The undisputed weakness of the Washington Redskins last season was the team’s pass defense.
Due to the severe salary cap penalties that Washington was slapped with during the lockout, a consequence of blatant collusion by the NFL, general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan have been handcuffed when trying to remedy roster deficiencies.
With the secondary being the biggest problem, the Band-Aid solutions that Allen and Shanahan have come up with have been tenuous at best.
The Redskins were at the bottom of the barrel last year in pass defense, and it’s easy to see why. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is past his prime, despite his mouth pointing to the contrary. While his coverage fundamentals haven’t quite slid below average, his weak tackling and propensity to gamble on throws makes him hard to rely on as an anchor in the secondary.
Cornerback Josh Wilson had a tough year last season, where he battled injuries throughout. Wilson is a solid NFL starter, but if he’s the best cornerback on a team, it’s not going to put him in the best light.
The cursed safety position is what’s the hole in the ship, however. Since the death of former safety Sean Taylor and the saga of unfulfilled potential with LaRon Landry, the Redskins haven’t been able to find even suitable replacements.
Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather were two veterans that Washington brought in last year, hoping that they could fill the voids. Jackson ended up receiving a year-long suspension for substance abuse last August, and Meriweather saw the field sparingly because of knee injuries, blowing his ACL in the first start of his return.
Madieu Williams is another safety that was brought in last year, and he saw plenty of playing time by default. He failed to make up much of an impact, was released this offseason, and is still a free agent.
Allen and Shanahan went into the draft with intentions of finding some able body to fill some of these holes in the secondary.
Washington drafted David Amerson of North Carolina State in the second round. A lot of pundits disagreed with the choice, believing that other available prospects were better suitors, but Amerson has impressed both in training camp and preseason. His length and ball skills are something Washington sorely needs, so Amerson could find himself in a starting role before the season is over if Hall and Wilson slip.
In later rounds, Washington also drafted safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, out of Fresno State and Georgia, respectively.
Thomas suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot and will miss the entire season. Rambo, on the other hand, might be forced into a starting role at free safety due to injuries. The coaches apparently like his coverage skills, but his poor angles when trying to tackle in the open field are becoming a legitimate concern.
It’s not a knock on his future potential; it’s just a hard weakness at the safety position to deal with in the NFL. Word travels at light speed around the league, and it would be easy for opposing teams to relentlessly attack Rambo in this regard.
With Meriweather still making his way back to the field from his ACL injury, it’s likely that Washington will be forced to handle the safety situation with a medley of players. Reed Doughty, a capable reserve and an undesirable starter, will likely see a lot of playing time, much to the dismay of Redskins fans.
Washington may have improved the future of their secondary positions, but it is highly unlikely to bear fruit until future seasons.
The best thing Washington’s secondary has going for it is that the front seven playing in front of it sure looks nasty as we inch closer to the regular season.