Position series: Redskins safeties

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
10:10
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It's been a little while, but I have not forgotten our attempt to look at each team in the division on a position-by-position basis. Today we're going to do safeties, and we're going to start with the Washington Redskins, who will have two new starters after cutting O.J. Atogwe and letting LaRon Landry leave in free agency.

Projected starters: Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams

Reserves: Tanard Jackson, DeJon Gomes, Reed Doughty

Potential strength: They like the depth they have at the free safety spot, and they hope a training camp battle between Williams, Jackson and Gomes produces a high-quality starter. Williams has impressed Redskins coaches with his on-field and off-field intelligence, and the speed with which he's not only been able to pick up the scheme, but help others learn it as well. More than one Redskins coach during minicamp called Williams "a coach on the field." Jackson is a top talent who ran into trouble in Tampa Bay, and the Redskins hope a reunion with former Bucs coach Raheem Morris (who is now their secondary coach) can straighten him out and bring out the best in him. And Gomes is a young player they like as a potential starter down the road -- they just don't know how soon he'll be able to be that. Doughty is seen as a reliable backup who can play either safety spot if needed.

Potential weakness: When they signed Meriweather, the Redskins saw a guy who'd been miscast in the Bears' two-deep coverage schemes last season and could flourish in their more varied and complex coverages. Rather than play a traditional strong safety role, Meriweather in Washington will be asked to rush more, help out with blitzes and work as part of different combinations in the coverage schemes. It could work, but it could also backfire. This is still a guy who was cut by two teams last year. And while the Redskins might have themselves convinced it was a personality conflict that got him booted out of New England, and a poor scheme fit that made him ineffective in Chicago, it's possible the problem is with the player himself. And if he can't handle the job, all they have behind him right now is Doughty.

Keep an eye on: Jackson. He's four years younger than Williams, and if he keeps his focus on the field and plays the way he's capable of playing, he's probably the better player at this point in his career. The Redskins aren't skeptical about his ability. They just wonder if a guy with his off-field history is always going to have those problems, or if he can really be counted on to change. It's hard to say what they'd have to see to convince them they can trust him. But if he outplays Williams and doesn't fail any more drug tests along the way, he could see a lot of time in that Redskins' defensive backfield, and potentially be a major help at a position that's a question mark right now.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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