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Redskins finding that safety is a tough position to fill

Redskins finding that safety is a tough position to fill

The Redskins can’t be accused of completely neglecting the safety position the past two offseasons. Last year they spent two of their seven draft picks on the position, taking Phillip Thomas in the fourth round and Bacarri Rambo in the sixth. This year they brought back Brandon Meriweather and signed veteran Ryan Clark.

As Redskins fans well know, the position remains unsettled. They could have done more in free agency. Some thought they should have made a bigger effort to land the Bills’ Jairus Byrd, who landed with the Saints, or Carolina’s Mike Mitchell, who ended up signing with the Steelers.

But they chose not to spend heavily at the position and instead brought back Meriweather, who started at safety last year, and signed Clark, who started for the Redskins in 2004-2005 before moving on to the Steelers.

Clark lined up alongside Sean Taylor during the two seasons that Clark was here. Since Clark left, the Redskins have not had the same two primary starters at safety in any two seasons. There are the two safeties with the most starts for the Redskins each season since 2006:

2006: Sean Taylor, Adam Archuleta
2007: Taylor, LaRon Landry
2008: Landry, Chris Horton
2009: Landry, Reed Doughty
2010: Landry, Kareem Moore
2011: Doughty, Landry, O. J. Atogwe (Landry and Atogwe started 8 games each)
2012: Doughty, Madieu Williams
2013: Doughty, Brandon Meriweather

The Redskins have had some bad luck at the position, most notably the tragic loss of Taylor in 2007. Atogwe and Meriweather both had fairly healthy NFL careers before coming to Washington and suffering from some injury woes. It looked like Tanard Jackson was going to be a decent stopgap before he was suspended for substance abuse. Thomas was slated for a big role last year, perhaps even a starting job, before he suffered a Lisfranc injury in a preseason game.

But it’s not as though the Redskins have done much to try to create their own luck at safety. Their free agent signings have been second-tier players at best. Since they took Landry with the sixth overall pick in 2007 they have drafted five safeties, none taken higher than the fourth round. By devoting few dollars and low draft picks to the position the Redskins have created their own outcome.

To be fair, the safety position is getting to be very difficult to fill. “To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said prior to last year’s draft. “The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.”

A look around the NFC East bears out what Roseman said. The Eagles did manage to start the same tandem at safety, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, for two consecutive seasons (2011-2012). They also kept Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine together in 2006-2007. Other than that, like the Redskins, no team in the division has managed to start the same tandem of safeties in consecutive seasons going back to 2006.

As far as the Redskins go, their ability to solve the problem might depend on trying to do something beyond trying to get lucky with a late draft pick or squeezing another year or two out of an aging veteran. Historically, the chances of finding a solid starting safety with the 34th pick are pretty strong. If you look at the drafts from 2000-2013 you’ll find multi-year starters like Mike Brown of the Bears, Eric Weddle of the Chargers and Eugene Wilson, who was drafted by the Patriots and now with the Texans, who were taken between the 30th and 40th picks.

The problem is that history doesn’t mean much when you’re on the clock and staring at your draft board. Even if the Redskins would like to find a quality, long-term starter at safety in this draft, there might not be one there when they pick.

They did take Thomas (4th round) and Rambo (6th) last year. When you’re picking on Saturday you have to be patient and a little bit lucky to find a long-term starter at any position. We will see if they want to stick with those two and try to develop them as starters or if perhaps Bruce Allen is not as high on those two as Mike Shanahan was.

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances

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Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 3, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 8; Panthers @ Redskins 16; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Resetting the playoff odds

The Redskins start their stretch drive to the playoffs tomorrow. The will play five games in 29 days. After that, they will have either earned the right to keep playing or will they go home.

Let’s get out the imaginary $100 in casino chips and look at the various possibilities of the finish to the season and spread out the chips based on how likely each scenario is. As always, you are welcome to jump into the comments if you agree or disagree.

Win NFC East, $0—This might be worth a buck or two but this place doesn’t have any chips smaller than $5 and it’s not worth investing even that much in the chance of this happening. The scenario would have to be the Redskins winning out, the Cowboys losing out, and the Giants losing at least two more games. I’d put something on the first scenario and a few chips on the last one but no way is Dallas going 0-4. Keeping my chips in my pocket on this one.

Wild card as No. 5 seed, $40—To do this the Redskins would have to stay ahead of the wild card contenders behind them (see next scenario) and make up a game and a half on the Giants. They play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins would have to make up one game between now and then and they could then determine their status on January 1 at FedEx Field. The Giants go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and host Dallas a week after that so we will see how that looks in a couple of weeks. As of now, the No. 6 seed would go to Detroit for the first round of the playoffs while the No. 5 would play the Falcons in Atlanta. That, of course, is subject to change.

Wild card as No. 6 seed, $35—I think getting the five seed is slightly more likely than getting the six since I think the Giants are a mirage. But even if New York keeps it going, the Redskins can clinch a spot by running the table in their last five games. That would make them 11-4-1 and no other wild card contender could catch them. If they win four of five, only the Bucs can catch them and it would take a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay. Winning three of five still gives them a good shot at getting in although at that point you are also opening the door for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, and Eagles to catch fire and jump ahead of them.

Out of playoffs, $25—I might be putting a little too much here but it’s the NFL and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Redskins could finish 2-3 and miss out altogether. Their margin for error is slim and an injury here and a bad break there could have them on the outside looking in.

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