The porous secondary in Washington played a huge part in the team's disappointing 3-13 2013 season. It was believed by many that this team would pursue big name Free Agents like Jairus Byrd, Aqib Talib, or even Darrelle Revis after he was cut by his former team. They were wrong. The Redskins may or may not have made an effort to sign any of these guys, but that is irrelevant now. Let's take a look at how the Washington Redskins' Secondary is shaping up so far this season.
The fact of the matter is, the Redskins only gave a significant amount of money to one player in the secondary by the name of DeAngelo Hall this offseason. He signed a four year, $17 million dollar contract with the Redskins this offseason and they plan on using him as a starter yet again in 2014. Overall, this was a good move by the Redskins, because there is only $5,650,000 dollars guaranteed in the contract. If Hall begins to struggle after year two of his contract, the Redskins can release him with little financial problems. Redskins Nation probably wouldn't like to see that happen, though. Number 23 has been the most consistent player in the secondary in recent memory, and he has earned his respect. He did well working against top-tier Wide Receivers in 2013; these Wide Receivers include Calvin Johnson (a.k.a Megatron), Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas. Before suggesting Hall was overpaid, think about what he has done for the franchise. He deserved the payday and will be a consistent starter for the Redskins in 2014.
With the number one Corner position solidified, who will man the number two position? One may be able to argue that recent signee Tracy Porter could make a strong push, but in all likelihood, it will be second year player David Amerson. The Redskins selected Amerson with the 51st pick in the 2013 Draft, most likely with the intention of starting him in the near future. He didn't have a great rookie year, but to be fair, the rest of the team wasn't so lucky, either. He was able to tally two interceptions and returned one of those for a touchdown. Expect Amerson to get better from here on out, especially now that the pass rush will be more effective after adding Defensive Lineman Jason Hatcher. Amerson started nine games in 2013. Do not be surprised to see him promoted to full-time starter in 2014.
Josh Wilson has not been mentioned at all during the Redskins' Free Agency. Along with that, the team has signed former Raiders Cornerback Tracy Porter to a two year, $6,000,000 dollar deal with $2,000,000 dollars guaranteed. Porter had a respectable year with Oakland in 2013. His statistics are almost identical to those of David Amerson. There is widespread belief that Porter will be used as a Nickel Corner in the Redskins defense. If so, his addition will provide great depth in the secondary. The combination of Hall, Amerson, and Porter is the perfect blend of youth and experience, and may vastly improve the secondary. However, there is one other name that must be mentioned regarding the Nickel Corner position. Richard Crawford was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 Draft and has made some noise in the pre-seasons and regular seasons up to this point. He was really starting to impress Redskins fans in the 2013 pre-season before he tore his ACL, ending his year prematurely. Prior to this, he made key plays in the 2012 playoff run; he had a phenomenal punt return effort against Baltimore in overtime which sealed the game, and also showed a good nose for the ball with an interception and a fumble recovery. Crawford may be battling it out with Porter for that Nickel spot this season.
As for the rest of the Cornerbacks left on the roster, there isn't much to get excited about. The most notable player is Chase Minnifield, who has spent the entirety of his NFL career on the Redskins' Practice Squad. He has had problems with injury, but many believe that he can make solid contributions to the defense when healthy. The problem is, he rarely ever stays healthy. Many were surprised when he didn't make the active roster for the 2013 season, because they believed he had shown enough in pre-season in order to earn his spot. He will have another chance to prove himself this year, but it is put up or shut up time for Minnifield. The Redskins have also brought back Cornerback E.J. Biggers on a new contract. The terms of the contract are not known at this time. Ryan Mouton, a 27 year old Corner was picked in the third round of the 2009 Draft, but he just hasn't panned out thus far in his career. The last Corner, Peyton Thompson, has spent time with Atlanta and Washington, but has yet to play a regular season game in the NFL. A surprise from Mouton or Thompson during training camp and pre-season isn't impossible, but they aren't likely to make the final roster. Minnifield and Biggers should be the favorites to make the roster in 2014 at this point.
Can the Redskins improve this portion of the secondary through the draft? Of course. However, don't expect them to use their second round pick on a Corner, especially when they already have Hall and Amerson ready to handle the starting duties. Expect them to be looking at late round Corners for depth purposes. Aaron Colvin is a name to keep in mind. He was considered second round talent until a lackluster 2013 season and an injury suffered at the Senior Bowl. These unfortunate happenings have had him dropped to somewhere in the later rounds of the Draft. He is worth a look in the sixth or seventh round. Overall, the Cornerback situation is looking like the most polished area of the secondary right now. Some fans believe this isn't where the primary problem rests, anyway.
Free SafetyBrandon Meriweather Lays a Bone-Jarring Hit
Now here is the real problem. Brandon Meriweather has injury problems and he just can't avoid trying to take someone's head off at any opportunity he gets, which is evident in the picture to the left. The team must get this mess cleaned up, but how? With a limited amount of draft picks, and no more marquee Free Safeties left on the market, who can Washington turn to? It may sting a little, but Meriweather has been re-signed to a one year deal with the Redskins, and it looks like they intend to use him as a starter in 2014. Things could change, though. The team may be hoping that a Free Safety like Hasean Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor fall to them in the second round of the draft. However, if this doesn't happen, then expect Meriweather to make the start this season.
The situation doesn't get much better after Meriweather. Bacarri Rambo was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft and Redskins fans were hopeful that he would develop into a solid starter. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. In fact, the situation is much worse than expected. Rambo has had troubles with tackling and isn't the playmaker that he seemed to be at the University of Georgia. There is a reason he dropped to the sixth round, and it wasn't because he ate pot brownies in college (this is a real story). Some fans believe that he doesn't even deserve a place on this team since he can't make plays, let alone tackle. Rambo will have to prove himself this season if he wishes to better his name with Redskins Nation.
The last player that falls under this category is Trenton Robinson. After everything is all said and done, it is very possible that Robinson doesn't even make the final roster cuts. He was part of a makeshift secondary in 2013 and didn't have much of an impact on defense. His only chances of making the team rest on his ability to play Special Teams. If he can't excel in this aspect of the game, he is out.
Remember that Safety Reed Doughty is also an Unrestricted Free Agent this offseason, and it is very possible that the team brings him back on a cheap, one year deal in order to add more depth to a weak Safety corps. Not to mention, Doughty is a very reliable player on Special Teams as well, an area where the Redskins struggled in 2013.
The team has also been in contract talks with former Steelers Safety Ryan Clark. He will be 35 at the beginning of the 2014 regular season, which is ancient in football years.
This position, like the Free Safety position, is also a mess. It has recently come out that 2013 fourth round Draft pick Phillip Thomas was set to start at Strong Safety in 2013. That all changed once Thomas suffered a Lisfranc injury in pre-season, which ended his year and landed him on injured reserve. Luckily, Thomas has had a lot of time to recover, and he could be making the start a year later in 2014. There doesn't seem to be a better candidate at this point, and Thomas was a college star at Fresno State. The team is probably hoping that his play in college will transition to the NFL. If everything works out as planned, and Thomas performs nicely, the Safety situation could look a lot better than last year's tandem of Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty. If not, the Redskins will have to deal with yet another year of messy play from their Safeties.
Last but not least is Safety Jose Gumbs. Gumbs has proven himself as a reliable Special Teams player and a decent reserve Safety. His main competition will be Trenton Robinson this season. However, Gumbs has the edge right now because he was able to tally an interception against Atlanta in 2013. Gumbs has shown more on the field and this will help in his battle for a roster spot. Competition may get even more fierce due to the possibility of Washington bringing in more Safeties via the draft. So, may the best man win.
There isn't much left to do about this dilemma in Free Agency, but there could be some answers in the Draft. A mid-round Free Safety would be optimal in this situation. This would send the message of, "hey, we aren't giving up on you, but we are going to make you work for your job." Dion Bailey is an interesting option in the Draft. He skipped his Senior year and declared for the Draft. He is currently projected to go in the fourth round by cbssports.com.
Whatever direction the team decides to go in, they must hope that their starting Safeties can stay healthy this year, because their performance can be the deciding factor between a winning record and another playoff appearance, or a losing record and yet another frustrating season.