Meriweather's hits always a worry

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
3:00
PM ET
RICHMOND, Va. -- They know he can’t hit a certain way. They also can’t promise that he won’t. And that’s going to be a season-long subplot for the Redskins and safety Brandon Meriweather.

Coach Jay Gruden half-joked Saturday that he was going to suspend Meriweather two practices for a hit. It’s another reminder to Meriweather to lower his target. The problem is, when instincts take over, it’s tough to know what’s going to happen. A hit deemed too violent might only be a few inches away from being a good one.

 Ryan Clark is right; football players, especially those on defense, must play with “reckless abandon.” But the bottom line is there are rules in place, and Meriweather flirts with danger in this area all the time.

“When you don’t play it full speed, when you don’t play it as physical as you could possibly play it, you leave yourself at a disadvantage,” Clark said.

When Meriweather returned after his one-game suspension last season, he did not draw another fine for any of his hits. At times he seemed to go lower; not all the time, however. But he’s going to have to do it the right way every game in order to stay on the field.

The issue here, too, is that the Redskins lack proven depth behind him. They liked how Phillip Thomas started to develop in camp last summer, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the first preseason game and needed surgery. Though he’s in camp and has been praised by the coaches, he’s never played in a real game. There’s no way to really know how he’d do if anything happened to Meriweather.

With Meriweather, the Redskins like to run certain blitzes from the corners knowing he has the speed to get to their vacant area. He plays with passion and brings energy and plays physical. Yes, he also takes chances and that’s gotten him in trouble with other teams.

What the Redskins need is for Meriweather to find stay aggressive, but also smart. Every hit he makes will be scrutinized. They say Meriweather has learned his lesson, yet it’s a topic that still comes up. There’s really no way to know if he has, but they do know this: The Redskins need him on the field.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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