- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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When the Redskins lost Tanard Jackson before the 2012 season, they also lost their starting safety. So they turned to Madieu Williams, who proved he was best as a backup.
This time, the Redskins weren’t counting on anything from Jackson. From the time he was reinstated, they made it clear that anything he gave them was a bonus. And the longer the spring went on, it was evident that he was not competing for the starting job – whether it was because the coaches knew how far he had to go or the wheels of another suspension already were in place.
Oh, Jackson also told ESPN980’s Chris Russell that he plans to appeal. Problem is, the NFL does not announce suspensions until the appeal process is over. There are no more appeals to be made. It’s done. Over. And it’s also hard to believe someone when they say “this time is different” -- as he texted to Russell -- when they have his background of issues.
Regardless, the Redskins likely will keep five safeties (they could always go with six corners and four safeties; or six and five. The ability of some of the corners to be more versatile in coverage helps). They almost have to sign another safety (yes, Reed Doughty is still unsigned though as of late Thursday morning he had not yet been contacted by the Redskins but he has been in talks with other teams; Jose Gumbs remains unsigned for that matter). What’s clear: It’s not a deep position, with many question marks. That was true before Jackson’s suspension as he was a question mark as well, considering he hadn't played in two seasons.
Anyway, here’s a look at the position now:
Ryan Clark: Still the starter. He was clearly ahead of Jackson when it came to running the show in the secondary at free safety. When Clark was on the field the communication was loud and crisp. You knew he was out there. When Jackson was on the field, he was way too quiet in comparison. Clark just needs to prove he can still be an effective starter.
Brandon Meriweather: Jackson played free safety while Meriweather is more in the box. He’ll still open camp as the starter. Another who has something to prove, but with Clark here at least Meriweather will be able to play more in his comfort zone near the line of scrimmage.
Phillip Thomas: Another strong safety. He’s coming off the Lisfranc injury (and surgery). While he looked fine in the spring, the preseason games will be revealing. He has a lot he needs to show before anyone can rightly talk about him becoming a starter.
Bacarri Rambo: He’s helped by Jackson’s absence because he’s a free safety. Rambo still has to show he can help on special teams, which should be a prerequisite for any backup at this position (finally, it is). I wouldn’t put Rambo on the roster just yet, but Jackson’s suspension helps him.
Akeem Davis: Davis went undrafted out of Memphis in 2013 and, though he was with Seattle for its rookie minicamp, he was not on anyone’s roster -- or even practice squad -- last season.
Trenton Robinson: Special teams guy, but the Redskins need that. However, he’ll also have to show he could help from scrimmage in a pinch. He’s small at 5-foot-9, 195 pounds but has good speed.
Madison Ross: A local kid, having played high school ball in nearby Leesburg, Virginia. But he’s an undrafted free agent so, entering camp, he’s a long shot to make the roster. Things can change, but there’s no way to view it any other way at this point.