Position series: Redskins defensive line

June, 18, 2012
6/18/12
10:37
AM ET
As the news begins to dry up in the interval between minicamps and training camps, it's time to resurrect our position-by-position look at the NFC East's four teams. Today we'll do defensive lines, and we'll start with the Washington Redskins.

Projected starters: DE Stephen Bowen, NT Barry Cofield, DE Adam Carriker

[+] EnlargeWashington's Jarvis Jenkins
Rafael Suanes/US PRESSWIREA healthy Jarvis Jenkins adds depth to the Redskins defensive line.
Reserves: DE Jarvis Jenkins, DE Kedric Golston, DE Kentwan Balmer, DE Darrion Scott, DE Chris Wilson, NT Chris Neild, DT Doug Worthington, DT Delvin Johnson

Potential strength: They have good depth at the end spots, where the job in Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense is to clear space to allow the outside linebackers to get to the quarterback. Jenkins, the 2011 second-round pick who lost his rookie season to a preseason knee injury, certainly could push Carriker for his starting spot and will at least factor heavily into the defensive end rotation. Redskins coaches say the year away from football has put Jenkins behind the rest of the defensive players so far in the offseason, but that his speed and quickness have remained unaffected by the knee injury. Adding Jenkins, who was one of the stars of training camp last year before his injury, only helps the line. The Redskins believe the front seven of their defense to be a strength of their team, and the number of quality options they have for that defensive end rotation is part of the reason for that.

Potential weakness: Barry Cofield didn't grade out well in his first season as Washington's nose tackle after previously spending his entire pro career as a 4-3 defensive tackle with the Giants. Mike Shanahan says he's happy with Cofield in that spot, and calls him a "natural nose," but Pro Football Focus' rankings show room for improvement at the position. Again, it's not as though the nose in this defense needs to get pressure on the quarterback, so it might be that Cofield's being graded unfairly against nose tackles of whom different things are asked. But he did take time to adjust to the responsibilities of his new position last year and will need to show improvement this year. A second year in the 3-4 could help, as it did last year with other of the Redskins' defensive holdovers. Neild showed some good flashes at the position when he was on the field last year.

Keep an eye on: Carriker. There was some question about if the Redskins would re-sign him this offseason, and his is the spot on which Jenkins has his sights set. But don't assume the veteran gives up that spot just yet. Redskins coaches are extremely fond of Carriker for the role he's played as a leader as the team has transitioned from the 4-3 to the 3-4 over the past couple of years and for the flexibility he showed in changing positions. The Redskins' best-case scenario is that Carriker plays well enough to keep Jenkins in a bench role, and the rotation is stronger overall.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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