Washington Redskins: Defense's Achilles' Heel Will Be the Safety Position

By Emmanual Benton

The Washington Redskins  cleared house at the safety position, allowing Laron Landry to walk via Free Agency and releasing Oshiomogho Atogwe. For various reasons, the position was in need of an upgrade – but can the guys Washington has now really be considered that?

In Series 1 of “Impartial Judgement” we broke down the running back position. In these series, I’ll have a chance to break down the positives and negatives, with the intent to be a straight shooter providing unbiased opinions. So today, we’re breaking down what seems to be a patched-together safety position.

Washington added Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, Brandon Meriweather, Cedric Griffin, and Jordan Bernstine this off-season. With Reed Doughty and second year safety, DeJon Gomes still on the roster, the back-end is banking on potential. Since I’m supposed to give “unbiased opinions,” I’ll base these next statements off of prior knowledge (before these guys became Redskins):

Tanard Jackson is the only safety that somewhat excites me. Jordan Bernstine is the only safety that intrigues me, and DeJon Gomes is the only safety that’s most recently proved himself worthy of being a starter.

Now, I’m not saying the other players won’t have success… I’m simply acknowledging my thoughts on the new additions before becoming members of the Washington Redskins. As a Die Hard Redskins fan, and one of the designated drivers for the, “In Shanny I trust” bus, it’s easy to be optimistic about any signing. That’s why we start series like, Impartial Judgement.

I’ve never been a fan of 2-time Pro Bowler, Brandon Meriweather. I’ve always thought that he was overrated during his tenure with the New England Patriots. Obviously, with 12 interceptions in 3 season (2008, 2009, 2010) you’ll get some recognition in the popularity contest known as the Pro Bowl. However, he’s not a consistent talent that I’d consider Pro Bowl worthy. He’s an in-the-box type player, who prides his game on big hits. But his wild playing style gets him in trouble a lot. He doesn’t consistently lower his shoulders when engaging into a tackle, causing several helmet-to-helmet penalties. What may be most troublesome is his off-field issues, and with the low risk, high reward deal Washington gave Meriweather, you would think he’d attempt to stay out of trouble. Well, that hasn’t been the case so far… Not long after the Redskins signed Meriweather, he received a DUI. I personally believe DUI’s are totally irresponsible and the league has taken notice. Meriweather is talented, however, and could very well earn a starting spot on the Redskins roster.

Newly acquired secondary coach, Raheem Morris knows how to deal with troublesome players. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Morris had to deal with quite a few “knuckleheads,” including the now Washington Redskin – Tanard Jackson. In Tampa Bay, Jackson was suspended twice for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Jackson’s releases was cited as “slow rehabilitation” but it’s obvious the new regime didn’t want to deal with the character flaws. Even with the character issues, Tanard excites me. He’s a Bruce Allen draft pick from his days with the Buccaneers, and Raheem Morris helped Jackson successfully switch from corner to safety. Defensive Coordinator, Jim Haslett has said several times that this system doesn’t possess a “free” or “strong” safety. You either play in-the-box, or in the backfield. Which essentially describes the two positions, but anyway – Jackson will play backfield. He’s been slowed by injuries, causing him not to be as productive as he was earlier in his career. However, this is a guy that is well put together. I love his skill-set. He’s physical and can be a play-maker, but once again, we’re banking on Jackson to be the guy he was earlier in his career.

A question is still a question until it’s answered, and right now, everything at safety is in question.

Madieu Williams is a seasoned vet, and you basically know what you’re going to get from him. Much like Reed Doughty, he’s a guy that can fill in, when needed. Though, a lot of Redskins Nation isn’t too fond of Doughty (including myself), he’s a guy that will likely stick around another season because he’s trustworthy depth.

Cedric Griffin is coming off a horrendous season, however, he’s a guy that’s been nagged by injuries and could have been playing out of position. Coming out of college, a lot of scouts felt like he should move from CB to safety. He was never given that opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings, but will with the Redskins. He’ll have a chance to compete with Tanard Jackson – may the best man win. Likely scenario is, Jackson wins the job. However, Griffin has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he belongs. In nickel packages, Griffin also gives you flexibility to utilize him there.

Another conversion guy is Rookie, Jordan Bernstine. He’s a guy that intrigues me, and Bernstine could battle for playing time early. He played a little Strong safety at Iowa, and prides himself on tackling.

The guy that seems to get lost in the mix is DeJon Gomes. Last year, Gomes was plugged in and at times, played exceptionally well. I seriously believe Gomes has a legitimate shot at starting over Brandon Meriweather. Though Gomes is still raw, he became a better player with more reps.

This is a patched together safety position. There’s a lot of depth, but is there really two legit starters in this group? If Tanard Jackson stays on the straight and narrow, I definitely believe he is. Brandon Meriweather? Maybe, but I’m a DeJon Gomes believer, as of now. You can’t fix every hole on a team in one off-season… Let’s just hope this patch holds.

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