Likewise with Carriker, who tore a muscle at the base of his right knee. Carriker has a great story.
Miscast as a 4-3 tackle in St. Louis (he struggled to make plays as an interior lineman), Carriker was labeled as a first-round bust. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who formerly worked for the Rams, thought the hard-working, intelligent Carriker would be a good fit for the Redskins as they transitioned from the 4-3 to 3-4.
On Haslett’s recommendation, Washington traded for Carriker, who started all 16 games in 2010. Last season, Carriker had a personal-best year, totaling 5.5 sacks while playing well against the run from start to finish.
The main responsibility for ends in the 3-4 is to engage offensive linemen on running plays to prevent them from blocking linebackers, which could lead to long runs.
“He’s a perfect 3-4 end,” Fletcher said. “He provides a great presence in the run game, and he provided us with some pass rush last year. That’s just another big blow for our defense. It also really affects our depth.”
With Carriker out, the Redskins will turn to second-year lineman Jarvis Jenkins to do more. The talented Jenkins has a bright future, Redskins coaches say, but he missed last season after suffering a knee injury during the preseason.
It usually takes players a full season to regain their pre-surgery form, so the Redskins have been handling Jenkins carefully. Even if Jenkins, who was a key part of the line rotation in the first two games, doesn’t start every week (veteran backup Kedric Golston also played a lot in Carriker’s spot against the Rams), he’ll have to play a bigger role — one he might not be ready for physically or mentally.
After the Redskins’ poor defensive performance against the Rams, it seems several healthy players in the secondary may not be suited for their roles with the inevitable pass-rush drop-off.
With Orakpo and Carriker sidelined for most of Sunday’s loss, the Rams totaled 452 yards. Orakpo and Carriker had strong performances as the Redskins gave up 358 yards in the season-opening victory over the Saints.
The pressure on Saints quarterbacks Drew Brees was key in the opening win. On Sunday, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford had time to pick apart the defense. He repeatedly found openings while passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns. It’s clear what was missing.
“It’s the NFL. You can’t make excuses and you can’t feel sorry for yourself,” Fletcher said. “There’ll be a game Sunday. We don’t have any choice but to move on and play football.”
They’ll do just that, but without Orakpo and Carriker, they’ll probably will do so much less effectively.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.