NFC East: E.J. Biggers

Locker Room Buzz: Washington Redskins

November, 17, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the Washington Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

Britt
Williams
Simmer down: When left tackle Trent Williams was relaying what an official had said to him, several teammates tried to get him to stop. Initially no one was loud, but then receiver Pierre Garcon from across the room started in, trying to prevent Williams from eventually earning a fine. “I hear ya,” he said when Williams said why he was saying something, “but they're going to fine you.” That clearly didn't matter to Williams. And if he's right, there's no need for him to be the one worried about a fine. A loud discussion continued as the players showered.

Injury update: The Redskins have several players who will need MRIs on Monday, with receiver Leonard Hankerson possibly tearing his lateral collateral ligament -- the same ligament Robert Griffin III first hurt last December. Defensive end Stephen Bowen said he suffered no ligament damage, but will have an MRI. He's been playing with a meniscus tear. Corner/safety E.J. Biggers will get an MRI to see if he tore cartilage. Garcon said his ankle was hurting him badly after the game. Tight end Jordan Reed suffered a concussion and will follow the league's mandated medical protocol throughout the week. Safety Brandon Meriweather injured his arm, though coach Mike Shanahan did not include him on his postgame injury report.

Wash, rinse, repeat: The Redskins' locker room feels the same after games these days. Players talking about how they're better than this, and how they can't explain the constant losing. They still seem to take losses hard; it would be wrong to think they're immune from it. But numb? Yeah, probably. “Week to week it's a struggle,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said.

Reed Doughty won't play Sunday

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
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DENVER -- The Washington Redskins, already thin in the secondary, got a little bit thinner.

Starting strong safety Reed Doughty will miss Sunday's game after suffering a concussion against the Chicago Bears last week while trying to recover an onside kick. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan called the hit on Doughty one of the "most vicious" he'd ever seen. After seeing Doughty this week, it's not a surprise that he won't play. On Wednesday, though he talked to the media, he was not quite himself and could not say that the symptoms had disappeared.

But he was limited in practice both Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, however, he did not practice and Saturday he did not accompany the team to Colorado, spoiling a homecoming game for the former Northern Colorado standout.

The question now becomes: What will the Redskins do at safety? The Broncos force teams into a lot of nickel coverages and the Redskins have gone a number of times with three corners and a safety. They could still do that, though the safety would be converted corner E.J. Biggers. If they need a fifth defensive back the Redskins could opt for rookie Bacarri Rambo, who was benched after two starts, or Jose Gumbs, who has played nine career snaps.

The problem is, Washington needs a strong showing in coverage -- and a disciplined one at that -- against Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. The key to the game will be pressure, regardless of who's in the secondary. But the Redskins will try to disguise coverages, which will be harder to do given the inexperience they'll now have. The corners also have to be able to trust the safeties when trying to play certain coverages. That could be another issue.

Doughty questionable, doesn't practice

October, 25, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Reed Doughty did not practice Friday, after being limited the previous two days, and is questionable for Sunday’s game at the Denver Broncos.

Doughty was not in the locker room and therefore did not talk to the media. He has said that he’ll wait to see how he feels Sunday. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Doughty will be tested again Saturday and if he passes, he will play.

It’s not a good sign that Doughty couldn’t practice after working on a limited basis.

“The whole week he hasn’t been perfect,” Shanahan said. “That’s why we gave him some time off.”

If Doughty can’t play, the Redskins have a real hole at safety with Brandon Meriweather already suspended for one game. They could opt for corner E.J. Biggers at safety, a role he has played this season -- and started there in the season opener versus Philadelphia. Because Denver is a pass-happy team, Biggers’ speed deep is a help. He’s also a more experienced player than some of their other options. Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson, for example, have combined for nine NFL snaps -- all by Gumbs.

Meanwhile, defensive end Stephen Bowen (knee) also is questionable, but is expected to play. Receiver Leonard Hankerson (foot) and nose tackle Chris Neild (calf) are questionable. But Hankerson said Thursday there’s no doubt he’ll play.

Rambo has 'no idea' why he's not playing

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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ASHBURN, Va. -- He opened training camp as the starter and held that spot for the first two games of the regular season. That’s when the Washington Redskins coaches decided they needed more from the position. And that meant rookie safety Bacarri Rambo went from full-time player to inactive for the past three games.

Rambo said he doesn’t understand why he’s not playing.

“No I don’t,” Rambo said. “I have no idea.”

It’s actually not that difficult: Rambo missed open-field tackles and the Redskins also wanted to go to another strategy, using veteran Reed Doughty as the strong safety and Brandon Meriweather as the free safety. Or they’d use Meriweather and three corners (sometimes with a fourth as the second safety). And because Rambo did not perform to expectations on special teams, the Redskins looked elsewhere there, too. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made it clear at the time that he wanted to see how Rambo fared on special teams; coaches love when young players perform well on these units, giving them a sense that perhaps they’re ready for more.

This week, Rambo might get more but that’s still debatable. With Meriweather out and Doughty likely questionable with his concussion, the Redskins need help at safety. There’s a good chance that E.J. Biggers will play a big role here, especially against a pass-happy team such as Denver. It’s hard to imagine the Redskins would want Rambo in a single-high safety look against a veteran quarterback such as Peyton Manning.

“I’m just trying to get on special teams now,” Rambo said. “That’s the way I feel I can help the team. I’m just trying to do what it takes to get on special teams and the defense will come along.”

He said, despite not playing, he’s made strides.

“I’m learning the defensive scheme a lot better so making things a lot slower, learning how to fill in run gaps and just play coverages to defend certain routes,” he said.

The Redskins selected Rambo in the sixth round out of Georgia, where he started in the last 36 games in which he played. He also appeared in 11 games as a redshirt freshman. He had issues with marijuana in college, but he did not fall this far because of that: plenty of players get picked in the early rounds with the same problems. So it was going to be a difficult adjustment -- Rambo opened as a starter as much for what the Redskins lacked than for what he showed.

That doesn’t mean it’s been easy not playing.

“It’s been very difficult, just adversity,” Rambo said. “I’m just waiting for my opportunity like Meriweather told me, ‘Just be patient and be humble.’ It’s been very disappointing, mostly disappointed in myself most of all because I didn’t perform well enough to keep my starting position so I’m just working hard and doing whatever it takes to get back on the field.

“I’ve never been that guy to … lose my position. It’s something new I have to adjust to.”

When asked if he knew what he had to work on to get back on the field, Rambo said, “I haven’t really spoke about it.” But he also said, when asked if it was tough that he didn’t know exactly what was up, “I just go talk to the coaches and find out and I just try to get better during practice.”

There is no guarantee he’ll play Sunday, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he’s seen improvements.

“He’s done a lot better, he understands it a little bit more,” Haslett said. “We’ll play it out this week and go with our gut feeling with who gives us the best chance.”

Dwayne Harris's returns change game

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
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Dwayne HarrisRon Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesDwayne Harris pushes off of Redskins cornerback E.J. Biggers on a big return in the third quarter.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dwayne Harris could not help but think of the Dallas Cowboys’ preseason when Sav Rocca was forced to punt for a second time because of a penalty.

Against Cincinnati, the Cowboys had to re-kick after Chris Jones’ punt hit the digital board and Brandon Tate returned the subsequent punt for a touchdown.

“They definitely tired,” Harris said. “I’ve seen that happen too many times … It’s hard for those guys to run down there full speed and then you’ve got to come back and do it over again. That gives us an advantage.”

Harris took advantage of it with an 86-yard return for the Cowboys’ second touchdown of the game in their 31-16 win against the Washington Redskins Sunday. It was the fifth-longest punt return in team history and the second return for a score in his career. He had a 78-yarder against the Philadelphia Eagles for a touchdown last season.

“I didn’t do anything but run the ball,” Harris said. “They opened the lanes for me.”

He wasn’t through, adding a 90-yard kick return in the third quarter that set up Terrance Williams’ touchdown. That tied for the 10th-longest kickoff in team history and was the third 90-yard or more return that did not result in a touchdown.

“I do a lot of running on special teams so I got a little winded at the end and my legs were giving out on me a little bit,” Harris said. “I had to make that cut and make the kicker miss and that slowed me down a little bit.”

It slowed him just enough for E.J. Biggers to push him out at the Washington 15.

He finished with 222 combined return yards, which is the fourth-most in a game in team history.

“Whenever you have plays like that, returns and changes of field like that, it gives you such an advantage," tight end Jason Witten said. “It really changes the game.”

Bacarri Rambo surprised by role

September, 25, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins used a different game plan to combat the Detroit Lions’ passing attack. That meant rookie free safety Bacarri Rambo, the starter since training camp began, didn’t play a snap.

He says he understands. It’s also clear coach Mike Shanahan wants him to take more advantage of his chances when he does return.

There was a rational explanation for Rambo not playing: the Redskins wanted to focus on coverage and therefore used three corners in their base package. When they needed a second safety, then corners Josh Wilson or E.J. Biggers would play deep alongside Brandon Meriweather.

“I was very surprised,” Rambo said of the game plan. “But it was based on the personnel and type of offense they ran. I just did my job and played special teams.”

On Monday, Shanahan said, “When he gets his opportunities he has to take advantage of it. We’re not here to keep his spirits up. When he does play special teams, whatever role you’re in, you better play 100 percent and make some plays. If he doesn’t play anything on defense, he better play well on special teams. And if you don’t play well on special teams and you’re not a starter, you won’t be dressing. Everyone has a role and it changes during the season.”

Rambo was known as a ballhawk while at the University of Georgia. That hasn’t been his game, whether in the preseason or the two games he did start. But the coaches also point out that teams haven’t beat him deep. Rambo is rarely caught out of position. His main trouble involved tackling in the open field, something that has plagued others on defense.

Rambo said it was difficult to sit and watch, relegated to just special teams. But, he said, it will eventually help him. In the meantime, like Shanahan he wants to see himself make more plays.

“I’m just waiting on the opportunity right now,” Rambo said. “I really haven’t had many chances to show my ball skills and what I can do. I’m trying to help the team as much as I can even if it’s causing a turnover on special teams.”

Redskins notes: Haslett gets defensive

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Jim Haslett had problems with some aspects of his defense Monday. E.J. Biggers wasn’t one of them.

The Washington Redskins played Biggers, a cornerback, at strong safety in the 33-27 loss to Philadelphia. The combination of Biggers’ speed and the Eagles' dangerous open-field ability forced the Redskins into this move, especially when Brandon Meriweather’s availability was in question.

It’s unlikely that Biggers will play a lot of strong safety in other games, unless they face other teams that stress a defense like Philadelphia did. But the coaches have often discussed their corners’ versatility.

“He actually played well,” Haslett, the Redskins' defensive coordinator, said of Biggers. “E.J. had nothing to do with what happened in the first quarter.”

Haslett was defensive when talking about Biggers. One reporter asked if the switch was an unusual move.

“For you, maybe,” Haslett replied. “If you’re a football player, probably not.”

Biggers said he did not practice at strong safety for long.

“Just last week,” Biggers said Wednesday. “But me playing a nickel [cornerback] position, knowing a nickel position, you know where the safety’s gonna line up, what the safety’s responsibility is most of the time. It was a change. But it was nothing that I wasn’t ready for and I wasn’t prepared for.”

Haslett said, “He was there a lot longer than that. So he actually worked and he actually did a nice job.”

In other news:
  • Haslett wasn't too happy with another question in which he was asked if he would assess the defense differently against Green Bay because he'd be able to play more of the defense he envisioned. In other words, they were forced into their nickel package all game and could not tap into all their packages. "No," Haslett said. "You're not going to second-guess us. We played the same defense in the second half that we played in the first, but we played it much better." Thing is, nobody was second-guessing their strategy. The Redskins stopped the Eagles in the second half. And three of their scoring drives started in Redskins territory. The defense gave up big yards early, but not late -- and it helps when their own offense actually moves the ball and holds onto it. Still, Haslett was not in a good mood during his press conference. It happens.
  • Everyone was full-go in practice, including corner David Amerson, who was limited Wednesday by a sore back. It's probably the healthiest Washington has been since training camp started on July 25.
  • Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said everyone on offense looked rusty, not just quarterback Robert Griffin III. As for Griffin's footwork during the game, Shanahan said, "It was up and down. He had some plays that were good and he had some plays that were bad. That was the same last year. It's the same for any quarterback. I don't think I've ever gone through a game where a quarterback has perfect footwork. Overall he was all right and can always get better from it."

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 1

September, 10, 2013
9/10/13
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 33-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsRedskins QB Robert Griffin III had a shaky first game back following offseason knee surgery.
Robert’s Rust: It turns out Robert Griffin III is human after all and even he needs game action to get back into a groove. Griffin learned lessons as a rookie in the 2012 preseason about being in the pocket and dealing with the rush. He clearly was off on some throws. The final two quarters will help get his feel back. Though almost all of those passes were underneath throws, it enabled him to find a rhythm. The Redskins say they practice like it’s a game, but no experience is better than game experience. It’s not just about the physical aspects, but also the mental. Griffin said he thought he saw something else on his first interception. But replays showed the corner, Brandon Boykin, had Santana Moss covered the whole way with safety help. There was never a chance to squeeze the ball into him. When Griffin is in rhythm, he does not make that throw.

Not so special teams: The Redskins lost the field position battle because the offense struggled to move the ball and because the special teams provided no help. Returner Chris Thompson fair caught one punt at the 5-yard line (it might have been downed around there anyway) and he ran back three kickoffs for 56 yards. Those three returns left Washington with the ball at its 9, 13 and 21, respectively. A bad debut for the rookie. Punter Sav Rocca started out fine, but his 34-yarder gave Philly the ball at Washington’s 44 en route to a touchdown. And placekicker Kai Forbath missed a 40-yarder wide right -- he was 17 of 18 in 2012.

Safety trouble: With Brandon Meriweather still nursing a sore groin -- he really hasn’t been healthy at all in Washington since signing in 2012 -- the Redskins opted for speed at safety and moved corner E.J. Biggers to strong safety. It did not give the Redskins what they had hoped. Biggers did not tackle well (missing LeSean McCoy, as others did, on his 34-yard touchdown run in the third) and appeared to be out of position (he wasn’t alone) on a DeSean Jackson touchdown in the opening quarter. They did not use veteran Reed Doughty, a better tackler but not as strong in space, in coverage. Rookie free safety Bacarri Rambo also missed tackles.

Run down: Running back Alfred Morris had a terrible start with a fumble on his first series and dropping a pitch in the end zone for a safety. Morris only gained 45 yards on 12 carries. But too often a missed block caused him to cut back several yards deep in the backfield, preventing a possible solid run. On some of these plays, it would be well-blocked to where he was headed. It wasn’t just the linemen; the tight ends lost some blocks, too. Regardless, it prevented the Redskins from taking pressure off Griffin with the run.
David Amerson, the Washington Redskins' second-round pick, has spent most of training camp working with the starters, but that’s not by design. It’s because starters Josh Wilson (shoulder) and DeAngelo Hall (ankle) have missed time. And it’s clear that Amerson is more talented than E.J. Biggers, which is why he receives the first shot with the starters when Wilson or Hall are out.

[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins cornerback David Amerson has a lot to learn in adjusting to the pro game.
What he’s learning: How to play press-man coverage. Amerson was asked to play mostly off-man coverage at NC State, sometimes lining up eight or nine yards off the receiver to get a better read. Amerson is still adapting to this role and often straddles the line between a good jam and riding a receiver and holding. Early in camp he could have been called for holding at some point in each workout. He’s also learned that something he used to do at NC State on his own is a part of the game plan in Washington. The Redskins have a zone coverage designed to make it appear he's on the outside in man, only to jump outside to a zone -- against the inside receiver running that way.

“I have no problems pressuring a guy now,” Amerson said. “I had to get better at it and take advantage of my long arms. And [my eyes] are definitely something I have to focus on, double moves and getting your eyes on the receiver and not the quarterback, the little things that really distinguish if you’re going to make a play or not.”

What stands out: His skill set, which is why he was a second-round draft pick in April. Amerson’s long arms will help him in press coverage -- he can keep his hands on the receiver a little longer, for example -- and he has good speed. Amerson breaks on the ball well and wants to make the big play. And one reason the Redskins are confident he’ll develop into a good press corner is because of his footwork. “He has great movement for a guy his size,” Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris said.

What needs to be seen: Aggressive finishes, whether in coverage or against the run. The Redskins don’t have live hitting in practice, so it’s tough for Amerson to prove if he can handle this role. Last year, he was not a big part of NC State’s run defense; he must be in Washington’s. “The violent punch, the violent movement, the violent tackles,” Morris said. “He has a chance to do it. He’s a pretty aggressive kid.”

Current projection: Amerson will easily be one of the top four corners and it’s not as if any of those ahead of him have excelled. The coaches say Wilson’s early bumps are because he’s returning from shoulder surgery. Hall is still hurt. Meanwhile, Amerson is a talented second-round pick (with lots to prove). Still, it would not be a shock to see Amerson develop into a starter at some point this season -- even without injuries to others, which is a nod to his talent and possible issues elsewhere. But first Amerson must show he can handle run duties and be consistent with his eyes.
RICHMOND, Va. -- When sixth-round draft pick Bacarri Rambo first looked at the Washington Redskins' defensive playbook this spring, he was surprised how familiar it looked to him. The Redskins' rookie safety saw a lot of similarities between the Redskins' defense and the defense in which he played at the University of Georgia.

"A lot similar," Rambo said after one of the Redskins' practices Friday. "We run the same 3-4, a lot of the blitz patterns and the coverages are the same, and also we had a linebackers coach from here that was at Georgia the last couple of years I was there, and he taught me a lot."

That coach was Kirk Olivadotti, who left the Redskins after the 2010 season and got the job as linebackers coach at Georgia. The experience of working with Olivadotti is one of several factors that have contributed to a surprisingly high comfort level for Rambo as he's run with the first-team defense here in the early days of training camp.

[+] EnlargeBacarri Rambo
AP Photo/Ron Sachs Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he's taken notice of rookie safety Baccari Rambo's comfort level within the team's defensive scheme.
"Once I got drafted and got here during the rookie minicamp, I looked over the playobook and saw there were a lot of the same things, just different terms," Rambo said. "It helps me play a whole lot faster."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of Rambo, "you can see he's really relaxed back there," and that's part of the reason he's getting this early chance with the first team. But Shanahan also offered high praise for his other rookie safety, fourth-rounder Phillip Thomas. He's obviously a long way from deciding whether either of these guys can start at free safety for him once the regular season starts, but the team's need at the position is such that the rookies are definitely in the mix.

"I think we've got a chance to get better in the secondary," Shanahan said after Saturday morning's walkthrough. "We've got some good young guys with a lot of talent, and now it's how quick they learn it. But I like what I've seen."

Safety is one of the positions Shanahan always says is impossible to evaluate until the pads go on and the preseason games start. So it'll be a while before any final evaluations get made. He also has reliable veteran Reed Doughty, whom he knows can start if none of the younger guys is ready in time. The Redskins hope Brandon Meriweather is healthy and able to man the strong safety position, but free safety is wide open, which means opportunity for the youngsters.

So, since Rambo's the guy out there right now, let's quickly examine his case. He's a good instinctive player and a sure tackler, which bode well for his ability to handle a last-line-of-defense, center-field type role in the Redskins' defense. Pre-draft evaluations questioned his sideline-to-sideline speed, which could be an issue, and the Redskins don't know yet how he'll play if asked to move up in the box and play the run. Since they like to be able to interchange their safeties, this is something Rambo, Thomas or anyone else with designs on that spot will have to show.

The Redskins are likely to keep at least four safeties -- Meriweather, Doughty, Rambo and Thomas -- and holdovers Jordan Pugh and DeJon Gomes are in the mix for roster spots as well. They're likely to keep at least four cornerbacks -- DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, David Amerson and E.J. Biggers -- with Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield in the mix there. So there's still lots to sort out in the secondary, even beyond picking starters. Could Amerson play his way into a starter's role and make Wilson expendable? Can they count on Minnifield to hold up physically? Do they have to keep Crawford on the team as a return man?

Secondary is the position of greatest uncertainty for the 2013 Redskins, which is why it's no surprise to find them mulling the very real possibility of going with a rookie as their starting free safety.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC East team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Dallas Cowboys: Last offseason, the Cowboys used premium resources to acquire Brandon Carr in free agency and Morris Claiborne in the draft so they could be better equipped to play man coverage on the outside. Then this offseason, they went out and hired Cover 2 guru Monte Kiffin as their defensive coordinator. Kiffin supposedly will incorporate more man coverage into his play calls, but Carr and Claiborne are not ideal players for Cover 2, which will be Dallas’ base coverage. Still, these two, along with nickelback Orlando Scandrick and fourth-round pick B.W. Webb, give the Cowboys an excellent set of cornerbacks overall. Scheme notwithstanding, Claiborne should be much improved in his second season. Safety is another story though. This position was a huge weakness in 2012. Free-agent signee Will Allen is penciled in to start opposite Barry Church, who is highly unproven. The Cowboys used a third-round pick on J.J. Wilcox, but Allen is not starting material and Wilcox is extremely raw. Wilcox has a ton of ability and should be an immediate standout on special teams, but trusting him to read quarterbacks and route combinations as a rookie could be a disaster. To me, safety remains an immediate weakness for Dallas.

New York Giants: There isn’t a lot of change here from 2012 -- and that isn’t really a good thing. Gone is Kenny Phillips and in are Aaron Ross and Ryan Mundy, but this is a franchise that relies on its defensive line to make the defense go -- and the line does look impressive. Safety Stevie Brown made a lot of plays last season and will be asked to replace Phillips on more of a full-time basis alongside Antrel Rolle, whose best trait is probably his overall versatility. At cornerback, the Giants are counting on Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley to take noticeable steps forward in their young careers, especially from an overall consistency standpoint. Terrell Thomas returns from yet another major injury and Ross will provide corner depth, but Corey Webster is the player New York absolutely needs to play like he did earlier in his career. In 2012, Webster struggled mightily and Hosley was often beaten, which obviously is a huge concern.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles gave their secondary a total overhaul this offseason. While there was talent in this group a year ago, it collectively made a ton of mistakes and just allowed far too many big plays. Simply said, the Eagles’ secondary was dreadful in 2012. One carryover is Brandon Boykin, who played well as a rookie and should be the ideal nickel cornerback going forward. The starters at corner, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, have plenty of questions around them. I don’t see either player as close to being a true No. 1 cornerback, but if they can show some consistency it will be an improvement for Philadelphia at the position. At safety, the Eagles signed Kenny Phillips from the Giants, an excellent move and a massive upgrade if he stays healthy. They also inked Patrick Chung away from the Patriots. There is much more uncertainty around Chung, who has never stepped up as many expected he would have by now. Earl Wolff, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Curtis Marsh provide the Eagles with young talented depth, but while the secondary has been totally reshuffled, the starters here are far from sure things. But like the rest of Philadelphia’s secondary in 2012, Allen and Coleman had a rough go of it last season.

Washington Redskins: Probably the biggest need area for this team heading into this offseason was the secondary. In free agency, the Redskins added E.J. Biggers, who should be a very solid all-around third cornerback. In the draft, Washington addressed its secondary in a big way, using a second-round pick on David Amerson, a fourth-rounder on Phillip Thomas and a sixth-rounder on Bacarri Rambo. Right now, the starters are DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson at cornerback and Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty at safety. Surely the Redskins would love for Amerson, Thomas and Rambo all to challenge for starting spots right out of the gate, but rookie cover men often struggle. Still, Doughty is very average. Meriweather is returning from injury and has been highly inconsistent and untrustworthy, while Hall is one of the more overrated players in the NFL, who can look great one week and terrible the next. Wilson might be the best member of Washington’s secondary, which is an indictment of the status of this unit overall. The Redskins have, however, added young talent, and the return from injury of Brian Orakpo, their only truly top-notch pass-rusher, also should help the cover men a great deal.
Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett was talking last week about second-round draft pick David Amerson, specifically why his 2012 season wasn't as strong as his 2011 season at North Carolina State. Haslett said he thought it came down to one game. Per Rich Tandler:
“He got surprised the first game of the year,” said Haslett. “Tennessee comes out with these two wideouts, one was a junior college transfer and he didn’t know who he was. He got beat on a double move a couple of times, had some bad body language and he struggled the first half of the season.”

In that game against the Vols, Amerson was beaten by Cordarrelle Patterson, who was a first-round pick in the draft, for 42 yards and a touchdown. Then to show that he was willing to pick on the cornerback who had led the nation in interceptions in 2011, Tennessee QB Chandler Whitmer went deep to Zach Rogers. The result was a 72-yard touchdown pass that had Amerson throwing up his arms in apparent frustration.
[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Ron Sachs/picture-alliance/dpa/AP ImagesSecond-round pick David Amerson adds valuable depth at cornerback for the Redskins.
As Rich goes on to write, the issue was that Amerson appeared to let his bad game bother him for a few weeks after that. And that's what the Redskins are working on with Amerson this summer -- professional maturity. Amerson has great instincts and should be the kind of player, right away, who can make plays on the ball at the NFL level. But if given regular playing time right away, he's also likely to be exposed, give up big plays and possibly get down and discouraged about it. That's why it's the job of Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris to "coach up" Amerson and sand down the rough edges that are expected to come along with 21-year-old rookies.

The Redskins have DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers, at least, ahead of Amerson on the depth chart at cornerback. Maybe Chase Minnifield too. So they aren't necessarily counting on a significant contribution from him this season. But they aren't ruling it out either. Their belief is that he has the talent to play in the league and that his start date as a factor on defense depends on the speed with which he hones the technique and maturity issues that defensive backs his age have to get under control when they arrive in the league. The Redskins don't think it's a matter of "if" with Amerson, but "when."
Back for a second to Matt Williamson's offseason NFC grades, let's take a look at the Washington Redskins, whom Matt gave a "C-minus." Matt acknowledges that the Redskins had no first-round pick and some significant salary-cap problems that limited their ability to bring in high-impact guys this offseason. And he gives the Redskins credit for retaining as much of their division-champion roster as they did:
But in the end, if you are not going forward in this league, you are going backward. And this roster does not look to be much improved -- if at all -- from the end of last season. With the addition of Griffin, the Redskins took two huge steps forward last year. This year they might have to take a small step backward.

Indeed, the Redskins are banking on the idea that the returns from injury of players like Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker and Brandon Meriweather will improve the defense. They're also hoping Griffin completes a full recovery from offseason knee surgery and can play as well as he did as a rookie. And if those things happen, the Redskins have reason to believe that the same basic group that went 10-6 and won the NFC East last year can win it again in 2013. But Matt's question about the additions to the secondary -- guys like second-round pick David Amerson and free-agent cornerback E.J. Biggers -- is whether they're ready to help right away or will need time to develop as useful pieces. Matt likes the additions they made on offense through the draft, he's just not convinced they've sufficiently fixed a secondary that they held together with chewing gum over the final two months of last season. And it's a fair concern, to be sure.
Settling now into a post-draft normality. We'll do our regular chat today. I think we have Power Rankings, too. So it's more like a Tuesday you're used to. One thing that's always constant, though, is the links post.

New York Giants

Giants GM Jerry Reese says there's no bad blood or hard feelings between the team and wide receiver Victor Cruz regarding Cruz's current contract dispute. It's just business, Reese says, and there's nothing in his history to indicate he doesn't mean it. It will be interesting to see whether the situation can get resolved without any hard feelings surfacing.

Ed Valentine continues to hope that the Giants find linebacker help on what remains of the free-agent market after not drafting a linebacker with any of their picks. They could add a veteran, I guess, but I wouldn't be surprised if they think they're OK at the position. They don't tend to place much value on it.

Philadelphia Eagles

Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet was not drafted, which was something of a surprise, but he did sign as an undrafted free agent with the Eagles. It's not a position at which the Eagles appear to have a need, but you never know at running back when an injury's around the corner or when opportunity might present itself. He's someone on whom it's worth keeping an eye.

Fifth-round safety Earl Wolff could push for playing time in the Eagles' secondary this year, as the picture there is muddled at best. It doesn't sound as though Wolff was the Eagles' first choice among safeties in this year's draft, but he's someone they liked well enough to take a fifth-round flyer on.

Washington Redskins

E.J. Biggers, whom the Redskins signed in March to play cornerback, is a fan of David Amerson, whom the Redskins drafted in the second round last week to play cornerback. Biggers doesn't know Amerson, but he says he watches a lot of college football and enjoyed Amerson's 13-interception season in 2011.

On that note, Mike Jones looks at which Redskins veterans could see their jobs or playing time threatened by the incoming rookies, including Biggers and some of the backup running backs.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys said they didn't need to address the defensive line in the draft because they already considered it a team strength. Todd Archer examines whether they're correct about that. I think the concern is the depth behind the starters, but if Jay Ratliff can stay healthy the starting four look very good.

Undrafted linebacker Brandon Magee is going to be a real threat to make the roster, especially after the Cowboys committed $70,000 to sign him. That's more than any seventh-round pick got to sign in 2012.
There are two things to keep in mind when assessing the Washington Redskins' 2013 draft. First, their first-round pick was spent as part of last year's Robert Griffin III deal about which they have no regrets. And second, the work they did in free agency to bring their 2012 roster back almost completely intact meant that they didn't feel compelled to use the draft to address immediate needs. They returned their entire starting offensive line intact, they retained their starting cornerbacks at reduced salaries, and linebacker London Fletcher put off retirement for a year. The only position at which they may have felt the need to find a Week 1 starter was free safety.

That's not to say positions like right tackle or cornerback couldn't use an upgrade. But given the constraints imposed by the second year of the salary-cap penalties, the Redskins did enter this year's draft with relatively few obvious holes to fill. So instead, they took players with upside -- guys they think have a chance to be great in the long term as opposed to adequate in the short.

[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesCornerback David Amerson was drafted with the future of the Redskins' secondary in mind.
Cornerback David Amerson, selected in the second round with the Redskins' first pick of this year's draft, needs help staying disciplined in coverage and must work on his tackling. But he knows how to make a play on the ball, and Mike Shanahan believes that's a lot harder to coach into someone than those first two things are. Amerson doesn't need to play much this year, with Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall starting and E.J. Biggers as the No. 3 corner. Get him with secondary coach Raheem Morris and see if he can shore up the trouble areas and make him into something special.

Tight end Jordan Reed, the third-rounder, is basically a great big wide receiver who can line up as a "move" tight end the likes of which more teams are using these days. It's odd that Shanahan took such a poor blocking tight end, since he prioritizes blocking even among his wide receivers, but Reed is another guy who's shown an ability to make big plays and create mismatches in opposing secondaries. Deployed correctly, he could help make the offense more explosive.

Safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo were fourth-round and sixth-round selections, respectively. Because the position is vacant, it's not crazy to think either or both could compete for the starting free safety spot this year. But that's not the main reason they were picked. Shanahan took these players because they represented good value at their slots and played a position at which his roster is thin. He's playing the percentages with guys who were playmakers in college, and if one of these two ends up being a starter, that'll help this look like a good draft in retrospect. If both do, he's struck gold.

Running back Chris Thompson and pass-rushing outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins, both taken in the fifth round, were good college players whose value dropped due to injury. Seventh-round running back Jawan Jamison played through an ankle injury last year at Rutgers and left school early to try to help pay the medical bills for his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. These three represent depth (with upside potential) at positions where there's no such thing, in Shanahan's eyes, as too much depth.

This Redskins draft is a perfect example for those who say you can't grade a draft until three years down the road. It's possible that literally none of these picks pan out. But most of them were picked because they carry at least a chance of becoming stars, and when you can find potential stars in the middle and late rounds (and you already feel you have a deep roster), that's what your draft goal becomes.

Redskins fans might feel better if they'd grabbed an immediate starter at safety in the second or third round. D.J. Swearinger may have fit that description and was still on the board when they took Amerson. The fact that no offensive linemen were taken has stirred some concern, but the Redskins drafted mid-round offensive linemen last year and are still developing guys like Tom Compton and Josh LeRibeus. No crying need to add to that depth just yet. The Redskins approached this draft like a confident division champion that likes its roster and was looking for high-end talent it felt was being drafted too late. That's what they took, and now it's on their coaching staff to make this 2013 draft look good.

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