|Nebraska's Jared Crick could find a home with a team like the Titans next season. (Getty Images)|
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini announced senior defensive lineman Jared Crick is out for the rest of the 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Crick suffered the injury against Washington on September 17 and sat out the Huskers' win over Wyoming. He played through the malady against new Big Ten rivals Wisconsin and Ohio State before the team decided to shut him down for the year.
The Nebraska native made a name for himself playing beside Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh in 2009, taking advantage of single-blocking to rack up 12½ tackles for loss and 9½ sacks. With Suh in the NFL in 2010, Crick still earned All-Big 12 honors with his strong hands and hustle, as he was credited with 14½ tackles for loss and another 9½ sacks.
Crick's only sack of this season came in that fateful game against Washington and he had not made a tackle in the backfield outside of that sack since the first game of the year. Against the Badgers and Buckeyes, Crick played strong, assignment-sound football, and held his ground against talented offensive lineman despite the torn muscle in his chest. But now that his injury is public knowledge, it makes sense that he could not rip past those NFL-caliber linemen to attack ballcarriers as often as he may have in the past.
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Having the surgery now should allow him to be fully healthy for the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine, two all-important NFL draft showcases.
A possible top-20 pick, Crick might not have decided to participate at the Senior Bowl if healthy. Many prospects already near the top of their position groups are advised against playing -- the potential for injury and/or negatively impacting their stock by underwhelming scouts with their play at venerable Ladd-Peebles Stadium are legitimate concerns.
The medical exam and workouts at the NFL Combine will be where Crick earns his final draft grade. If the X-rays are determined to be clean and his rehabilitation schedule allows him to perform well on the bench press, teams will consider the issue moot.
The bigger question for Crick: Where does he fit on an NFL defense?
At 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, he will be considered too small to play inside for teams using four-man fronts. He played a lot of snaps at defensive end outside of Ohio State right tackle J.B. Shugarts on Oct. 10. However, some teams utilizing larger ends (the Tennessee Titans come to mind) might consider him a starter in their system.
Teams using more three-man fronts will consider him a solid five-technique defensive end prospect, especially if he has a breakout testing day like Wisconsin underclassman J.J. Watt did at last year's workout in Indianapolis.
Even if he shows slightly less agility and speed than Watt did in his elite performance for a 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman, scouts and defensive coordinators will forget about Crick's surgery and work to convince management to consider him in the first round.