State of the Redskins: Safeties
- Updated: June 29, 2012
Welcome to the second installment of our State of the Redskins series here at SOW. We had some really incredible reactions to our look at the WR’s earlier this week. I’ve seen everything from “You’re an idiot Ray, no way Banks gets cut”, to “This is the most reasonable WR Depth Chart we have seen.”
Whatever your opinion on the receivers, we’re just glad you enjoyed the piece enough to comment on a position group that clearly went through some major changes since last season.
That said, let’s move to the other side of the ball and look at a unit that will be experiencing a 100% change in starters for the 2012 season – the safeties.
On paper, the 2011 Redskins were poised to have perhaps the best safety tandem in the NFL. With the supposed reemergence of LaRon Landry as one of the more feared hitters in the league, and the addition of rumored turnover machine OJ Atogwe, Redskins nation assumed this unit would be set for the next few years.
What was it my mother used to tell me about assuming??? Oh yeah. . .
Our assumption, like most assumptions, did not take into account some important information, such as the fact that Landry is apparently made of paper mâchė, and that OJ would suffer from his own breakout of boo boos. Both players could not stay healthy last year, and thus failed to make any real impact.
You can blame the lack of any offseason rehab due to the lockout for either/both results if that makes you feel better, but LaRon instead chose to blame the medical and training staff for allegedly handling him improperly. I could argue that he should have had the surgery the staff urged him to have to fix his Achilles, and he should have spent more time preparing for actual football games, instead of, oh I don’t know… looking like he was training for a Miss Mister Universe Competition?
In 2012, the Redskins look to have two new starters at safety, but the question is: does the staff have enough talent to field and NFL-caliber safety unit?
While he may possess a jaw-dropping physique that creates creepy man-crushes from fans, let’s face it– NO ONE should be shocked that LaRon is no longer sporting the Burgundy and Gold. The guy looks like he should be the missing member of the Avengers, no doubt, and when healthy he, at times, seemed like he could be one of the best in the league. Problem is, performance enhancement in the gym does not equal performance on the field.
More importantly, it’s impossible to perform when you spend half the games standing on the sideline dealing with an injury. Landry, who was drafted to solidify the safety position next to the late great Sean Taylor, never lived up to the potential that we all were envisioning. Sadly, the massive expectations that Redskins Nation had for “Area51” never were realized.
Atogwe was not much better. As mentioned, he spent 2011 dealing with his own injury issues, but that is not what led to his departure.
Atogwe was brilliant in St. Louis under Haslett, but the outstanding performances he previously turned in never materialized at his new home in Washington (where have we heard that story before?). To be fair though, he wasn’t horrible. I don’t believe that OJ played his way out of DC, performing just well enough to see a second year under Haz.
Then CapGate happened.
So far, OJ is probably the biggest casualty from the controversial salary cap situation. At worst, OJ would have been given the opportunity to fight for his roster spot through camp, but Papa Goodell sealed his fate a few months early.
Of the six safeties currently on the roster, four of them were not Redskins in 2011. Tenard Jackson played under DB Coach Raheem Morris during his head coaching stint in Tampa Bay. Brandon Meriweather was trying (and failing) to return to Pro Bowl form in Chicago’s Tampa 2 system that proved to be a very poor match for his skill set. Madieu Williams was busy contributing exactly nothing to an AWESOME 49ers defense, and Jordan Bernstine was taking basket weaving 101 at Iowa.
Remember the scene in “Money Ball” when Brad Pitt has his scouts gathered around him, and they’re all telling him he’s lost his freaking mind for trying to replace Johnny Damon with some 3 rejects instead of one high-priced player?
This is pretty much the same situation. Sure, Meriweather and Jackson have the talent to be starters. But despite Brandon’s two Pro Bowl appearances, he has failed to play at anything close to a high level since then, and Jackson has twice violated the league’s substance abuse policy, resulting in a lengthy suspension. Neither has ever really consistently put it together, but they both have pretty specific skill sets, which could mean that Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett have a specific plan behind bringing in these two veterans.
The X Factor at the safety position is a man who won’t even step on the field for one snap this season. New DB Coach Raheem Morris brings an energy and enthusiasm to the defensive backfield that I have not ever seen before. Watching him coach, even during rookie camps, it is clear that Morris has made an immediate impact on this unit.
Players seem to respond to Morris’ youthful energy and seem generally excited to play for the guy. If the safety unit is going to succeed in 2012, it will be largely due to the rescue operation Morris performs with this island of misfit toys.
Reed Doughty has spent his entire career trying to prove that he belongs on an NFL Roster, and he had the unenviable task of replacing Sean Taylor after he passed away in 2007. Doughty is very solid against the run but absolutely miserable against the pass, and because of that, he gets picked on relentlessly in the air (see Johnson, Andre). Look for Reed to continue to be a role playing safety that fills in when he is needed, but don’t expect to see him in the starting lineup outside of injury.
It is hard to not like some of the things DeJon Gomes showed in his Rookie season. Gomes saw significant playing time in 15 games, starting in 5, recording 35 tackles and two pass defenses. If he takes the next step, Gomes has a legit shot at becoming a full-time starter in his second year, but it remains to be seen if he is up to the task.
Projected Depth Chart
While they may leave quite a bit to be desired on paper, the 2012 Redskins Safeties will be in constant competition. That is exactly what Mike Shanahan wants at every position. In theory, competition causes the cream to rise to the top, unless of course, there is no cream. Honestly, it’s pretty tough to say this is a good safety unit and keep a straight face. Hopefully, Haz and Morris are able to get more from these guys than anyone expects.
- Brandon Meriweather
- Reed Doughty
- Tenard Jackson
- Tenard Jackson
- DeJon Gomes
- Madieu Williams
- Jordan Bernstine
Yes, the whole “one guy at two positions” thing can get confusing, but even though they are both listed as FS– if I had to bet– I would say the Jackson and Merriweater get the starting nods come September.