Washington Redskins: Brandon Meriweather

Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.

Running backs (4)

The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.

Receivers (6)

I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.

Tight ends (3)

Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.

Offensive line (10)

In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester (which I don't think will happen; I think he'll start). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.

Defensive line (6)


This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways.

Linebackers (9)

As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.

Cornerbacks (5)
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.

Safeties (4)

I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
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.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clark
John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty ImagesOffseason acquisition Ryan Clark will be counted on to lead the secondary from his free safety spot.
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.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

July, 5, 2014
Jul 5
12:00
PM ET
OK, I have to admit that I lied to you: Turns out I could -- and did -- do a second mailbag this week. Saw more questions, got a burst of energy and here it is, with topics ranging from culture shift to Robert Griffin III's study habits, the secondary and the defensive line. Enjoy.

John Keim: Let's not get too carried away with this just yet because the culture was changed dramatically when Mike Shanahan was hired too. A lot of the stories at that time focused on that very topic. He was trying to bring in players with a certain mindset and he had that winning aura. And then they finished last in three of his four seasons. So his changes did not lead to the one change everyone wants. The culture of an organization always starts at the top. But in terms of the coaching hire, that was on Bruce Allen and then the subsequent assistant hires was on both he and Jay Gruden. There is a positive energy right now with the coaching staff and players and a good vibe among the players, but until they win -- and do so consistently -- it will always be about "changing cultures" at Redskins Park. And they'll try to do so every four years. Keim: Griffin receives a lot of credit for how hard he works; part of that includes studying film. I know he watches a lot of film, but the bottom line is right now the area that people want to see him improve involves pre-snap reads, getting off primary reads faster. Once he starts doing that, you'll hear more about the other habits that go into that improvement, like film study. To be honest, not sure I've read a lot or heard a lot about other young quarterbacks and how much film they watch. If you're a starting quarterback in the NFL it's assumed that you watch a lot of film. Griffin is no different. Really, it's not about watching film as much as it is processing what you're seeing. It takes a couple years for any young quarterback (or player for that matter) to reach a comfort level in this area. Many, many times I've talked to players about watching film and they consistently say it took them a while to do it well. Keim: I need to see them in game action. I need to see if the safeties are tackling better, what Ryan Clark has left, if David Amerson has improved and if Brandon Meriweather is more consistent. It is impossible to tell most of that from watching them work in just shorts and a helmet. I do like what I saw from Amerson and in what I heard from him. He had a good grasp on what he needed to be doing to improve. In less than a month we'll get a chance to see how he's really doing. As for the starters, it's easy right now: Amerson and DeAngelo Hall at the corners; Meriweather and Clark at safety. They need Clark's leadership deep, but they also need to make sure he can still play at a certain level. Keim: They'll typically keep five, including one fullback. Gruden kept a fullback in Cincinnati and Darrel Young has improved as a blocker during his time in Washington. He helps the run game and he helps on special teams too. But really this will depend on what they do at other positions. My guess is they'll want to keep nine or 10 offensive linemen. Would they really keep two kickers? How many safeties and corners? Usually 10 are kept, but they were willing to go with 11 two years ago. Would they really want to go with three running backs and a fullback -- or four running backs and no fullback? Last year's fourth running back, Evan Royster, barely played. They could always keep one on the practice squad just in case. Keim: My main issue with their line is not where they rank but their age. They have four potential defensive linemen 30 years or older -- and three of them will be coming off surgeries. So there's concern here. If they're healthy and if Jason Hatcher plays well if Chris Baker comes through to give them a young rusher, then I think this group will be fine. They'd have more depth and versatility than a year ago. The line did a solid job against the run last year; their issue was a lack of pressure. But if Hatcher has durability issues because of his knee and Stephen Bowen does not return to a solid level and Jarvis Jenkins still can't do much in nickel ... then they will have issues. They're a question mark, like many parts of the defense. 
The Washington Redskins didn't ditch their defensive boss, even after a rough year and a coaching change. But they did tweak the lineup and it's possible that nearly half of the players who start this season will be new to the lineup, though only two would have been added in the offseason (Jason Hatcher, Ryan Clark). Washington's biggest change is that it plans to alter the pass rush, which is one reason the Redskins hired outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist. The Redskins also added linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, who will also be a big help.

Here's a look at the Redskins' starting defense and special teams at the end of the offseason:

Defense

Left end: Chris Baker
Nose tackle: Barry Cofield
Right end: Jason Hatcher
Outside linebacker: Ryan Kerrigan
Inside linebacker: Perry Riley
Inside linebacker: Keenan Robinson
Outside linebacker: Brian Orakpo
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall
Cornerback: David Amerson
Safety: Brandon Meriweather
Safety: Ryan Clark

Change from 2013: Clark, Robinson and Hatcher are newcomers. Amerson was the third corner last year and takes over for Josh Wilson. Baker started three games last year because of injuries to others, but enters with the job now because of his performance.

Note: There is more uncertainty with this group than on offense. Because of Hatcher’s knee, the Redskins could limit his participation early in camp; they used Jarvis Jenkins at this spot during the spring. And what about Stephen Bowen? He, too, has a knee issue and after not taking part in practices during the spring it’s hard to imagine him being ready for a big role early in camp. Also, while Robinson looked good this spring, he’s never started an NFL game and has to show he can handle the run game as well as the responsibilities of the position. He’ll need to hold off veterans Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan for the job. The secondary is pretty well set. They love Clark’s leadership and communication and, yes, he has to show he can still play. He’s firmly ahead entering camp. Meriweather is ahead as well, as backup Phillip Thomas must still show a lot. The coaches liked his progress last summer before he got hurt, but the bottom line is he’s inexperienced and coming off a tough Lisfranc injury.

Spring standout: Probably Robinson. His ability to play on the move was evident, but considering that was his strength before the two torn pectoral muscles, that's not a surprise. Training camp, and preseason games, will reveal a lot more, but he had a good offseason.

Average age at start of camp: 28.18

Combined Pro Bowls: 11 (Orakpo, 3; Hall, 3; Meriweather, 2; Hatcher, Kerrigan and Clark, 1)

Starters 30 or older: 5 (Clark, Meriweather, Hall, Hatcher, Cofield).



Special teams

Kicker: Kai Forbath
Punter: Robert Malone
Long snapper: Nick Sundberg
Returner: Andre Roberts

Change from 2013: Malone and Roberts are new.

Note: Malone had some booming punts during the spring, but he was known for his inconsistency in previous stops. Too many punts with bad hangtime leading to long returns. He must fix that. But his competition, Blake Clingan, has no career punts. Forbath has a slight edge because of experience, but Zach Hocker has a legitimate chance to win the job. You do not base the competition on how they looked in the spring – no coach ever would -- but Hocker is off to a good start. So that battle will be interesting. You don’t draft a kicker unless you like his chances of winning the job. Unless a kicker looks terrible in practice, then the games matter most. The Redskins do have another long snapper on the roster in Kyle Nelson, who took over for an injured Sundberg last year. But the latter has been consistent since joining the Redskins. And Roberts is the best one to handle both return duties. DeSean Jackson should not be used as anything other than a pinch-hitter on punt returns; he’s far more valuable from scrimmage, so don’t wear him down. I’ll be curious to see how Richard Crawford looks returning punts this summer, but he’ll be in a real fight for a roster spot. If they can’t keep six corners then he’ll be in big trouble. The Redskins want Roberts to get as many touches as possible and, with Jackson and Pierre Garcon ahead of him at receiver, having him return punts and kicks is a good way for this to happen.
  1. Safety Ryan Clark never stops talking on the field -- and I mean that as a compliment. With Clark and Brandon Meriweather on the field at the same time, there's an awful lot of chatter, drawing heavy praise at one point from secondary coach Raheem Morris this past week. It's important and the more teams communicate, the better they play.
  2. Clark shouts to players pre-snap, telling the young corners (David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland) what to watch for and if he thought a play was coming their way. Whether it did or not doesn't matter as much; it forced the young players to react as if it was coming to their side. Clark shouted out adjustment; he'd loudly praise teammates after a play. Nobody else on defense gives the Redskins what Clark can in this area. He has to prove he can still play, but the leadership and knowledge he brings will be vital. I'll also say this: the other safeties were not as vocal as Clark.
  3. There's more energy with this coaching staff than the previous one -- whether that results in more wins, I don't know. But Jay Gruden will occasionally give the receivers and quarterbacks a look by playing corner or safety. He tried to run with Jackson one fade route. He failed. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay does this every so often as well. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica has a commanding presence; outside linebackers coach Brian Baker seems to be a passionate guy. Just a different energy.
  4. With Gruden, the added energy comes from his style, but also the fact players feel they have more ownership and with coaches feeling they have more say. Again, wins and losses ultimately prove whether this style works or not. Being considered a players' coach isn't always great, so Gruden has to make sure everyone knows he's in charge. But he does have a comfortable, confident air about him.
  5. I've covered two first-time head coaches in my tenure: Norv Turner and Jim Zorn. Gruden isn't an offensive mastermind like Turner, but he's also a better communicator and less insecure. Zorn was a terrific guy, but just corny from the start and it was more shocking that they went 6-2 in his first eight games than that they ultimately collapsed. Gruden is not Zorn. But I'm going to hold off on making some bold predictions about him; need to see how he handles various situations first. This job is so much more than X's and O's. Joe Gibbs won because he understood how to manage a team, not because he called great plays.
  6. Because it's Father's Day weekend, might as well talk a little dads. Mine died a few months ago, right around the time DeSean Jackson was signed. Loved going to games as a kid, with my dad and my brothers. But one memory that sticks out from when I was around 10 was playing pretend football games in the backyard, then going to my locker room (aka: my basement) and having my dad interview me (because, well, I was the star). I wanted it to be like the scenes I saw on TV after games. Then I'd draw up a photo of a play on a blue sheet of paper. Enjoy your kids; enjoy your dad.
  7. I thought about that anecdote again after NBC reporter Dianna Russini asked Jason Hatcher about how it was with his dad. Hatcher said, "He wasn't in my life. I had great guys around me who mentored me and showed me how to be a father." But Hatcher took pride in talking about how his kids make him breakfast (he uses a token that has a chore written on it; their gift to him). Has to be a nice feeling for him knowing that he can be the dad he never had.
  8. Point is, for me, football has always been a key part of my life and extends from one generation to the next. With my kids, watching them play has been fun. But the memories extend to texting with my oldest, who is in college, during fall Saturdays about various games; or watching with all of my boys or playing knee football with my middle son or just playing catch with my youngest.
  9. Back to on-the-field stuff. Guard Josh LeRibeus had a terrible offseason a year ago, but he looks in good shape and is working at both guard spots. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has noticed (knowing he has to prove himself in August). "His weight was down. He's in good shape and he's made some improvements from what I saw last year. I don't have a lot of history with him obviously, just what I've seen this year. But he does look a lot better this time of year than he did last year from what I hear. He's doing well."
  10. One thing I forgot to mention in this article, taking a look at what Gruden said the other day to Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, is how one thing I haven't seen this spring is any zone read option work. Doesn't mean they won't run it; they already know how. And Gruden has said many times they will use it on occasion. But the emphasis has been on a more diverse attack. Robert Griffin III has spent a lot of time under center and in shotgun. If this offense grows, it has to come from Griffin's improvement as a passer. Gruden knows this (but so, too, did the previous staff).
They wanted more versatility, giving them the ability to fool the quarterback or at least make him wonder. And that would give the rush an extra second, they hope, to make a difference.

"As you know, great quarterbacks," Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last week, "if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezCan Brian Orakpo & Co. give coordinator Jim Haslett a bevy of options to work with in the coming season?
The latter part has been an issue for a while. The ability to be exotic will help coordinator Jim Haslett, but it won't cure all. Still, is the Redskins' defense more versatile?

Let's take a look:

The Redskins do have some versatility up front. Chris Baker can line up at either end or nose tackle and can play in the nickel. Barry Cofield plays nose, but can rush in nickel. Jason Hatcher can play end and serve as a legitimate interior rusher.

Stephen Bowen's effectiveness as a rusher decreased the past two years and he's now coming off an injury. So it's tough to include him with the others for now. Jarvis Jenkins can play either end, but has yet to prove he's a quality pass-rusher.

Still, they do have more versatility along the front with an improved Baker and the addition of Hatcher. Is it enough?

They also have it at outside linebacker where they now have three players who can line up in a variety of ways to rush the passer with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and now Trent Murphy. All three are fine rushing with their hand down or standing up; from both sides or even through the middle. Now, whether Murphy will be effective in doing so, it's impossible to say without having seen him in a game. But, in theory, it provides options for Haslett and the ability to use different looks and a better variety of blitzes.

But what that group offers is not just the ability to move around, but to provide different looks for a tackle (or even a guard). After blocking Orakpo much of the game, a left tackle might not be prepared for, say, Murphy's spin move. They can throw a curve at a player just by sending someone different at the right time. At least that's what the Redskins hope. Everything always sounds good at this time of the year.

I'm not sold yet that Brandon Jenkins is at this point; need to see more proof of his versatility. Rob Jackson can help, but he's not as versatile as the others.

They do have some versatility at corner with a couple players having the ability to line up at safety. Both DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers have done so in the past, though there's a difference between lining up there and being effective in this role. Neither is really a great option back there to defend the run, but in providing a different look in coverage? Sure. It's also about being able to play different coverages and they'll have to prove they can; too many teams picked them apart last season and it wasn't just because of the rush.

Also, one reason they wanted to draft corner David Amerson was his ability to perhaps do the same thing. He did not do this as a rookie. He has the skills to be more versatile, but I'd worry about the eye discipline among other things needed to handle this role. But it's a next logical step for him. Rookie Bashaud Breeland could develop here, but he needs to learn corner first -- and how to play it without being too grabby.

However, they don't have the versatility at safety. They lack a starting player who can cover man to man (we have no idea yet what Tanard Jackson still has left, let alone if he'll even start or can handle such a role). Brandon Meriweather did enable them to sometimes run different coverages because he had the speed others did not to get to vacated areas -- like when they want to blitz a corner from the outside, not just the slot. But he's far removed from his Pro Bowl days, so mistakes are made and tackles are missed.

Ryan Clark's strength was always in being in the right place at the right time, dissuading the quarterback from challenging his area. He's lasted this long because he's smart. If he does that again, the Redskins would be happy. But occasionally covering man-to-man? That's different. And if the Redskins want to grow the defense the next step is finding someone who can. The more versatile the secondary is, the more you can throw off a quarterback with various looks.
Shortly before Phillip Thomas suffered a season-ending injury last summer, defensive backs coach Raheem Morris expressed his pleasure over his performance. After one play in training camp, Morris let it be known, saying to no one in particular, "He's starting to figure this [bleep] out."

[+] EnlargePhillip Thomas
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins safety Phillip Thomas, then a rookie in this May 2013 photo, aims to rebound from a season-ending Lisfranc injury.
And then Thomas, a rookie, was done, injuring his Lisfranc in the preseason opener. He needed surgery and that put him on a cross-your-fingers-path back to the player he was when the Washington Redskins drafted him in the fourth round.

Thomas obviously plans to contend for a starting job with Brandon Meriweather. First, though, comes questions about his health.

"Right now I'm feeling great," said Thomas, who returned to organized team activities Monday along with his teammates. The next session open to the media is Wednesday. "I'm 100 percent. Running around. I feel I'm moving like I was before with no hesitation and not second-guessing myself now."

Lisfranc injuries are tricky, especially when a player needs surgery. Here's a good explanation of this injury from ESPN medical analyst Stephania Bell. One point she made: "It's critical to the long-term foot health of any player who suffers this type of injury that complete healing occurs prior to a return to play, hence the slow progression, even when the player says he feels fine."

Thomas never returned last year and has had a full offseason. He knows he has a ways to go and the true test occurs in August, when the pads come on and the preseason games begin.

For now, all is good.

"At first I heard all the things about this Lisfranc injury and it spooked me," he said. "I stayed out here the whole four months in the offseason. I feel good out there."

Another result of the injury: Thomas is bigger. Not by a lot, but he added around five pounds -- all in upper body strength. He couldn't focus on his legs for a while, so he concentrated on other areas. The extra size was noticeable.

"It's helping me just being strong at the point [of attack]," he said. "Tight ends coming to block, I can [keep] them off me. Just the little things."

Thomas showed a little bit during the OTAs open to the media last week, making a diving interception. While Morris was upbeat over Thomas last summer, he'll still have to learn to operate at game speed and prove he can handle the role. There's a difference between starting to get it and playing like you have it.

"He's just getting back in the flow," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Between he and Meriweather, we expect good things from that safety spot."

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

May, 30, 2014
May 30
2:15
PM ET
Perry Riley's hold on one of the two inside linebacker jobs ... Thoughts on a one-game return to RFK ... and more on the read option. It's all here. Enjoy.
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Redskins offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Washington Redskins’ offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins hope Trent Murphy, who had 15 sacks in 2013, can breathe life into the pass rush.
Best move: Improving the pass rush. Washington's rush the past two seasons was too inconsistent and lacked variety. Signing Jason Hatcher to provide an interior push and drafting Trent Murphy to add to the creativity part -- it gives the Redskins potentially three outside linebackers who can rush -- should make a difference. Murphy, obviously, has to prove his worth but the fact that they continued to address the rush is pivotal and telling. They also helped here by adding linebackers coach Brian Baker, a pass-rush specialist.

Riskiest move: Signing receiver DeSean Jackson. His reputation took a big hit after his release in Philadelphia, but the Redskins knew he was risky before certain stories were written. Jackson has major playmaking potential, but he also must prove the stories about his work ethic and approach aren't true. If so, he'll provide a big boost. The Redskins did mitigate the risk by giving him a contract that would provide cap savings after only two years if they cut him.

Most surprising move: Not doing more at safety. The Redskins signed veteran Ryan Clark to start at free and mentor young players, re-signed Brandon Meriweather and returned once-suspended Tanard Jackson. They did not draft a safety. They need the young players to develop or they'll be trying to stock this position again.

Under the radar move: Bolstering special teams. The Redskins signed a handful of quality special-teamers and found players in the draft who could provide immediate help in this area. They brought in linebackers Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, who can provide help. They drafted Murphy and Bashaud Breeland, who should provide more. It wasn't talked about enough, but it's an important development.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
1:10
PM ET
Apparently, not everyone thinks adding more pass-rushers is a good idea. So it says in one of the questions -- I have my own thoughts on the matter in Part 1 of the mailbag. And why do the Redskins stink in prime-time games? Could it be something other than, well, they've been bad most of the past decade? More draft questions, too. Enjoy
 
They’re hardly a new Over the Hill Gang, but they do have a lot of thirtysomethings on their roster. Which can be viewed in multiple ways: A) They didn’t get younger after a season in which they went 3-13 and needed to rebuild, at least defensively; B) A lot of teams ahead of them in this ranking are quite successful; with age comes experience and savvy.

September will be when we’ll start to see which way the Redskins go. But, for now, we’ll just take a look at their players who are at least 30 years old. Washington is tied for eighth in the NFL with nine such players, according to ESPN's Field Yates. Oakland leads the way with 13, and you never want to be in Oakland’s company, but among the other teams ahead of Washington: San Francisco (12), New Orleans (11) and San Diego (10). All made the postseason. Arizona (10) went 10-6; Chicago (12) and Pittsburgh (10) both went 8-8.

But at the other end: Super Bowl champion Seattle has three such players while AFC champion Denver has six.

So what does it mean? Your players over 30 had better produce. Seven of their nine thirtysomethings play defense; four play along the line. Is it good that a defense coming off a tough season has that many older players? The Redskins appear to have taken a win-now approach with the hope of finding young guys in the draft to groom. That’s fine, but it had better work, otherwise they’ll just be old and slow.

Another note: The Redskins have four players who are 29 (three on offense, all linemen). Their offensive nucleus is young and can help now and in the future. But elsewhere the roster will be in transition for a couple years.

Anyway, here’s the Redskins' thirtysomethings:

Moss
WR Santana Moss (34): He’s not a lock to make the roster and if he does it’ll be as a backup, barring injuries. If Leonard Hankerson is healthy Moss would have to be sixth on the list at receiver (also behind Aldrick Robinson). At this point Moss is insurance.

S Ryan Clark (34): Pittsburgh felt he had lost a step and opted for a younger player in Mike Mitchell. The Redskins did not want to overpay at this position and valued Clark's experience. He’ll be the defensive leader, or should be. And if the younger players pay attention, they’ll improve.

DL Jason Hatcher (31): Coming off his best season and expected to help the pass rush. He did not look like a player slowing down last season. The Redskins worked his contract so that he could be cut after two years and they’d gain cap relief. A wise move. But he should help.

G Chris Chester (31): Not coming off his best season, but in 2012 he was steady and viewed as a smart player. The Redskins wanted to upgrade their interior and he’s still around, at a higher cap figure, too, so they still value him. But he must play better this season. They have young backup guards; are any ready to challenge him? After three years, one of them should be ready. If not ...

Meriweather
S Brandon Meriweather (30): Signed back on a one-year deal. With Clark here, he’ll be able to play more in the box, where he’s best suited. But he needs to improve his consistency with tackling and positioning. Maybe a year further removed from knee surgery will help, too. But his troubles didn't all stem from being slow or late. Had Phillip Thomas not been hurt last summer, Meriweather might not have returned. But he was hurt, so the alternative was to re-sign Meriweather or find another player in free agency. They did not view the non-expensive options as better. As for Thomas, Lisfranc injuries can be tricky, so it’s tough to know how he'll look this summer.

CB DeAngelo Hall (30): Did play well last season, earning a new contract, and has matured. Played better in press coverage. When corners start to go downhill, it can happen fast. It’s hard to see that happening this year.

DL Kedric Golston (30): Valuable and inexpensive backup; prepares and works hard. Good special-teamer, too. Tough to let guys like that go. At some point you need young legs coming off the bench, especially with an experienced (aging) group of starters. But Golston can still help.

Cofield
DL Barry Cofield (30): Still agile, quick and capable of being a quality starter. Hatcher’s presence in nickel situations should result in more one-on-one matchups. He’s taken a pounding the last couple years, but it’s reasonable to expect him to play at a solid level this season and even next.

DL Stephen Bowen (30): It’s tough for players when they hit this age and are coming off microfracture surgery. Heck, it’s tough for any player coming off that surgery. He’s still in their plans, but his cap number ($7.02 million) makes him a candidate for some sort of restructuring – or a release and re-sign. I have not heard they’re going to do so, but it’s logical to wonder. Just like it’s logical to wonder what he’ll be able to do. When healthy he can still help against the run, but he has not provided the needed pass rush since 2011.
I'll be taking a look all week at some of the needs the Washington Redskins entered the offseason with, what they've done and if it's still a need. First up: Safety.

Meriweather
What they’ve done: Re-signed Brandon Meriweather; added Ryan Clark; signed Akeem Davis. Reed Doughty remains unsigned. From what I’ve heard, opinions are split as to whether they want him back. Hence, still unsigned. Davis is a former undrafted free agent who has yet to play in an NFL game.

Projected starters: Clark at free safety; Meriweather at strong safety. Obviously both must be able to play the other spot, and the Redskins safeties have to be interchangeable as well.

Clark
Problem solved?: No. Meriweather did not have a strong season in 2013, missing too many tackles and not making many plays. He played a lot more at free safety out of necessity, so perhaps playing more in the box will make a difference. The Steelers considered Clark done and opted for free agent Mike Mitchell (whom the Redskins targeted as well). It’s fair to wonder what he has left. But if Clark consistently makes tackles and provides leadership, then he’ll be an upgrade, albeit a short-term one. The Redskins have put a band-aid on this position.

What needs to happen: The young players need to develop and that’s where Clark can be a real bonus, helping them on the practice field and in the classroom. When you want to draft and develop players, you absolutely need veterans such as Clark around. Based on where he started, Clark has had an improbable run in the NFL -- an undersized guy who wasn’t a blazer yet started on two Super Bowl winning teams. He’ll be the best leader on the defense. And not only is he a good leader, he’s well-schooled in this defense because of his Pittsburgh ties. Between Clark and secondary coach Raheem Morris, the young players have what they need at their disposal. If they don’t develop, it’s absolutely on the player. The fear: Are these young guys worth developing? Bacarri Rambo has a heck of a lot to prove and would be wise to show a lot more on special teams. The problem is, the concerns people had on him coming out of Georgia showed up during his rookie year. His lack of impact on special teams is troubling. Young safeties must help in this area (tough to do so immediately, but it should have clicked by season’s end here). And Phillip Thomas not only needs to overcome a tricky Lis Franc injury -- by all accounts he’s recovering fine, but the key will be showing explosive reactions -- but then prove he can start in the NFL. He doesn’t need to do it immediately, thanks to the two veteran starters.

Address in the draft: Yes. I’d select another safety, if possible (in other words: don’t reach). Rambo has ability, but I’d challenge the heck out of him and see how he responds; you do that with competititon. I’m a fan of Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward, but 34 might be too high for him and the third round likely too late.

Last word: The Redskins opted not to spend big on safety and I don’t think it’s a bad strategy, despite the growing importance of the position thanks to spread offenses. I always felt the pass rush was a bigger need because of the impact it can have. I was surprised they showed a lot of interest in Mitchell in the legal tampering period and just as free agency started only to lose him. But it showed their mindset; the players they truly wanted they were more aggressive with (Jason Hatcher, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts). If the pass rush improves, then the secondary will benefit. It won’t solve everything, however. But if you were going to fix one area this offseason, it had to be the pass rush. The key is adding more young players and hoping one or two can develop into starters for 2015.
When you take a look at the Redskins’ salary-cap breakdown defensively, it becomes clear – if it wasn’t already. They’re spending a lot more on their front seven, compared to the NFL average, than the back four. That means they’d best hope that an improved pass rush compensates for what they couldn’t add in the secondary.

For the record, Washington has approximately $2.8 million of salary-cap space remaining, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Anyway, here’s a defensive breakdown by position (and click here for the offensive breakdown) with numbers courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information gang:

Defensive line

Number on roster: 11
Total percentage of cap space: 20.57
Total cap value: $26,516,642
NFL average: $21,632,204
Biggest cap hit: Barry Cofield ($7,667,500).
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone is here, though if Jason Hatcher produces, then his $3.75 million cap hit will be a huge bargain. Jarvis Jenkins has a $1.5 million cap hit, which is below average for an NFL defensive lineman. Chris Baker will have a higher cap figure this season ($2 million). But I wrestle with calling Jenkins underpaid; I’d like to see more plays.
Looking to the future: Jenkins and Chris Neild are free agents after this season. But if Baker and/or Clifton Geathers show they can be more than part-time players then it gives the Redskins option should they let Jenkins walk. Stephen Bowen has a $7.02 million cap hit this season and it jumps by another million in 2015. I can’t imagine he plays at those numbers, not coming off microfracture surgery. But if he does play at that figure this season, the Redskins – if they want – could release him next offseason and get a $5.5 million cap savings. Multiple people in the organization have said Bowen remains in the plans for 2014.

Linebacker

Number on roster: 12
Total percentage of cap space: 18.5
Total cap value: $23,901,881
NFL average: $15,201,455
Biggest cap hit: Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000)
Underpaid: Ryan Kerrigan will count $2.8 million against the cap, a much lower sum than he’ll soon receive. If Akeem Jordan wins the starting inside linebacker job next to Perry Riley, then you could consider him underpaid as he’ll only count $635,000 against the cap and also would be a big help on special teams.
Looking to the future: Kerrigan is in the last year of his rookie contract, but the Redskins have until May 3 to decide whether to extend it by one year (at an average fourth through 25th highest-paid players at his position). Jordan, Rob Jackson and Darryl Sharpton all signed one-year deals this offseason. If the Redskins don't draft an inside linebacker, they have to hope Keenan Robinson stays healthy and shows why teammates have praised his talent since his arrival.

Cornerback

Number on roster: 7
Total percentage of cap space: 6.1
Total cap value: $7,873,638
NFL average: $12,316,626
Biggest cap hit: Tracy Porter ($2,800,000)
Underpaid: DeAngelo Hall is coming off his best season in Washington and will count only $2.1 million against the cap – 55 corners will occupy more cap space.
Looking to the future: E.J. Biggers is the only corner who will be a free agent after this season. But it wouldn’t be surprising to see them draft someone else, in case Hall’s play slips that much or Porter doesn’t help or just to add depth. Richard Crawford still has to prove his knee is sound and that he’ll continue improving. Same with Chase Minnifield.


Safety

Number on roster: 7
Total percentage of cap space: 2.91
Total cap value: $3,746,719
NFL average: $8,237,006
Biggest cap hit: Brandon Meriweather ($1 million)
Underpaid: No one here is underpaid, though if Ryan Clark can coax out another good year and help groom some young safeties, then his $635,000 cap hit will qualify. But they also have to have young safeties worth grooming.
Looking to the future: Meriweather and Clark have one-year deals, which means the Redskins could well be in the same position next offseason in looking for starting safeties. Of course, they could still draft one (I would) and hope that between the rookie and the two young holdovers from last year, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas, that they’ll find one starter and then only need to find one more. Thomas must prove that he’s not only healthy but can move as he did before the Lisfranc injury. Rambo has to earn a job this year. Neither holdover is a given to be a starter – in 2014 or beyond.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
10:00
AM ET
In Part 2 of the Washington Redskins mailbag, we have more questions about the offensive line, developing players and a little bit about the defensive backs. All will remain topics until, oh, the season begins.

 

Resetting the roster: safety

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
5:10
PM ET
Taking a look at the Redskins' safety position a week into free agency. Safety was said to be a primary target; it has not developed that way, however.

On the roster: Brandon Meriweather, Jose Gumbs, Trent Robinson, Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas.

Added in free agency: None.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clark
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesVeteran Ryan Clark could be a short-term solution for the Redskins at safety.
In talks with: Ryan Clark. He visited last week and remains a possibility. He's also drawn interest from Baltimore and the New York Jets. There is no rush on his end to get a contract done so he's content to wait and see if the right offer materializes. Clark would be a short-term solution, but he could help develop some of the young players and be a respected voice in the meeting room.

Left in free agency: The Redskins haven't lost any safeties in free agency.

Still unsigned: Reed Doughty. The Redskins backup strong safety, who is always pressed into a starting role, might return. But there's definite division over whether or not that should be the case. The real problem has never been Doughty, but the organization's inability to find a full-time starter ahead of him.

Still on the market: Thomas DeCoud, Chris Clemons, Mike Adams. Really, the list is not long and not impressive. Atlanta cut DeCoud after a poor season; he's best suited most likely near the line of scrimmage. With Meriweather back that's not necessarily what the Redskins need. Clemons has not drawn a lot of interest on the market. The Dolphins opted for Louis Delmas, who barely practiced last season. Adams wasn't anything special for the Broncos, but can play in the box, too. They signed T.J. Ward, but he's more of a strong safety whereas Adams is a free safety. The Redskins clearly did not view the other safeties as better than Meriweather. But they failed in their quest to land Mike Mitchell, who ended up with Pittsburgh. I don't know how close the money was, but it's clear they're not as aggressive as they once were and, as one agent said, general manager Bruce Allen likes to "slow play" this process.

What it means thus far: It's not that the Redskins didn't view safety as a problem, but perhaps not to the extent that others did. By that, I mean almost everyone else. It's also true you can't solve every issue in one offseason. But they signed Meriweather to a one-year deal and it's hard to imagine Clark getting anything other than a one- or two-year deal. So that means Washington will be back in this spot relatively soon. However, it also gives them another year to see if one of the young players can develop -- or to draft someone in the second or third round and groom him for 2015. Perhaps one from among the group of four young safeties can develop in another year or so. Thomas must overcome a tricky Lisfranc injury; not impossible, but tough and it's not as if he was on the cusp of starting before getting hurt. In talking to several who scouted Rambo at Georgia, the problems he showed last year were the same he showed in college that caused NFL teams pause. Not a good sign. I can't imagine, though, that something else won't be done at this position.

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