Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Quick takes: Redskins hurt selves at safety
By John Keim
*Even if Brandon Meriweather wins an appeal on his two-game suspension, he might still end up serving one game. Tampa Bay’s Dashon Goldson earlier this season and then-Baltimore safety Ed Reed a year ago both had their one-game suspensions reduced to fines. By giving Meriweather two games the NFL, it would appear, made it so that if the suspension were reduced he’d still sit out a game. I'd imagine someone with Meriweather's repeat offender history would have a hard time getting it reduced to just a fine. Meriweather has three days to appeal the ruling that was handed down Monday.
*The Redskins’ safety situation goes back to their inability to develop a player at that position or find a solution via free agency. They signed an aging O.J. Atogwe right before the lockout. Some executives and scouts I had spoken with said Atogwe was done -- and had been for a year. He turned out to be slow and ineffective. And done. They followed it up a year later by signing a two-time drug offender in Tanard Jackson who was then ... suspended indefinitely (and remains out) for drugs. They signed a player in Meriweather with a history of undisciplined play. Yes, at times he has helped them and when he’s going good the defense is better, but they’re in a bind now because of ... undisciplined play. They signed another aging vet in Madieu Williams, who was only supposed to be a backup but was forced into starting. And looked like an aging vet.
Reed Doughty has been a steady contributor at safety for the Redskins.
*This position has been greatly affected by the salary-cap penalty. I’m quite sure they would have signed someone of a higher caliber than the guys they had to settle on. But remember, their first choice a few years ago was Atogwe, back when the cap wasn’t an issue. So there’s no guarantee. But it has to be a top priority in the offseason.
*The only steady player at safety has been veteran Reed Doughty, who was here before this regime. Doughty gets a terrible rap by the fans, but he’s the lone player they can count on -- no off-field worries; no undisciplined play, etc. He’s best as a backup, but he’s a quality one and the Redskins are fortunate he’s still around. He does his job and the coaches know exactly what they’ll give them; they can work with that.
*Yes, they allowed LaRon Landry to leave. Given his two-year run of Achilles' issues, that was a 50-50 call and Landry wasn't all that thrilled with the Redskins' training staff, so he was looking to get out. Even coaches here who liked him were quick to bring up his health long before he left. Landry played every game last season but has missed four because of a high-ankle sprain this year with the Indianapolis Colts.
*Drafting and developing has been a problem too. The Redskins haven’t selected a safety above the fourth round, but they’ve had misfortune (2012 seventh-rounder Jordan Bernstine with terrible ligament tears that ended his time here; 2013 fourth-rounder Phillip Thomas with a Lisfranc injury) and some who didn’t develop (2011 fifth-rounder DeJon Gomes). They also have rookie Bacarri Rambo, a sixth-round pick who went from starter the first two games to inactive the past three.
*Being inactive is a reflection on Rambo’s special-teams performance. But if you lose your starting job, one way to get it back is to become a force on special teams. Defensive coaches love guys like that; also says something about how you respond. If and when Rambo gets back on the field he'll have a lot to prove. He was not ready to start initially (sixth-round picks rarely are) and his inclusion in the lineup always was as much about what they didn't have as what he could do.
*My preseason prediction of who would start at safety? Meriweather and Doughty. Why? Because it’s very, very tough for a rookie low-round pick to become an instant starter with how much they had to adjust to from college and learn. Maybe Thomas and Rambo become the starters in future seasons, but it’s way too early to believe that definitely will happen.
*What could save them, or at least help them, is the versatility of their corners. That’s something they talked about after the draft, following their selection of corner David Amerson. For now, he’s not the versatile one. But they can use E.J. Biggers in a safety role and they have used Josh Wilson in a variety of roles as well as DeAngelo Hall (more so in the past). You need to be a smart player to handle such a role. If they’re saved Sunday, this versatility will be part of the reason. It allows them to do more with their coverages, which has helped a great deal in recent weeks, until the second half Sunday. It hasn’t always worked, but the real issue in the opener versus Philadelphia, when Biggers started at safety, was having to be in a nickel front all game.
*I really don’t know what they’ll do in Meriweather’s place Sunday, though I’d imagine Biggers will play a key role. Can they really trust Jose Gumbs (nine career defensive snaps) or Trenton Robinson (zero career defensive snaps)? Against Peyton Manning? Re-sign Jordan Pugh? The pass rush will need to be outstanding Sunday.