Ranking the Redskins Defensive Position Groups by Talent and Depth
June 15, 2014 in Redskins Personnel
1. Outside Linebackers:
-If one unit from this Redskins defense that has the ability to be a top 10 unit in the league, it's their outside pass rushers, who in this 3-4 defense are their outside linebackers. Brian Orakpo has led or been tied for the team lead in sacks, the 4 years he's been healthy. Orakpo is playing under the franchise tag this year, and is one of the better right side pass rushers in this league. Opposite Orakpo is Ryan Kerrigan, who has been a good left side rusher, who has put up solid sack numbers and pretty good pressure numbers in his 3 seasons in Washington. Joining them this season will be rookie 2nd round pick Trent Murphy. Murphy not only offers quality depth, either to rotate in or protect from injury, but the Redskins will likely try to get all 3 pass rushers on the field in a number of passing situations. Though his total snap count may be limited, he could be a nice boost to the pass rush when he's in. When he's subbing in for Orakpo/Kerrigan, it will mean the Redskins still have 2 quality edge rushers on the field. When he's apart of the nickel unit with all 3 on the field, it will make life quite difficult for the opposing offense, because they have so many options to worry about. This has been the most productive unit for the Redskins defense the past couple of years, but now they really have to step-up their game if the Redskins are to get back to the post-season.
2. Defensive Line:
-The Redskins biggest defensive investment in free agency, was defensive lineman Jason Hatcher who is coming off an 11 sack season and Pro Bowl selection last year. He will pair with Barry Cofield to give the Redskins two good defensive linemen. Behind them it gets a bit more shaky, but Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Baker can both be solid rotational guys. When you have a 3-4 defense, that plays a lot of nickel, your top 5 defensive linemen are who really matter. As it stands now the Redskins are pretty solid there as they have 2 good starters and two solid guys behind that. After that it's pretty murky as who will emerge as that 5th guy. Now ideally that 5th defensive lineman (and anyone below him), will only play the least amount, but the defensive line is a position that has a lot of attrition, so chances are one of these top 4 guys are going to miss some time. Overall the Redskins are in good shape here. It could be better, but as long as the injuries aren't too bad they should be okay.
-After a couple of really rough years DeAngelo Hall had perhaps the best year of his career (easily his best year in a Redskins uniform) last season, and the Redskins awarded him with a contract extension. Hall had some great games last year, locking horns with some of the league's best wide receivers and coming away the victor. Unfortunately Hall also had his games where he disappeared and proved to be streaky in his play. Now that Hall is no longer paid like a top 10 corner, his play being streaky isn't as much of an issue, but it does mean that when he's your number one corner, you aren't going to be an elite group. Ascending to the starting role opposite Hall this year is David Amerson. Amerson was a 2nd round corner last year, but only came in when the Redskins went into nickel. Amerson showed some flashes of potential, but for the most part he struggled quite a bit and gave up some of the biggest passing plays the Redskins allowed last season. What made Amerson's struggles more troubling is that he faced primarily 2's and 3's, many of whom aren't considered quality options, yet he wasn't able to shut them down. He'll need to step up in a big way this year if he want's to prove his draft stock. The Redskins signed Tracy Porter to be their 3rd corner. Porter has had an up-and-down career, but the biggest concern with him is his health as last season was the first time he was ever able to play in 16 games. The Redskins drafted Bashaud Breeland in the 4th round and while he's raw, he's a guy with a lot of potential. Overall there is solid depth here, but question marks surround all the top guys.
4. Inside Linebackers:
-The Redskins went with a quantity over quality approach at inside linebacker, as they have 5 guys who could theoretically be average, but none really expected to be a quality starter or better. Ideally Perry Riley will take over the top ILB role, but he's been below average-to-average throughout his career and after not finding much of a market in free agency he re-signed for a moderate deal. The fact that no one in the league thought enough of him to overpay him, doesn't really bode well for his opinion around the league. Hopefully 3rd year LB Keenan Robinson will earn the other starting job, but he's now missed the last year and and a half (including much of training camp last year) due to injury, making him a big question mark. The Redskins signed Akeem Jordan, who has started for the Chiefs and Eagles in the past, Darryl Sharpton, who has been an injury replacement and racked up some solid playing time these past couple of years for the Texans and Adam Hayward, who has been a back-up with the Buccaneers. Any of the three could end up being Riley's running mate in the middle if Robinson can't return from the injury, but none are considered to have much potential. The good news is there is depth here, so if there is an injury or two this year, the Redskins can survive it. The bad news is there just isn't a lot of talent here and it's tough for a 3-4 team to succeed without at least one star inside linebacker.
-If this was 2009 the Redskins would have one of the most promising safety pairings in the league. At the time Ryan Clark had established himself as a really good safety, who was extremely consistent and reliable. Brandon Meriweather was a former first round pick, who looked like he was finally going to live up to his promise to be one of the top safeties in the league. Fast forward 5 years later and it is a completely different story for this pair. Clark is now entering his 13th year in the NFL, and will turn 35 this season. Clark has started to lose a step and is not as reliable as he once was. Meriweather failed to ever reach his promise and in the last 4 years has been benched by two top defensive coaches (also was cut by one of them), suffered a major knee injury, has been suspended by the league for illegal hits, and has played extremely poorly. Now 30 years old, Meriweather's time for being a star has passed and the best the Redskins can hope for is somewhere close to average production. If their starting pair of safeties weren't bad enough, the depth of this unit leaves a lot to be desired. Tanard Jackson has essentially been suspended 3 of the last 4 seasons, and when he has played he's been a major liability with his tackling. Second year safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, both have question marks as well. Thomas missed his entire rookie year with injury and has now been injured two of the last 3 seasons. Rambo struggled mightily as a rookie, and was a liability when he was on the field. This is not just the worst unit on the Redskins defense, but they are one of the worst safety groups in the entire league.