Redskins Defense Projections: Preseason Week Two Edition
Heading into the 2013 season, the Redskins are hoping for an improved defense. The lack of a pass rush last season put extra pressure on a secondary lacking star power. Brian Orakpo is back to help supply pressure and a trio of rookies were drafted to infuse some much needed youth and athleticism in the defensive backfield.
Defensive Tackle (3)
Barry Cofield has turned out to be a premier free agent addition and we may see his versatility this season as a defensive end in certain situations. When Chris Neild was lost for the season early on in ’12, Chris Baker had his chance and certainly delivered. Like Cofield, Baker has been getting some work at end. Former Patriot Ron Brace was added in free agency during the off-season and has untapped potential. Brace was selected by New England in the second round (40th overall) in the ’09 draft, but never impressed in Boston. Conclusion: Some teams that employ the 3-4 scheme will keep only two tackles, but with the Redskins moving Cofield and Baker around they will need at least three. The battle will be between Neild and Brace and I would go with the upside that Brace brings.
Defensive End (4)
It is looking more and more like the team will have to do without defensive end Adam Carriker for another season. At 6’6″ 305, Carriker is an ideal 3-4 end, stout enough to stand up against the run while providing occasional push in the passing game. Stephen Bowen arrived in the same free agent class as Cofield and is a very underrated talent. Much more is expected (and needed) from Jarvis Jenkins on the opposite side. A high second round pick out of Clemson in the 2011 draft, Jenkins missed his rookie season with a torn ACL after an outstanding preseason. Jenkins was largely a disappointment last season, perhaps another year removed from the injury will help. Kedric Golston is one of the senior members of the team and is a steady backup. Free agent Phillip Merling was selected atop the 2nd round of the 2008 by Miami, but was cut loose after four seasons. Merling spent about half of the ’12 season with Green Bay before signing with Washington as a free agent in the offseason. Conclusion: Carriker cannot be counted upon due to health concerns, but the four veterans in camp; Bowen, Jenkins, Golston and Merling are a solid group.
The linebacker corps took a hit losing Keenan Robinson (again) for the season. Robinson was being groomed to eventually replace London Fletcher and 2013 would have been his last chance to learn behind the veteran on the field. Rob Jackson had a breakout season filling in for the injured Brian Orakpo, but will miss the four weeks of the season due to suspension. The return of Orakpo is huge, providing balance on the opposite side of Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan has been everything the team hoped for, and more, a leader of the team for years to come. This is the last run for Fletcher, coming off injury for the first time, lets hope he can continue to perform at the high level we are accustomed to. Brandon Jenkins was a steal in the fifth round of the draft this Spring. If not for injury, Jenkins had been projected as an early pick after an outstanding sophomore season. Perry Riley will man the inside spot opposite Fletcher and is quickly becoming one of the top inside linebackers in the NFC. Nick Barnett was a nice addition midway through training camp. After eight seasons with Green Bay, Barnett spent the past two seasons in Buffalo where he posted a combined 242 tackles. Veteran Bryan Kehl was brought back and although he provides versatility, will be expected to provide depth on the inside. Conclusion: For the long term, the team needs at least eight linebackers, we will roll with seven in this projects with Jackson being the eighth beginning after the bye week. The starting four are obvious, with Jenkins, Kehl, Barnett and eventually Jackson in reserve.
Projected and returning starters DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson have been banged up, giving ample opportunity to others to get a chance and earn a roster spot. David Amerson could end up one of the steals of the ’13 draft. Amerson has the size, athleticism and ball hawking skills that make up solid corners at this level. Another rookie making his mark is undrafted free agent Chase Minnifield. We know that Chase has the bloodlines and was a standout corner at Virginia before the injuries set in. E.J. Biggers was the cornerback the team decided to add in free agency and adds great depth to the position. Richard Crawford was a nice “find” in the ’12 draft and figures in the long term plans, not only at corner, but as a punt returner as well. Conclusion: The team keeps half a dozen corners; returning starters Hall and Wilson, future starters Minnifield and Amerson, potential nickel back Biggers and a potential rising star in Crawford. Should injury concerns sideline Minnifield, I like the potential Jerome Murphy has, if given the chance.
The position group needing the biggest improvement lost Phillip Thomas for the season, putting more pressure on fellow rookie Bacarri Rambo. Tanard Jackson is expected to be cleared by the NFL front office at the end of the month and remains a wildcard. Brandon Meriweather is being counted on to start and only health stands in his way. With our projection including six cornerbacks, only four safeties figure to make the opening 53 man roster. Reed Doughty is a fan favorite and a special teams cornerstone, but is a big liability against the pass. Conclusion: Will Jackson be able to step right in? Meriweather and probably the starters at this point and obviously locks to make the roster. I like what DeJon Gomes and Jordan Pugh bring and will run with them as the backups over the veteran Doughty.
Tom Blaz is a co-owner of the DC Sports Report and The Recruiting Eagle, which focus on Athletics at Auburn University. You may follow Tom on twitter at #RecruitingEagle