Who will be the Redskins' nickel back?

Who will be the Redskins' nickel back?
July 14, 2013, 11:45 am
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Tarik talks training camp, Skins' receiver and o-line depth

Tandler - Tarik

By Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler

Twenty questions No. 11—Who will be the nickel cornerback?

The 2013 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 20 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.

Nickel cornerback was something of a revolving door for the Redskins during the 2012 season. The team signed veteran Cedric Griffin to play the position. When he was playing he was mediocre and he was in and out of the lineup with an injury and then with a drug-related suspension. There was no effort made to bring him back for 2013. At times Richard Crawford played well, at others he played like the sixth-round draft pick that he was. They gave journeyman D. J. Johnson a shot until he gave up a long TD bomb against the Browns. Can they find a quality player to fill a position that, given all of the multiple wide receiver sets teams use these days, is essentially a starting job?

Rich Tandler: Crawford and Griffin combined to allow opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of over 100 when throwing in their directions. You don’t have to be an advanced statistics analyst to figure out that the Redskins need to get better at nickel if their pass defense is going to get better. They did address the need in the offseason by signing free agent corner E. J. Biggers and drafting David Amerson in the second round. The plan looks simple—have Biggers, a four-year veteran, man the nickel position early in the season. That will give Amerson, who has great physical talent and instincts but has a lot to learn, time to refine his game. I suspect that by the time Thanksgiving rolls around Amerson will be getting most of the nickel snaps. The tag team won’t be great but it should represent a marked improvement over the nickel play in 2012.

Tarik El-Bashir: I’m expecting to see a rotation similar to last year’s. DeAngelo Hall starts at left corner and Josh Wilson on the right side. And when opponents go to three receiver sets, Hall slides to the slot and Biggers covers the left edge. Biggers, in effect, would simply replace the departed Cedric Griffin. Haslett did, however, acknowledge that Biggers was used primarily in the slot this offseason. Biggers, it should be noted, ranked 20th against the pass last season as a member of the Bucs, according to ProFootballFocus.com, so he should be an upgrade. I also agree with Rich about Amerson’s role. Sounds like the coaches really like what they’ve seen from the NC State product. If Amerson catches on quickly, he’ll earn more snaps as the season progresses. Same goes for Crawford. It’s also important to remember that Hall, Wilson and Biggers are all free agents after the season. As a result, the Redskins will want to have at least one of the youngsters ready to start in ’14.

Upcoming on 20 questions

  • Question 10 Monday: What should expected of Fred Davis?
  • Question 9 Tuesday: Is defensive line depth a concern?
  • Question 8 Wednesday: Will Leonard Hankerson have a breakout year?