It’s clear that Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must have somehow angered the NFL gods. Haslett’s unit has lost no less than four players to either injury or suspension for at least the first month of the season. Needless to say, Washington’s depth on defense will have to somehow come together and form a solid unit for the Redskins to remain competitive in 2013.
The ongoing quest to form that solid defensive unit may have to wait. That’s because Washington’s defense received some more bad news: reserve cornerback Richard Crawford (above left, tackling Pittsburgh Steelers‘ wide receiver Derek Moye) suffered a season-ending torn LCL ligament in his left knee during the Redskins’ third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. This is a devastating blow, because Crawford was not only the Redskins’ nickel cornerback, he was also their starting punt returner.
Crawford’s loss could be looked at as a deathblow to the secondary, or an opportunity for veteran cornerbacks E.J. Biggers and Chase Minnifield to step up and claim that nickel cornerback spot. Crawford’s punt returns duties will be harder to replace. Rookie running back Chris Thompson returned punts against the Bills in Crawford’s place. Unless the Redskins add an efficient punt returner during the preseason, it appears that Thompson will be responsible for Washington’s punt return duties in 2013.
Thompson returning punts full time is a shaky proposition. Despite having the speed and cutback ability to potentially solidify Washington’s punt return unit, Thompson’s ball-handling skills have recently come into question. He has fumbled twice in two preseason games carrying the football as a running back. Mistakes like this will not be tolerated by Washington head coach Mike Shanahan much longer. Thompson had better cure his fumbling problem immediately, or he could soon find himself cut from the roster.
But there’s no time to lament on that now. Crawford’s absence threatens to ruin the continuity that Washington is working hard to establish on both defense and special teams. It’ll be interesting to see how the Redskins respond to their latest round of misfortune.