Friday, April 26, 2013

Grading The Redskins Draft Need Pt.2: Defense and Special Teams

(DeAngelo Hall is back for 2013, but there are serious question marks for 2014 and beyond at corner.)

With the offense out of the way, we can finally take a look at some of the bigger needs that many hope the
Redskins address early and often in the 2013 draft: the defense. Most importantly we'll take a look at the biggest area of need - the secondary.

Defensive End
Notable Players: Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston
Analysis: It was revealed that Adam Carriker suffered a setback in his rehabilitation of a torn quadriceps injury and it questions whether or not he'll be able to play at the start of the regular season. That's bad news since Carriker was dominating on the line of scrimmage and was helping with the pass rush prior to the injury. There is good news however. The Redskins re-signed Kedric Golston who will provide solid depth to the position. The Redskins also have Doug Worthington and Phillip Merling who will both fight for roster spots and can provide rotational depth. This position is one of the deepest on the roster, so I doubt the Redskins will target a DE unless a highly talented player falls to them in later rounds.  I give the position a grade of 2 only because this is such a deep DE draft class this year.
Grade: 2
Nose Tackle
Notable Players: Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Chris Neild
Analysis: Barry Cofield has been a solid contributor and team leader during his stay with the Redskins. Chris Baker provided good rotational depth behind Cofield last year and can be used as more of a traditional run stuffing NT because he fits more of the prototypical size/girth for a NT. Chris Neild is coming off of an ACL tear but had a good 2011 season as Cofield's back up.
Baker signed his restricted free agent tender for 2013 but will be a free agent in 2014. The Redskins could look for a prospect for 2014 and beyond but have decent depth with Cofield and Neild.
Grade: 1
Outside Linebacker
Notable Players: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson
Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys
The Redskins hope to find another OLB prospect in the draft like they did with Rob Jackson.
Analysis: The return of Brian Orakpo to the lineup is critical to the success of Washington's pass rush. Rob Jackson filled in well when Orakpo went down with his second pectoral injury over the past two seasons but it took time for him to adjust to being a starter. Kerrigan seemed to improve upon his pass coverage from 2011 but seemed to struggle with the run game at times and wasn't as much of a pass rush threat as he was the previous year. This is probably due in part with Orakpo's injury and absence from the roster.
With the loss of Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins will be looking for more depth at the OLB position. They re-signed Rob Jackson to a one year deal and have signed former Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp to convert to the position. The Redskins do have issues in 2014 and beyond. Both Orakpo and Jackson will be free agents, so it would be wise of the Redskins to at least find some future talent in the draft and determine if they will be able to keep at least one of the upcoming free agents.
Grade: 3.5
Inside Linebacker
Notable PlayersLondon Fletcher, Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson 
Analysis: In a matter of a few years, the Redskins have developed a solid inside linebacking corp. Perry Riley has become a solid starter, Keenan Robinson showed potential as a run stopper and pass rusher before he was knocked out for the season with a pectoral tear. London Fletcher had another great year although he played with injuries and missed a few more tackles than normal.
The Redskins may need to address the inside linebacker position in this year’s draft because of a few factors. First is that London Fletcher is in the final year of his deal and probably the final year of his career in the NFL. Those will be big shoes to fill, but it would be prudent to find a young linebacker to teach and groom for a year along with Riley and Robinson. Second is that Perry Riley is a free agent in 2014. While I expect that the Redskins will make him one of their top priorities to re-sign, it still would be smart to have players in place if they are unable to do so. Third is that Robinson is coming off an injury from his rookie season. He is still a developing prospect and we really don’t know how he’ll pan out long term with the team or in the NFL.
The good news is that the Redskins have been able to find starting ILB talent in later rounds. Both Riley and Robinson were 4th round picks and it seems like the Redskin will be able to find at least depth in the 4th-7th rounds.
Grade: 3.5
Notable Players: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, EJ Biggers, Richard Crawford 
Analysis: The Redskins secondary struggled significantly during stretches of the 2012 season. There was missed coverage, miscommunication with the safeties and being beaten by WRs at various times. While corner and safety are positions that need to be addressed in this draft, the Redskins have set things up so that corner isn’t a position of dire need at least during 2013. The Redskins signed corner EJ Biggers from Tampa Bay during the off-season. Biggers has knowledge of the secondary because of working with secondary coach (former head coach of the Buccaneers who drafted Biggers during his tenure in Tampa) Raheem Morris and provides speed that the team has wanted.
The team also re-signed DeAngelo Hall after releasing him earlier in the off-season for salary cap reasons. Hall has always been known as a gambling playmaker who takes risks in order to make plays. While not being known as a great cover corner, Hall ended the 2012 regular season with an amazing shut down performance against Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. The Redskins are hoping Hall can have repeat performances like that and be more consistent in 2013.
Josh Wilson had a down year in 2012. Part of the reason may have been because he on many occasions had to go up against the top WRs on the opposing teams. Wilson also may have struggled because a lack of pass rush may have forced him to cover players longer and he seemed to be the most frustrated with not getting help on plays. It was clear that many times Wilson was expecting safety help and didn’t get it or got it late leading to big plays. Hopefully, with some adjustments at the safety position and an improved pass rush, Wilson will be in more of his 2011 form.
While the 2013 starting unit could be set, the 2014 roster and beyond does not have starters in place at the corner position. Biggers, Hall and Wilson will be free agents at the end of the 2013 season. Behind them are a couple of players in Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield. Minnifield at one time was considered to be a 2nd round talent but went undrafted because of injuries and some struggles (associated with said injuries) on the field in his final year at Virginia. He then tore his ACL with the Redskins but should be ready for the 2013 season. Richard Crawford is still developing but had a good year for a rookie. He saw some playing time as the team’s nickel corner and had success returning punts replacing an ineffective Brandon Banks.
The Redskins will probably look towards the future and draft a corner somewhere in the draft. While the ‘Skins may have potential in Crawford and Minnifield, it may be prudent to find a prospect early in the draft that can compete for a starting job in 2014. This would allow the Redskins to not have to depend on Minnifield’s health or have to re-sign all three free agents if money becomes a factor.
Grade: 4.5
Notable Players: Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes
Analysis: I still am of the belief that the starting safety tandem was supposed to be Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather last season. Combined, both players played a total of two quarters in 2012. That’s right, two quarters. Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and Meriweather was injured most of the season. He tore his ACL during a game against the Eagles.
Gijon Robinson Reed Doughty
I like Reed Doughty but the Redskins need a significant upgrade at the safety position.
What was left was a rotation consisting of Reed Doughty, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes, Jordan Pugh and any player that could help play the position (DeAngelo Hall played FS on occasion). It was an ugly experiment as the backups lacked the speed to play deep center, struggled in coverage against tight ends/WRs and failed to provide help to corners in double coverage.
As we head into 2013, Jackson and Meriweather are still on the roster but questions remain if they can be reliable starters. Jackson is still suspended. If he’s allowed to return to the Redskins, it won’t be until the end of August or early September. He will have missed all of the off-season workouts, training camp and the majority of pre-season. Meriweather will be coming off a torn ACL and until he gets out onto the field, we really won’t know if he’ll be able to start.
As  far as I’m concerned the Redskins really need to draft at least 1-2 safeties in this draft with hopes that one of them will be able to start day 1 and develop while on the field. The current roster has some players who are decent at the position in certain packages and could start in an emergency but I really don’t want them to be everyday starters.
Grade: 5
Long Snapper
Notable Player: Nick Sundberg
Analysis: The Redskins are not going to draft a long snapper. They just re-signed Sundberg.
Notable Player: Sav Rocca
Analysis: The Redskins just re-signed Rocca. He had a decent 2012 despite playing with a torn meniscus in his knee. The Redskins are not going to use a draft pick on a punter. If anything, they’ll bring a free agent into camp to compete with Rocca.
Notable Player: Kai Forbath
Analysis: The Redskins were very happy with Forbath after he replaced Billy Cundiff for the job. While Forbath could improve upon his kickoffs, the Redskins will not be using a draft pick on a kicker. If anything they will bring in a free agent to compete with Forbath in camp.

After looking at the entire roster it is clear that the most immediate needs for the Redskins are at the safety, corner and offensive tackle positions. That’s pretty obvious without looking at the entire roster. What is interesting is that the team has needs at other positions that could be addressed during the draft to improve upon depth or to deal with upcoming free agency in 2014. There are significant holes on the roster despite the front office doing a good job keeping their core players intact. An injury or suspension at one of these positions could have detrimental effects to that position group if the Redskins don’t address those issues prior to the start of training camp. However, the Redskins enter the 2013 draft with seven draft picks and it is possible that they leave the draft with even more picks because of trades that may occur. Hopefully, the 2013 Redskins will have significant depth at most positions and will have picked up a few starters thanks to the 2013 draft.

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