By Ben Standig
The need: The Redskins secondary is undergoing a major overhaul, especially at safety. Underwhelming free agents Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson and Madieu Williams joined the two holdovers, Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes. If that last sentence doesn’t scare you, nothing will. Should the veterans max out – especially Meriweather and Jackson - this unit could surprise. Regardless, hard to imagine anyone here being a mortal lock for the Week 1 roster.
The fit: Bernstine offers versatility – played both safety positions and corner at Iowa – and a big hitting presence. Size is legitimate and is combined with 4.4 speed. Primarily a strong safety last season, he started 11 games for the Hawkeyes and recorded a career-high 15 tackles against Michigan.
The depth chart: To make the final roster, Bernstine likely needs to pass either Meriweather or Doughty. If he shows ability to play both safety spots/ or strong plus corner at the pro level, could stick as final defensive back. Again, with no spots safe at safety, opportunity exists. Another potential tiebreaker could be Bernstine’s play on special teams. Averaged 24.4 yards on 30 kickoff returns and his physical attributes plus penchant for hitting make for an ideal chaser of kicks.
Bernstine’s upside: Even if he makes the final roster, hard to imagine Bernstine receiving many snaps on defense next season. However, should he exceed playing time expectations, could become a fan favorite if he lights up an opposing receiver or three. Realistically Bernstine has the look of a 2012 practice squad player.
Pro Football Weekly on Bernstine: “Has the size and mentality of a safety combined with the speed and explosion of a cornerback, as evidenced by his 41-inch vertical leap and broad jump of 10 feet 7 inches…Seeks the big hit, but tackles inconsistently and is not as instinctive as he is athletic. Durability has been an issue, though he could be attractive as a reserve DB/special-teamer.”
Bernstine on Bernstine: (on what he does well): “As far as my game, the biggest part of it is that I’m athletic and I like to put my face in there, which is why I felt I was a good fit at Iowa at strong safety. I mean, I like to hit. I like to come down and be a factor in the run game, but I can also go out and cover tight ends or slot receivers.”