continues to improve anchoring the dead center of the defensive line, eating up blockers and ball-carriers and even swatting down passes in the process of collapsing the pocket. His 14 batted passes in two seasons with the Redskins have eclipsed his five-year total of 11 while with the New York Giants.

The biggest question revolves around the left defensive end position. How effective will Adam Carriker be? He tore a quad tendon in Week 2 of 2012, and an undisclosed setback will likely designate him to start training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list. And if he's well enough to return, does he supplant Jarvis Jenkins on the depth chart? If Carriker was to be 100 percent healthy come Week 1, I'd say "of course." But there's just no evidence to really indicate Carriker's going to be in a position to build upon a 2011 season that earned him a four-year, $20 million deal (though just $3.7 million is guaranteed). At least not right away.

That will leave Jenkins in a position to display what's hopefully an improved pass rush. Jenkins was serviceable on run-support, but he struggled to generate any sort of pressure on a consistent basis. While a player's pass-rush can never solely be measured by his amount of sacks, having zero isn't exactly encouraging with nearly one full year of starting under his belt. With Jenkins still needing to develop, and Carriker's health in question, there's uncertainty in the gap between Cofield and Ryan Kerrigan.

It's for that reason that the under-the-radar signing of Kedric Golston was a great one. He's been a staple in the Redskins locker room since 2006 and has shown versatility as a rotational lineman, playing right defensive tackle in the days of Gregg Williams and Greg Blache's ' 4-3 fronts and even lining up at nose tackle on a handful of snaps in recent years. Barring injury, he won't see many snaps, but his veteran presence is a nice thing for Jim Haslett to have in his back pocket in case Golston needs to be thrust into action.

With that said, the Redskins need all the depth they can get at the position, and that's why they invited Ron Brace and former first-round pick Philip Merling to camp. Merling will have to spend the summer dispelling rumors of being unmotivated, and Brace's path to a roster spot is long and obstructed by Chris Neild, Chris Baker and a healthy Carriker. If Carriker began the season on the PUP list it frees up a spot, but probably not for a defensive lineman as long as Golston and Jenkins are serviceable. The coaches seem to really like Neild, who appears ready to go after being sidelined with a torn ACL in 2012, and for the first time in Baker's tenure in Washington, he will begin camp more likely than not to lock-down a roster spot.