Free agent signee Stephen Bowen was the best Redskins defensive lineman this season. Zuma Press/Icon SMI
One of the memes of the Redskins 5-11 season was that a good defense was being let down by a bad offense. In reality, it was a mediocre defense paired with a bad offense.
In the offseason, Washington worked to upgrade their front seven. They signed free agents Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, and used a second round pick on defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. Bowen and Cofield performed well; Jenkins, of course, got hurt in preseason and missed the season.
While the defensive line was better this season, it still wasn't great. There were still failures at the point of attack, and injuries exposed their lack of depth. There isn't a big need for a talent upgrade -- injured players returning to action should do the trick.
Barry Cofield: B+ -- A 4-3 defensive tackle with the Giants, Cofield successfully transitioned to the nose tackle position in Washington's 3-4 scheme. A bit lighter than other 3-4 nose tackles, Cofield struggled at times holding the point of attack. Still, he was a steady presence in the middle all season long.
Chris Neild: C -- The 7th round draft pick made the team and was an adequate reserve nose tackle. Neild did a good job playing with leverage and energy. I'd like to see him get stronger and work on his pass rush technique.
Kedric Golston: C- -- I almost made this an incomplete because of Golston's injury. This season, Golston was what he's been throughout his Redskins career -- a decent defensive lineman who performs at an acceptable level for a backup.
Darion Scott: C- -- Not someone who jumps up and demands attention. Similar to Golston in that he's not bad, but he's not going to be a quality starter either.
Stephen Bowen: A- -- Bowen was Washington's best defensive lineman this season, despite a couple clunker games earlier in the season. He was tough against the run, and applied consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
Adam Carriker: B- -- Carriker was sturdy at the point of attack, but wasn't much of a pass rusher, and wasn't a guy to make plays outside of his area. Still, he held down the position admirably -- especially considering that he entered the season expecting to share the job with Jenkins.
Jarvis Jenkins: Inc. -- The coaching staff thought Jenkins was the team's best lineman in training camp, but his season was ended before it began by the knee injury. In preseason action, Jenkins demonstrated impressive strength, agility, and a desire to compete. If he makes a full recovery, Jenkins figures to be the team's starting defensive end opposite Bowen next season.
With the starters likely settled, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen will be focused on bigger needs in other areas during the offseason. That said, Washington's defense could benefit by building depth with inexpensive signings and later draft picks.