Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett expressed confidence in his backup defensive backs on Thursday, three days before the Redskins will face one of the NFLs most prolific passers on the road.Were not concerned, Haslett said at Redskins Park. We have good players on the back end. The guys that are going to play for Brandon Meriweather will fill in and do a good job. Last year they did a nice job for us and this year they are more experienced.Meriweather, who had been projected to start at strong safety, will miss 2-4 weeks with two sprained ligaments in his left knee, Coach Mike Shanahan revealed on Wednesday.Haslett did not specify which reserve will step in for Meriweather, but the early indications are it could be DeJon Gomes, who, along with Reed Doughty, is listed next on the depth chart.Gomes, however, is better in coverage, which figures to be important against Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and a high-octane Saints' offense that racked up 334 passing yards per game last season.I think hes made great improvement in the back end in the offseason, Haslett said of Gomes cover skills.A week ago, the Redskins also lost Tanard Jackson to a year-long suspension for his third violation of leagues substance abuse policy. Jackson had been listed as a reserve at the time of his suspension, but was in the mix to receive ample playing time at both safety spots.Asked whether the depleted secondary puts more pressure on the Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the Redskins front seven to fluster Brees, Haslett agreed.We kind of rely on them a lot anyway, Haslett said. They have a great challenge this week.
When it comes to drafting running backs, Scot McCloughan prefers low-mileage models.
Last year, McCloughan took Matt Jones, who had 297 rushing attempts in three seasons at Florida, in the third round. This year the running back pick was Keith Marshall, a seventh-round pick who carried the ball 253 times in four years as a Georgia Bulldog.
In contrast, Heisman Trophy winning back Derrick Henry had 395 carries in 2015 alone.
Of course, Henry got the ball a lot because he was consistently productive for the Crimson Tide. Injuries kept Marshall from having a bigger role at Georgia and Jones couldn’t break out of a running back by committee arrangement with the Gators.
McCloughan sees the positive in each of his backs’ situations.
“The thing I like about it, and it was the thing with Matt Jones last year, is the amount of carries he’s had,” he said when asked about Marshall’s lack of college production. “He hasn’t been beat up. With running backs, it’s so important to have the health. The more hits you take, the worse off it is. Again, we’ll see how it shakes out.”
McCloughan may just be trying to put some lipstick on a pig here in talking about the Redskins’ still uncertain running back situation. But it’s a fact that heavy college workloads taken on by backs like Henry do drop their draft stocks. So it makes sense that all other things being equal a back who had a light workload prior to entering the draft should be somewhat more valuable.
As McCloughan said, we’ll see how it shakes out.
Scot McCloughan raised some eyebrows by executing draft trades that got the Redskins three picks in the 2017 NFL draft. He says he did it in part with the 2017 draft in mind. But he also wanted some trade assets should any needs arise this coming season.
“A lot of people don’t want to do it because it’s not immediate impact,” McCloughan said at a news conference at Redskins Park. “‘Well, that’s next year. What about this year?’ Coaches want this year, which I understand completely. But what it gives me the opportunity to do is not just worry about next year’s draft and trading up and that kind of stuff, but this offseason and during the season trading. We’ve got multiple picks now.”
So if the Redskins find themselves in need of a player at any point between now and the trading deadline, which falls in early November, they have spare picks in the next draft to be able to do so.
The Redskins acquired 2017 picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. They traded away their own 2017 fifth-rounder last summer for tight end Derek Carrier. They currently have nine 2017 selections, one in each of the seven rounds plus two in the fourth and two in the sixth.
The deal that made some fans moderately unhappy was the one McCloughan made the Jets to give them a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2017. But it’s clear that McCloughan didn’t see much value on his board at that point in time.
“Well, the thing about it was if I was dead set on the guys on the board at that pick, I would have taken them,” said McCloughan. “But knowing I can get a fourth next year for them and knowing that it gives me ammunition to trade around too later if need be this year or next year? Yeah, it’s valuable.”
When the Redskins draft Su’a Cravens in the second round, they told him that he would be a nickel outside linebacker. But his jersey number is 36, which is not a linebackers number; it is the number that safety Sean Taylor wore during his rookie year. And he was listed on the roster as a safety.
When speaking to the media yesterday, Scot McCloughan was still unsure what meeting room Cravens would sit in. Apparently the situation has been clarified. This morning McCloughan said that Cravens will play strong safety in the Redskins’ base defense.
“I think he’ll come in as a strong safety,” McCloughan told Mike Florio on PFT Live. “We’ll put him in that room first.”
The fact that they will start him off at safety, however, does not mean that they will not take advantage of his versatility.
“As you’re well aware, he has the ability to play outside backer,” said McCloughan. “The thing we’re excited about . . . is pass rush ability. We see him, in base, probably being a strong safety, in sub, be an outside backer, even play him at inside linebacker in sub.”
McCloughan sees Cravens as a player who can become a playmaker on a defense that doesn’t have many players like that.
“He’s a good football player, you know, he’s instinctive. Day 1, he talked into USC, starting making plays,” he said. “Again, he’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest, he’s not the quickest but he makes plays. He’s got instincts. That’s what you look for on Sundays.”