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Need to Know: Where do the Redskins still have needs?

Need to Know: Where do the Redskins still have needs?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 15, 76 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I think that going into the offseason just about everybody knew that the Redskins would not be able to fix everything that was wrong with them in the wake winning just seven games over the last two seasons. And while Scot McCloughan did address a lot of positions, signing half a dozen veteran free agents and drafting 10 players, there is still work to be done, some holes that will need to be filled.

While there isn’t a position on the field that couldn’t use more good players, some remain weaker than others. On the defensive side of the ball the weak spot is safety. It’s hard to look at free safety Dashon Goldson and see anything than a 2015 version of Ryan Clark in terms of being a one-year patch at the position. He’ll turn 32 early in the season and his play the last two years has been spotty at best. Goldson’s contract is essentially a one-year deal since his salary skyrockets to $7 million next year, an amount the Redskins aren’t going to pay.

Behind him is Akeem Davis, who has way too much to learn to be counted on this year and he may never be a full-time solution. Perhaps a cornerback will move over to serve as free safety depth but David Amerson or DeAngelo Hall would be little more than additional short-term fixes.

Jeron Johnson is at the top of the depth chart at strong safety. With just one NFL start under his belt he has to be considered a question mark. Behind him are Phillip Thomas, Duke Ihenacho, and rookie Kyshoen Jarrett. While it’s possible that any or all of them could blossom into solid players you can't really check the box and say that strong safety is a solid and settled position.

On the other side of the ball, the position with major question marks is quarterback. There is optimism that Robert Griffin III can take hold of the position but it is far from a sure thing. Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy have had their moments but it’s a major stretch to think that either one of them can morph into a franchise quarterback.

In discussing current areas of weakness here we're assuming that the players the team drafted and signed all work out to reasonable expectations. That rarely happens so the to-do list for 2016 could well grow larger.

Let’s be clear here; I’m not saying that McCloughan bypassed any plausible solutions at these positions. The draft was very thin at safety and quarterbacks are always hard to find. We’ll just have to see what happens this year and continue to try to locate solutions.

Timeline

—It’s been 138 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 121 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 32; Redskins training camp starts 76; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 132

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Who will be the Redskins new top wideout?

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Who will be the Redskins new top wideout?

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay make predictions about the Redskins leading wideout in 2017 and how the offense shakes out. Plus, who will drink the most beer over Memorial Day? Bonus guest local celebrity Mitch Tischler joins the pod.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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After 4 teams in 5 seasons, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

After 4 teams in 5 seasons, D.J. Swearinger knows what it takes to make the Redskins home

It's never been a talent issue for D.J. Swearinger. In college he made big plays and earned all conference honors playing in the SEC at South Carolina. He was drafted high by Houston, second round in 2013, and started 10 games his rookie season. 

In his first two seasons with the Texans, Swearinger started 22 games and proved to be a playmaker. He logged three interceptions and more than 100 tackles. He looked like a possible long-term answer at safety, until he was uncermoniously cut after his second year.

Reports showed Swearinger bucked at playing special teams. And over time, a reputation as a big - sometimes dirty - hitter emerged. 

None of it helped Swearinger, who was signed by Tampa in 2015. He played seven games for the Bucs but was cut mid-season. Arizona signed him late in the 2015 season, and kept him for 2016.

Last year, playing on a defense with strong leaders like Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson, Swearinger excelled. He played all over the Cardinals secondary, starting 12 games and making plays like he did early in his career in Houston.

He finished the 2016 season with three interceptions, two sacks and eight passes defensed. He made more than 50 tackles. Pro Football Focus rated Swearinger with a +15.3 grade, by far the highest of his career and good for the 8th best rating of any safety in the NFL.

The Redskins haven't had solid safety play in years. In 2016, the team tried to address the position on the cheap, converting cornerbacks to safeties and signing low tier free agents. It didn't work.

So, finally, in 2017 the Redskins front office addressed the safety position by signing Swearinger to a three-year deal. And it sounds like the 25-year-old has grown up a lot after five years of bouncing around the league.

"I've been on a lot of teams. I want to make this home," Swearinger said (full video above). "I feel like I’m experienced enough to know what to do as a pro, know what to do to stay on top of things and be a pro. As long as I be a pro every day and make the plays I’m capable of, I’ll be a Redskin."

Swearinger's deal will keep him with the Redskins through the 2019 season, but already, head coach Jay Gruden seems excited about the new safety. Earlier this offseason, Gruden said watching film of Swearinger revealed a player hitting the highest levels of safety play in the NFL. In OTAs, seeing Swearinger in person, Gruden was impressed.

"Watching him the first two days really excites me. He just looks like a safety back there," Gruden said. "No offense to the previous safeties we’ve had before, but I just think D.J. is to a level in his career right now where he’s got a lot of confidence. He has got a lot of talent."

There was some question if Swearinger can play the free safety role in Washington. More to the point, if he has the speed to play a true center field, with second-year man Su'a Cravens moving from linebacker to strong safety. Swearinger has zero concerns.

"I'm a free safety, I think that fits my body well," he said. "As a free safety you got to have the confidence in yourself that you can run with those guys and make plays on those guys."

Swearinger doesn't lack for confidence, and he shouldn't. Combined with Cravens, along with Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland at cornerback, the Redskins secondary could be a strength in 2017.

"We have a lot of talent. If we work day in and day out, I think this group can be one of the best," Swearinger said. "We just got to keep working, keep gelling to get everybody on the same page, the sky’s the limit."

It's normal for players to be excited in May. There supposed to be. 

Coaches, however, tend to be more hesitant with praise. Not optimism, but actual praise, though when it comes to Swearinger, Gruden isn't shy about his expectations.

"We know that he’s a physical guy, but as far as coverages and breaking up things, he’s got a lot of confidence and I think he’s going to really, really emerge as a top safety not only for this team but in this league," the coach said of his new free safety.

It's been a long journey for Swearinger, four teams in five season. He's hoping this one sticks. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back