Depth chart preview: Free safety

Depth chart preview: Free safety
July 17, 2013, 11:15 am
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Over the past few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler have taken a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart. 

Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Aug 31. 

So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …

Position: Free safety

On the roster: Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, DeJon Gomes, Jordan Pugh, Jordan Bernstine, Devin Holland

Expected to make the cut: Meriweather, Doughty, Thomas, Rambo

Comment: If you’re working under the assumption that a healthy Brandon Meriweather will be the Redskins’ starter at strong safety, that means the only clear cut job opening on either side of the ball is at free safety – the spot vacated by Madieu Williams, the only starter not re-signed.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett hinted last month that one of the rookie safeties – Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo – could be pressed into starting duty sooner rather than later. And while that’s certainly possible, it would seem a bit unlikely for Week 1 given the complexities of the Redskins’ scheme and the offenses they’ll face. Both showed flashes during OTAs and minicamp and project as eventual starters. But that’s a lot to digest in a short amount of time, even if they played in a similar system in college.

For that reason, I suspect it’s more likely we’ll see Meriweather and versatile veteran Reed Doughty open the season as starters. That said, however, I wouldn’t be shocked if each of the four safeties gets at least one start in ’13.

However it shakes out, though, Coach Mike Shanahan is sure to get at safety exactly what he wants at all positions – intense competition.

The X-factor in the equation is Tanard Jackson. Suspended for a year for a third violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, Jackson, 27, remains on the Redskins’ roster under the reserve/suspended designation. He’s not eligible to be reinstated by the Commissioner until Aug. 31, at the earliest, but I suppose there’s an outside (read: very outside) chance he’ll contribute at some point this season. 

Fighting for a job: Gomes, Pugh, Bernstine, Holland

Comment: If the Redskins keep five safeties on the 53-man roster as they did last year, Meriweather, Doughty, Thomas and Rambo would appear to be locks to make the final cut.

Such a scenario would leave one job available. Given Gomes’ contributions on special teams – his nine tackles were fourth most on the team behind Lorenzo Alexander, Doughty and Niles Paul – he’s probably got an edge. Gomes also has more experience – eight NFL starts – than the others.

Although Bernstine earned a spot on the 53 as a rookie, he’s attempting to return from a devastating knee injury. He would seem to be a good candidate for the practice squad.

The others – Pugh, a solid contributor last season, and Holland, a depth signing in January – will probably have to stand out on special teams and leapfrog Gomes.

Go here to see our other depth chart preview posts.

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