The Redskins’ 90-man offseason roster is set, at least for the time being. It’s time to take a look at who they have, who will start, and who will be around when the Sept. 9 opener in New Orleans rolls around.
We’ve looked the the offensive backs, the line.and the receivers and tight ends on that side of the ball and at the defensive line and linebackers. Today we put the defensive backs under the microscope.
Starters: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson
Reserves: Cedric Griffin, Leigh Torrence
Fighting for a job: Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield
It will be interesting to see how Hall will play if the Redskins can get into a substantial lead in games on other than rare occasions. His gambling style works much better in those circumstances. Wilson got better and better as last year went on and he became more comfortable in the defense.
I put Griffin and Torrence in as the nickel and dime backs but almost any of the players in the “fighting for a job” line could wind up there as well and it would not be a shock. Barnes held the nickel job last year but his play led the team to sign Griffin and Torrence and to draft Crawford to try to replace him.
Minnifield will be worth watching. He was projected to be a third-round pick but microfracture surgery on his knee pushed him all the way off the draft board.
Starters: Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweanther
Reserves: DeJon Gomes, Madieu Williams
Fighting for a job: Reed Doughty, Josh Bernstine, Travon Bellamy
The picture here is even more fluid than it is a corner. Jackson and Meriweather are not entrenched as the starters by any means. Meriweather, in fact, is not a solid lock to even make the team.
If everything works out well here then Jackson, with his shoulder injury healed, will improve his tackling--he was one of the worst-tackling safeties in the NFL last year--and Meriweather will regain the form that made him a starter for three years in New England. But only time will tell if things will work out that way.
It will be hard to keep Doughty off of the roster since he can do so much but they didn’t bring in Jackson, Meriweather, and Williams because they were wild about his play at safety. Gomes didn’t embarrass himself when he got some play at safety in the latter half of last year. But he’ll have to do better than not be a disaster to get substantial playing time this year.
Williams is a top-notch person and locker room guy but it remains to be seen if he will be occupying a locker later when the roster is cut to 53.
By Rich Tandler
During the course of the year, 11 of the Redskins’ 12 draft picks from 2011 were on the active roster. Here we take a look at each of them, how much they played, what they accomplished and what their future prospects are.
See the links below for the previous rookie reviews. Today, it’s safety DeJon Gomes.
Drafted in 5th round, 146 overall
On roster 16 games, played 15, started 5, played 210 snaps (20 percent)
2011: Gomes made the team out of camp and became the second safety off of the bench. He played only two snaps on defense until the Redskins Week 11 game against Dallas. He started five of the last seven games and he looked like a rookie at times and played well at time. His struggles were mostly in pass coverage as opposing quarterbacks racked up a passer rating of 151.4 when throwing in his direction. Gomes was a sure tackler, however, and played the run well.
Prospects: There could be plenty of opportunity at the safety position for the 2012 Redskins and Gomes is in prime position to take advantage of it. LaRon Landry is a free agent and due to his lingering Achilles injury and his decision to put off getting surgery to repair it there is doubt that he will be back. Oshiomogho Atogwe was injured and often ineffective after signing as hyped free agent a year ago and while he is likely to stay around (but not certain), the Redskins need to have a solid backup in place. Unless the Redskins go for a premium free agent and/or high draft pick at safety, Gomes should get a chance to build on his 2011 experience and get a shot to be a major contributor if not a starter in 2012.
Previous rookie reviews
By Rich Tandler
My colleague Ryan O’Halloran has read the tea leaves and they seem to point to the Redskins moving on from LaRon Landry. The strong safety has decided to postpone a decision on whether or not to have surgery to repair an injury to his Achilles tendon in hopes that alternative treatment will work.
Regardless of the medical wisdom of that course of action, it doesn’t seem to be good for his future with the Redskins. Although the will not say anything directly, it seems clear that they would rather he get the surgery—in fact, they likely would have liked to see him get it soon after he went on injured reserve in mid-December—so that they could see how he is doing before deciding on offering him a contract.
While we have about six and a half weeks to go before free agency starts, the Redskins certainly must prepare for the possibility that their starting strong safety will not be with them going forward. Here are a few possibilities:
Reed Doughty—He has been the old faithful backup at safety since 2006 and it probably is best that he remains a reserve. Doughty’s coverage skills are suspect and while you can make up for that issue a game or two at a time it would not be wise to rely on him for 16 games.
DeJon Gomes—He started five games last year and his play was acceptable considering that he was a rookie fifth-round draft pick who wasn’t in an offseason program due to the lockout. That said, his play was not up to snuff for a 16-game starter. The Redskins could choose to gamble that Gomes could get to where a starter needs to be by next September.
Mark Barron, Alabama—According to my man Wes Bunting, Barron’s main strength is his attacking style, which makes him a solid player when the ball in in front of him. However, his ball skills are suspect and it might be scary when he is asked to turn and chase down a receiver on a deep ball. Wes has him as a late first-round pick.
Harrison Smith, Notre Dame—Bunting’s third-rated strong safety has “natural range and instincts”. Although you might not want him playing center field, he could fill the bill as an in the box safety. Smith could be available in the third round.
Tyvon Branch, Raiders—Oakland is likely to use its franchise tag on running back Michael Bush, so Branch should be a free agent. He is solid both against the run and in pass defense and he won’t be 26 until next December.
Sean Jones, Bucs—There is quite a drop off in free agent strong safeties after Branch. Jones is probably the best of the next their although he as some issues tackling and he will be 30 before next season starts.
After making the Pro Bowl his first two years in the league, Brian Orakpo was not named to the squad when it was announced earlier this week. Few if any analysts called Orakpo’s omission a snub.
His sack total has been declining annually. Orakpo posted 8.5 last year and 11 as a rookie in 2009 and he has seven this year with a game to go. That is not the direction anyone wants to see his numbers heading.
But Jim Haslett said that Orakpo’s game has improved in areas that do not necessarily show up on the stat sheet. “I think he’s gotten better [against] the run and his coverage has been excellent.”
Still, Orakpo has to get sacks to be effective. Haslett said that he will be one of the best pass rushers in the business if he learns to beat double teams.
“I think he has got to understand that no matter where he lines up, they’re going to have two guys on him,” Haslett said. “Either they’re going to chip him or they’re going to have two guys on him because they’re going to slide to him. And that’s kind of the way it’s been and he gets frustrated.”
Shanahan said that players like Jared Allen of the Vikings and Dwight Freeney rack up sacks despite having to beat two blocker virtually every time.
Ryan Kerrigan said that the Redskins gave the effort yesterday but he admitted that after Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder exited the game in the third quarter, "we let the off the hook
Because of the Redskins’ media schedule, it wasn’t until Thursday before practice that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett met with reporters to discuss, among other things, DeAngelo Hall’s non-effort on a play against New England.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski shed DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty for a 49-yard gain (39 after the catch) to set up his 11-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Coach Mike Shanahan said, “I know [Hall] was embarrassed by it as was our entire football team.”
On Thursday, Haslett said: “It was embarrassing. It was obviously poor play. You’ve got two safeties missing the tackle and a couple of guys – and it wasn’t just DeAngelo – that kind of slowed down and thought the play was done because it looked that way.
“That’s not us. Against Seattle, we were flying to the ball the whole game. We had eight, nine guys in the frame all the time. … To me, that play was probably the most disappointing of all because we could have had him down and we could have eliminated that play.”
Haslett’s biggest problem with the performance against New England wasn’t the non-tackling as much as the missed tackles.
“I think we did a lot of good things – the poorest thing we did was tackling,” he said. “You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure that out. We covered well, I thought our corners were outstanding covering, we matched up on the running backs and the tight ends, I thought we actually stayed close.”
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As most of you know, Ryan Kerrigan has not missed a defensive play this year. He said that it wasn’t necessarily a goal of his to play every snap but the coaches seemed to indicate that it should be.
“The coaches told me right away there is none of this,” he said, tapping his head in the universal signal for a football player to communicate to the bench that he needs a rest. “No coming out of the game.”
“I want to be in there every snap, because then you have more opportunities to make plays.”
He said that his consecutive snaps streak is not necessarily a point of pride for him, but he is not going to come out of a game unless he thinks he can’t get the job done.
“If I was tired and didn’t feel like I could perform at the level I’m [capable of] I’d gladly let someone go in who was fresh and could perform at the optimum level,” he said. “But if I feel good, I want to be in there.”
Redskins rookie nose tackle Chris Neild had played at least 11 snaps in every game until he was in uniform but didn’t play against New England last week.
Question: How surprised you didn’t play against New England?
Answer: “I knew we were going to run nickel a lot and that’s a situation I’m not in so it was expected.”
Q: Knowing ahead of time, did that make it less more tough to take?
A: “I wouldn’t say that but I was ready if they wanted to put me in. I still had to prepare the same way because if something occurred that they put in personnel to run the ball, I had to be ready.”
Q: In what areas are you better in Week 15 than Week 1?
A: “Every week, you get a little more experience, especially as a rookie. As every game goes by, you learn a little bit more about the NFL game and how it’s played at this level. It’s just getting a feel out there, really, of how each center plays because every center is different.”
Q: Each of the Redskins’ 2011 draft picks remains with the organization. How much pride do you take in that?
A: “That’s what we’re trying to do – stay at the level we’re at. It took a lot for us to get here and overall, I think the rookies are doing a good job.”
Q: Can you learn how to be a pro before getting to the NFL?
A: “Our college coaches tried to emphasize things but you don’t know how to be a pro until you learn from the veterans around you.”
Q: You owned Eli Manning in Week 1 (1.5 sacks). A repeat?
A: (Laughter) “I’m hoping to do the same thing I did last time but you never know what’s going to happen. It worked out the last time we played him.”
Q: Since that game, your beard …
A: “Haven’t shaved since then.”
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