As March 13th and the start of free agency approaches, it is likely that the attention of Redskins fans will be placed upon free agents such as London Fletcher, Fred Davis and LaRon Landry. However, flying under the radar is a man who had a career year in 2011.
While Fletcher led the league in tackles, he wasn't the only Redskins defender having a good season, Adam Carriker was putting up a proficient stat line as well. Having missed the 2009 season with a shoulder injury, the 13th overall pick in the 2007 draft played in his fourth full season in 2011. He put up the second most tackles in his career (34) and set a career mark in sacks (5.5), which is more than he had in his first four seasons combined. What was helped propel Carriker to an improved 2011 season?
"A combination of mental awareness of the game after being in the league for five years and being able to physically do anything I want to do," he said.
His two productive seasons in Washington followed a rocky three-year span in St. Louis that saw the Rams only win 13% of their games while Carriker had become labeled a bust. While the former first round pick has had his fair share of trials and tribulations during his time in the NFL, he feels his career is on the rise.
"St. Louis was not good. We won six games and lost 42 games in three years. Washington has been much better. I feel like the future will only improve on that," Carriker said.
"The beginning of the 2010 season I played well. You always hear how I took off the second half of that year, which is true, but I was very effective the whole season," he added. "2011 was a good year and I feel like I'm coming into my own. I'm just gonna keep getting better and better. Especially if I get more opportunities than in the past."
This offseason has been unique for Carriker, given that he is at the end of his rookie contract and could soon have the opportunity to choose his next destination. Carriker, who is represented by Select Sports Group, has embraced this offseason with a positive mindset. He hopes to receive more playing time and continue to prove his worth in 2012, whether it is with the Redskins or elsewhere in the NFL.
He has made it clear this offseason that he wants to be fairly compensated. But he also cites the location of the team, their ability to contend and how he will be used in their base and nickel downs as key factors in where he will ultimately sign.
"I'm taking care of my body and making sure I'm ready to go for next year and the years to come. I'm excited. It's like being recruited out of high school all over again. I'm looking for a good deal. I don't plan on taking one penny less than what I deserve. Nobody should --- that wouldn't be right or fair. I have to do what's best for my wife, kids, and the whole family."
Having played four seasons under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett while in St. Louis and in Washington has helped Carriker's comfort level with the 3-4 defense. While Carriker credits his connection with Haslett as a factor in his decision making, he says it will not be the deciding reason and that the idea of playing in other schemes is intriguing.
"It does play a part. But it's not a trump everything card," Carriker said. "In fact I'd like to prove people wrong that say I can't play other schemes. I proved them wrong about being a bust. I'd like to take my blue collar, in-your-face, smash-mouth approach and just keep proving people wrong."
That underdog mentality has been with Carriker most of his life and instantly translated into how he approached sports.
"If you know about my background from childhood to now you know that I've had to overcome a lot of things and a lot of doubters. All the way back to little league, middle school, high school, early on in college and so on," Carriker said.
Carriker, who is not shy about being a huge wrestling buff, says that overcoming that doubt led to a nickname he would use should he ever make the jump to wrestling.
"In fact," Carriker continued, "when I first got to Nebraska nobody knew who I was. One day a strength coach walked up to me and said 'You're our Dark Horse.' I didn't know what that meant. He said 'It's someone nobody expects anything from that comes out of nowhere and surprises everybody.' Ever since then I've carried that around with me for inspiration. So I always lean towards the 'Dark Horse.'"
Carriker said that if he were to compare his style of play to a wrestler, it would be with Goldberg, who also played defensive lineman in the NFL as a member of the Atlanta Falcons from 1992- 1994.
"He hardly ever talked, then he would just destroy his opponent. I'll talk a little bit, but I just loved his attitude of just destroying his opponents," Carriker said.
Who will Carriker be destroying opponents for in 2012?
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