Was Carriker better than we remember?

A bigger/better man would ignore it, let bygones be bygones and walk away wishing everyone involved nothing but the best. Not me. Tooling around online this morning I came across this classic "fresh start" piece from the Washington Post about former St. Louis Rams first round pick Adam Carriker

When defensive lineman Adam Carriker joined the St. Louis Rams as a first-round pick in 2007, Jim Haslett was the defensive coordinator, the team played in a 3-4 alignment, and Carriker excelled. Now, Carriker will play for the Washington Redskins - acquired in an offseason trade - and Haslett is the defensive coordinator who is moving the team to a 3-4 scheme.

At first, I chortled, but then I started wondering if maybe there was a little accuracy to that statement. I do remember the Rams running a 3-4, but it was limited. Was Carriker better than we remember? Did the Rams make a mistake trading him?

Looking at Carriker's individual stats at Football Outsiders, his rookie season looks a lot better than I can recall it being. Carriker may have been miscast on the inside, but he did show some potential against the run. On 26 run plays, he made 23 stops and had 6 defeats (including this one against Seattle) for an average of 1.5 yards per play. That's a pretty good number. Against the pass, he had 5 stops on 5 plays. 

The Rams run defense that season wasn't exactly stellar with a 23rd ranked 0.3 percent DVOA. Of course, when you compare that to a league worst 10.8 percent DVOA from last season, it looks positively stunning. The biggest problem the Rams faced against the run was with ball carriers making big gains beyond the line of scrimmage; 21 percent of rushing yards against the Rams went beyond the LOS by 10 yards. That might be more reflective of the lack of a middle LB and an aging SS Corey Chavous

The knock on Carriker was his pass rush. That's where first round defensive linemen are expected to contribute the most, and Carriker never lived up to those expectations with the Rams. He did have 2 sacks in his rookie year, the only sacks of his career. 

Disappointment really set in during his 2008 season. He started nine games, played in fifteen. The team's run defense got worse in every category, though 10+ yards remained the worst, and Carriker managed only 6 QB pressures, driving home the bust label. He did still show solidly against the run, but it wasn't enough. 

[Note by VanRam, 05/12/10 10:18 AM EDT ] Before injury ended his 2009 season before it began, it's worth remembering that Carriker lost his starting job to Gary Gibson, and was battling to get his playing time back. Injury certainly impacted the return the Rams could get in a trade, but it might have been a motivating factor for the trade in and of itself.

So, now he's a Redskin where he'll assume a more natural role as a DE in  their 3-4 alignment. That begs the question whether or not the Rams made a mistake in trading him. That's hard to say. They could use a DT that's strong against the run, but those can be found cheaper elsewhere. There's also the question of the new system, where they obviously didn't feel Carriker was a natural fit. 

It also begs the question of how many second chances a team can afford to give a guy. The new regime at Rams Park seems to have little patience for second chances among high draft picks that bring little to the team or fit the system. Mistake? It's hard to call it that outright. New coaches are tasked with installing their vision and are entitled to finding the players who fit. That's what it really comes down to with Carriker and the Rams. 

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