Getting rid of DeAngelo Hall and Madieu Williams is addition by subtraction in my opinion and the Redskins have capable defensive backs coming back — depending on health of course. The Redskins two most promising defensive backs last spring, Chase Minnifield and Jordan Bernstein, were injured badly last year. If they can return healthy that will be a big boost for the the defensive backfield. Actually, fun fact I discovered this morning. When looking at the top-10 passing defenses from last season, 26 of the 40 starting defensive backs (two cornerbacks and two safeties) were taken after the first round. Six of those players went undrafted through seven rounds. This is very promising because of the success that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have had in the draft since arriving in Washington.
Do you realize that we have 5 incumbent safeties on the team with some kind of experience? The answer at both safety positions may certainly come from within this year.
1. Jordan Bernstein
2. Reed Doughty
3. DeJon Gomes
4. Brandon Meriweather
5. Jordan Pugh
The Redskins have Bernstein, the wild card who was very promising last summer but had a horrible knee injury where he tore his ACL, MCL and PCL. If he can return though and just be on the practice squad or PUP it sheds some light on our future because many believe he has the talent to be a starter. He’s been compared to Bob Sanders.
Then the Redskins have Mr. Reliable in the run game and special teams, Reed Doughty, who is almost guaranteed a spot this year as a reserve for his leadership and sound reserve play. Whenever called upon all he does is come in the game and become the teams best tackler. While not an ideal scenario, a situation could occur where Doughty starts at SS and Meriweather starts at FS and our safety play is better than last year because Madieu Williams won’t be back there. Meriweather has better range and he’s a heavy hitter which will scare wide receivers and tight ends because they think Meriweather will knock them out as a free safety. Like I said, this situation is not ideal but its not the worst either.
After the veterans, the Redskins have two young vets on our roster in DeJon Gomes and Jordan Pugh who’ve flashed signs of taking the next step in their young careers, but they haven’t remained consistent enough to warrant starting jobs yet. Gomes in only 23 and going into his 3rd year already and Pugh played well at times as a FS last year and is 25. If either safety show they are starting to “get it”, they could make the next step and become a starter.
At CB the Redskins do have some talent, but they also have question marks. A lot of Redskins fans don’t know this because he doesn’t make many interceptions, but very quietly Josh Wilson has been a very good CB in the league the last 4 years. He’s been far better in coverage than what DHall as been, he’s not the ball hawk Hall is but he’s much more consistent in coverage. Some like to talk about his small stature but in reality he’s only an inch shorter than Hall. Think of Wilson as a poor mans Darell Green, sound in coverage, gets interceptions off of having sound coverage, not by gambling, therefore he won’t have high interception numbers and he’s not the worlds best tackler.
After Wilson we have Richard Crawford, a 7th round pick who the coaching staff and fans alike love his potential. He played well last preseason and down the stretch the last month of the season, even having a key interception of Tony Romo in our big win vs Dallas — of course everyone was picking off romo that game…lol. Crawford could win the starting job this summer, although far fetched.
After those two the Redskins talent at corner back gets really sketchy. There are a few players with a lot of talent but either have injury concerns like the aforementioned Minnifield or have been widely inconsistent after being a 3rd pick of the Rams but still have talent like Jerome Murphy. Minnifield looked like our best DB last spring after we took him undrafted out of Virginia. He had come back from micro-fracture surgery, which caused his undrafted status, after it was thought he could be drafted as high as round 2. But an unfortunate accident where he was stepped on during the final day of the final minicamp left him with a torn ACL and out for the year. He had the same injury as RG3 and it also was his 2nd time tearing the same ACL so he is going through the exact same knee rehab. His twitter account and a few articles say he his well in his way to a full recovery and should be ready for the preseason. If he can be healthy that could be another wild card and a promising thing for our secondary just like Bernstein’s possible return. Both guys have starting talent they just had unfortunate injuries in their rookie years.
The Redskins seem intrigued by Jerome Murphy as well, as he’s flashed some potential in his first 3 years. So, it’s quite possible he finally “gets it” this off-season and season like we hope that our young safeties Justin Pugh and DeJon Gomes do.
Washington is in luck though because this year’s draft from round 2 throughout could be loaded with DB talent that many believe can come in and contribute right away. Right now there is a strong possibility we find our staring CB or FS in round two of the draft and that player just learns as a rookie on the fly. Worst things can happen, like having to rely on Reed Doughty or Madieu Williams at FS.
By most scouts and draft experts the list of Free Safety targets are as follows:
1. Eric Reid, LSU
2. Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
3. Matt Elam, Florida (debate over whether he can play FS, I’ve seen tape and convinced by a great break down by a Florida fan that he can or he can at least be a better option than what Doughty and Gomes have shown at FS)
4. Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
5. Bicarri Rambo, Georgia
6. DJ Swearinger, South Carolina
7. Duke Williams, Nevada
8. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
9. Earl Wolf, NC State
10. Josh Evans, Florida
11. Rashard Hall, Clemson
12. Prentiss Waggner, CB/S, Tennessee
13. Jarred Holley, S, Pittsburgh
14. Javon Harris, S, Oklahoma
15, Vaughn Telemaque, FS, Miami
Also lets not forget about two SS candidates. The Redskins could draft one or, I think a better option is to go with one of two undrafted SS prospects who flashed a lot of potential through their college careers but couldn’t stay healthy (Kenny Tate) or had an off the field issue (Ray Ray Armstrong). Either of these guys would be steals in the late rounds or as undrafted free agents. Either could come in and end up being a better version of our 2009 7th round rookie surprise Chris Horton because both are better in coverage than Horton. Especially Kenny Tate, who had his best year in college Park at FS before Edsall moved him to a rover type LB, but he spent the last two years of his college career recovering from a knee injury. If not for that knee injury and Armstrong’s suspension, we would have heard both guys names called on the second day of this years draft. These two could be big time steals in the late rounds or as undrafted free agents.
Then at CB we have the following possibilities from the second round on for the Redskins:
1. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
2. Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
3. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Conneticut
4. David Amerson, CB, N.C. State
5. Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State
6. Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
7. Robert Alford, CB, Southeast Louisiana
8. Will Davis, CB, Utah State
9. Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
10. Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut
11. Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
12. Tharold Simon, CB, LSU
13. Josh Johnson, CB, Purdue
14. BW Webb, CB, William & Mary
15. Tod Sweating, CB, Georgia Tech
16. Sanders, Commings, CB, Georgia
17. Demontre Hurst, cb, Oklahoma
18. Michael Hyde, cb, Iowa
19. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
20. Nigel Malone, Kansas State
Lastly, as far as possible returning talent, a last resort measures for moves could be made on the cheap some time next off-season to bolster the depth or even to come back and start, but hopefully the Redskins won’t have to rely on any of the following moves. The team could certainly bring back Deangelo Hall for much cheaper if he can’t find a better option and we can’t find a better option as a starter. The team could always re-sign 2009 3rd round pick Kevin Barnes to be a CB or safety. Kevin flashed some in his 3 years in DC. Many thought he would be better at safety than CB and he flashed some good safety skills when being forced to start because of injury back in 2010. Bringing back Cedric Griffin to play CB or safety is also certainly an option we have. He’s big and a physical DB and he flashed a few moments last year that he Comcast SportsNet still play a little bit. If Ced Griffin or Barnes return, giving them looks at FS and having them play the dime CB is the best way to go. Both players aren’t the greatest at one on one coverage but they are both physical, good tacklers and heavy hitters for corners. Then, the Redskins still own the rights to Tanard Jackson who is suspended through August but is a starter in this league at FS if drug free. Losing him and Meriweather last year killed our secondary. Madieu Williams was never expected to start, he was expected to be a reserve or not even make the team when we signed him. The Redskins front office has to have been in some kind of contact with Tanard over the past 7 months and helped him get drug counseling or something for them to give him one more chance. Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan, Jim Haslet and especially Raheem Morris know his situation better than anyone. Mike Shanahan had kind words and encouraging words to say about Tanard after learning of his suspension last September. If the Redskins can get Tanard help with counseling and also make sure he’s working on the proper skills to be ready for a return in September, he could be our starting 2013 free safety. It’s a far fetched thought that he stays clean but miracles do happen my friends.
So it is a possibility that the Redskins defensive back answers are already on the roster. But what is even more likely is that they address the issue through the draft, and more specifically with their 2nd and 3rd round picks.