By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 25, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 24 -- Gaines Adams, the speedy defensive end considered perhaps the best prospect at his position at the NFL scouting combine, made his first comments on Saturday something Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs would not forget.
"It would be like a dream come true," Adams said of the possibility of playing in Washington. "Coming home, coming from a small school, playing eight-man football, it's a dream."
The Redskins, who have the sixth pick in April's NFL draft, and Adams, a 6-foot-4, 258-pound defensive end from Clemson, appear to be on each other's radar.
Adams, who spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy after three years playing eight-on-eight football at Cambridge Academy, is widely considered to be the best pass rusher among a group of defensive ends closer in weight to outside linebackers. Among one scout's top 10 prospects at the position, only Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson and Nebraska's Adam Carriker weighed more than 270 pounds.
"I'm not trying to think about what position I am right now," said Adams, who is also being closely watched by Tampa Bay and Detroit, both of which select before Washington. "You have a lot of great athletes out here. I could fall and they could rise. So I'm just trying to do the things I need to do to make myself good for that slot, or whatever."
Adams said he took part in each drill except bench press, a tacit admission that he is not yet comfortable with the size element of his game that might scare off some teams. Adams said he would not bench press until March 13, when he works out individually for teams.
"We all have different things. I'm a speed guy. You have some other guys who are strong and things like that," Adams said. "What separates me is that I'm a speed guy. I have different moves. I don't have one single move, so I can keep the tackles guessing."
Adams said he had nothing to hide, but clearly wanted more time to make his first impression.
"I just want to take some more time and work on my strength and do things like that, so at my Pro Day I will be fully ready and do the best I can," he said.
Weight may evolve into an interesting issue for the Redskins, who already have right end Andre Carter, who is considered light at 265 pounds. During the first half of the season, Carter struggled against left tackles that outweighed him by at least 50 pounds. Teams attacked Carter by pushing him up field in order to create a running lane behind him.
At 292 pounds, Carriker might be considered a better fit for a team that does not want two light ends. Alan Branch, a defensive tackle from Michigan, is also considered to be of interest to the Redskins, but the more pressing need is at end.
"I think whoever drafts me is going to get a very physical, diverse player," Branch said on Saturday.
Over the past three years, Gibbs and assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams have stressed continuity and togetherness, but the first weeks of the offseason appear to suggest otherwise.
Last year during training camp, Gibbs extolled what he calls the Class of 2004, the group of ends Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn sandwiching tackles Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a as the backbone of his defense. They represented the linemen Gibbs, along with Williams, handpicked for his return.
After the 2005 season, Gibbs and Williams reflected on how signature performances along the line propelled the team's five-game winning streak and playoff victory: Daniels's four-sack game against Dallas Dec. 18, 2005; Wynn snapping his forearm in a key defensive series in the Redskins 17-10 win at Tampa in the first round of the playoffs; the toughness of Salave'a, and Griffin's run-stopping power.
But changes had already begun last year. The Redskins already overhauled half of their defensive line in 2006 by signing Carter to a free agent contract. Carter's arrival sent Wynn to a reserve role and moved Daniels from right tackle to left. The Redskins drafted Kedric Golston, who replaced an injured Salave'a early last season and supplanted him for good in the starting rotation by the end.
This season, drafting a player projected as highly as Adams, Moss or Anderson with the sixth pick would likely push Daniels into a reserve role at left end.
The result is the likely possibility that next season, the Redskins' defensive line will contain just one starter -- Griffin -- left over from a defensive line unit that was an integral part of earning the team's last playoff berth.