The top of the Redskins safety depth chart is unsettled for many when it comes to the free safety position, but I think the Redskins may have found their man. Madieu Williams might not be a star, and is probably just a one year solution, but I feel he makes sense for the Skins. Now on most teams Williams might not have much of a chance, but given the uncertainty surrounding the Redskins other options, he’s a safe, cheap and smart play for the Skins.
Now Williams won’t be handed the job as he has on paper some stiff competition, in DeJon Gomes and Tanard Jackson. Gomes was a favorite to earn one safety spot, given his solid play as a rookie last season. While a lot of fans supported the idea of Gomes, I think it became clear to the coaches that he wasn’t ready. And that isn’t exactly surprising. Gomes played a lot of nickel corner and LB in college, not to mention that he didn’t even have a full offseason last year, so he’s a bit raw. That rawness cost the Skins at times last season, and won’t be tolerated as much by a 2nd year player. Jackson was the starting free safety of new secondary coach Raheem Morris in Tampa, but he currently sits third on the depth chart. Though one would have thought his familiarity would give him an advantage, he also has his off the field, injury and attitude issues. He got a slow start to camp while still recovering from his shoulder injury, but he hasn’t done much to impress. Jackson’s reputation is that of a playmaker, but he has been beaten quite a bit in camp according to various reports (and usually by 2nd and 3rd string receivers who likely won’t make the final roster). Jackson has also looked bad tackling, both in run support and in the secondary. He was perhaps the worst tackling defensive back in the league last year (despite not playing every game). Though his supports will point to the shoulder injury, it doesn’t account for his poor tackling throughout his career. If the coverage isn’t there and the tackling is still an issue, he seems to be a long shot to make this team. Williams might not be as young or dynamic as Gomes or Jackson, but he does bring one thing to the table; consistency.
I understand most Skins fans will see that Williams will be 31 during the season, and pass on him for a younger option, but that would probably be a big mistake. Age is hardly the most important factor between two players in a position battle, especially when we are looking at just a one year solution here. The Redskins need to play their best two safeties regardless of age, and Williams could very well be one of those players at some point during the season. Williams is a former 2nd round talent, and was once considered among the better safeties in the league. He might have never been on the Sean Taylor/Ed Reed level of safeties, but he was as valuable as a Ryan Clark. Now injuries have taken their toll on Williams, and he may no longer be a first or second tier starting safety, but he could be right below that (which on the Redskins would be pretty nice). He’s solid in both coverage and run support. Though he might not have the speed any longer to run with top wide receivers, he does have good instincts which help get him by.
Off the field Williams character is unquestioned, as is his leadership on the field. While he might not make as many flashy plays as some of the other guys in camp, but his track record is far more consistent. That consistency could be key, because too often the Redskins defense has faltered because of inconsistency. He’s a smart heady ball player, that will play within the system and make tackles. Williams also comes cheap, which given how many resources have been spent on the safety position and the impact of the cap penalty is a welcome relief for Washington. Now granted that low price tag may keep him from being a star, but it also really keeps him from being a bust as well. Even if Williams wasn’t a starter, the return on the investment would be positive for Washington. Williams might have been a long shot when he signed, but I think he could be a nice starter for the Redskins this season.