On Tuesday, the NFL reinstated Washington Redskins free safety Tanard Jackson (above, No. 34) after he served an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Redskins fans with good memories remember that Jackson was signed before the 2012 season in an effort to solidify the Redskins’ secondary. However, Jackson incurred the suspension before the start of that season, putting his NFL career on hold. He has yet to play a game in a Redskins uniform, thus preventing him from developing a on field rapport with his defensive teammates.
Jackson is by no means assured a starting position. In fact, he might not be assured a roster spot in 2014. Newly acquired safety Ryan Clark is currently listed as the starter at free safety, most likely due to experience. Second year players Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are behind Clark on the depth chart. Thomas missed the 2013 season after sustaining a Lisfranc injury. Nevertheless, Redskins officials feel Thomas is talented enough to challenge Clark to become the starter, giving him the inside track at Jackson’s position.
Moving Jackson to strong safety could be an option. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather has battled injuries during his two year stint in Washington. He appeared in only 14 of a possible 33 games for the Redskins during that time.
However, he is currently healthy, and firmly entrenched as the Redskins’ starter at strong safety. Meriweather is a fierce tackler, and has the knack for making key interceptions. Considering Washington’s perennial shortcomings in its secondary, it is willing to give Meriweather the benefit of the doubt and make him the starter at strong safety.
Meriweather, the addition of Clark and Washington’s desire to see Thomas become the starter at free safety has placed limits on Jackson’s opportunity to become a starter. He has the ability to justify to team officials to give him an opportunity to prove himself worthy of being a starter.
Jackson recorded 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, in his first five NFL seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Jackson hasn’t played a regular season game since 2011. That doesn’t shed much light on what kind of football shape he’s currently in.
Jackson needs to have a solid training camp to impress Washington head coach Jay Gruden by making the best of his opportunities when they’re presented. If Jackson can do those things, he could become a valuable contributor for the Redskins.