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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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The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

The Final Countdown: Redskins 9th worst play of the year goes back to Week 1

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 9 worst play of 2016

Steelers at Redskins Week 1

10:18 left in Q2, Steelers ball 4th and 1 at the Redskins 29, Redskins leading 6-0

Ben Roethlisberger pass deep left to Antonio Brown for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Related: Projecting the Redskins' roster--defense

Tandler: Things were looking up for the Redskins prior to this, even though they were unable to punch the ball into the end zone in two forays deep into Steelers territory and had to settle for field goals (a taste of things to come all year). The Steelers drove down the field and went for it on fourth and one. Because Joe Barry opted not to have Josh Norman travel from side to side with Brown, it was Bashaud Breeland with one-on-one coverage on the right side. Brown beat Breeland and DeAngelo Hall was late giving safety help and Big Ben put the ball on the money. The score put the Steelers ahead to stay.

More Redskins: An early look at first-round draft possibilities

Finlay: It's easy to forget now that the Redskins had an early lead in the opener against Pittsburgh. In fact, their defense started well, until this point. In something that would be repeated throughout the year, the Steelers did not hesitate to go for it on 4th down against the Washington defense. Breeland was in pretty good position on the ball, though Roethlisberger's throw was right on the money. It would be only one more week until Josh Norman would then start traveling to cover other team's best receivers. Beyond the immediate impact of this play, it also seemed to stay with Breeland as he struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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!

 

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

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@Francis_Sports

New #RedskinsTalk Podcast - A.J. Francis talks Jay Gruden, Greg Manusky and Kirk Cousins

Redskins defensive lineman A.J. Francis opens up to JP Finlay on what it's like to play for Jay Gruden, his pick for defensive coordinator, and the latest on Kirk Cousins' contract.

Listen below, and if you'd like to hear more from Francis, check out his pro wrestling podcast Jobbing Out Show here

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN 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!