By Rick Maese
Saturday, September 25, 2010; D1
In a locker room of muscle, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett says there's one guy who stands out. "He's unbelievable," Haslett said. "He's probably the strongest guy on our team."
He's not referring to Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry, Andre Carter or even Phillip Daniels, who has been known to enter power-lifting competitions in the offseason.
"I told Adam that this offseason, I'm going to get him in a competition with me," Daniels said of his fellow defensive lineman, Adam Carriker.
When the Redskins acquired Carriker this past April in a trade with the St. Louis Rams - their opponent Sunday - Coach Mike Shanahan knew he was getting a big lineman that he hoped would fit well in the team's new 3-4 defensive scheme.
"I didn't know he was that strong," Shanahan said. "I knew he was big, but I did not know he was that powerful. You see him in the weight room and take 165-pound dumbbells in each hand and he's doing workouts with them. I'm trying to squat one of them."
He'd use bigger dumbbells, Carriker says, but that's the heaviest the Redskins have in their weight room. Carriker can bench 500 pounds - about 40 more than Daniels - and through two games already has shown how that brute strength translates to the playing field.
"This is the strongest that I've ever been," Carriker said.
When Redskins coaches decided to convert to a 3-4 front - three linemen, four linebackers - several square pegs from the existing roster were forced into round holes on the playing field. But when they sought out Carriker, who was playing in St. Louis's 4-3 defense, they were able to put a big lineman back to a more comfortable position.
Playing left end for the Redskins, Carriker, 26, who stands 6 feet 6 and weighs 315 pounds, has been able to take on double teams, help stuff the run and open up lanes for linebackers. After sitting out all of 2009 with injuries, Carriker has been perhaps the brightest spot on the defensive line.
"He's what you look for in a 3-4 defensive end," Shanahan said. "He's big, strong, and powerful and plays his gap. I'm really happy the way he's played and the way he's handled himself since he has been here."
Carriker came to the Redskins as somewhat of a question mark. He was in a 3-4 defense at the University of Nebraska and was the 13th selection in the 2007 draft. He played under Haslett with the Rams, but St. Louis ran a 4-3 and Carriker was never a perfect fit. He started 31 games in three seasons, registering a pair of sacks and 85 tackles, playing mostly nose guard and as a three-technique defensive tackle.
A St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist called him a bust one day after he was traded to Washington and said Carriker was one of "the most obvious reminders of why the Rams are in this sorry predicament in the first place."
Carriker had shoulder surgery prior to the 2009 season and suffered an ankle injury 11/2 weeks into Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo's first training camp. But when his ankle had healed, he suffered another shoulder injury. Carriker again had surgery and was placed on injured reserve.
The Redskins acquired him for next to nothing, as the two teams swapped draft picks in April. The Rams essentially moved up 28 spots in the fifth round of the 2010 draft and had to slide down three spots in the seventh round.
"They traded me for a cup of coffee. . . . It's a business," Carriker said. "I don't have any issue with the coaches or management. They were doing what they thought was best for the team. To be honest with you, it put me in a better situation."
Both on the field and in the locker room, Carriker was quickly embraced by his teammates. He and Daniels lift weights together at Redskins Park - a friendly rivalry, they both say.
While Carriker has the edge on the bench press, Daniels is quick to point out that he can squat a couple of hundred more pounds than his fellow linemen.
"Lower body strength, I can blow him up," said Daniels, 37. "Of course, when I was his age, he wouldn't be able to touch me."
Carriker said he's excited to return to St. Louis. He still has a home there - one that's been on the market since spring - and plenty of friends. As for his play on the field, for the first time in a long time, Carriker is feeling steady progress from week to week
"I just feel like I'm getting more comfortable as we go along," he said.