Ranking The Redskins Defensive Units:
I thought it would be fun during the offseason to take a look at the Redskins positional groups, and see where they rank in relation to one another. I will evaluate who these positions are expected to produce, to see where the Redskins stand, and where they will be looking to improve. Yesterday I started with the offense.
*Note These Rankings are for this season so when I use words like potential, it means their potential for this season and not into the future. Also no weight is given for positional value, it is solely passed on talent and depth.
1. Outside Linebacker:
-This is a good area to be strong in for a 3-4 defense as pass rush is key in today’s NFL. Brian Orakpo has improved each season (despite his sacks being down a bit), as he’s learning the nuances of the game and his position. He may not be an elite pass rusher just yet, but he’s just on the cusp, and has the natural ability to take that step this season. He’s also greatly improved in both his run defense and coverage skills, making him at least solid in every area. Opposite him Ryan Kerrigan had a great rookie year, and looks to be a relentless pass rusher. Kerrigan is alreadly just slightly below Orakpo in terms of pass rush ability, giving the Redskins two very good pass rushers. Coverage and the running game didn’t come as natural to him, but he should get there and make improvements this season. The Redskins project to have solid depth here as well.
2. Inside Linebackers:
-Just a notch below their rush linebackers are the Skins inside guys. London Fletcher is still among the best in NFL. He’s a tackling machine and the heart and soul of the defense (team really as well). He’s still got fantastic instincts, and finds the ball carrier with the best of them. His pass rush ability is just slightly above average, and his coverage has gone down in recent years, but overall he’s worth every penny. Even if there is a slight dropoff in production, he’ll remain a Pro Bowl caliber player. Opposite him is Perry Riley, who came on strong when he replaced Rocky McIntosh last season. Riley excelled in the running game, really limiting extra yards by opposing teams backs. He didn’t offer much as a pass rusher and had some big mistakes in coverage, but overall it’s too soon to say definitively that he can’t help in those areas. The Redskins also have excellent depth in this area, as they have former starter Jonathan Goff and 4th round rookie Keenan Robinson backing up the starters.
3 Defensive Line:
-This should be a solid group, as the Redskins invested heavily in the unit last year, by signing free agents Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, while drafting Jarvis Jenkins in the 2nd round. Jenkins got injured during preseason, so he’s a bit of a question mark, but he does project well. He has the size to help out across the line, and fits the bill with a quick first step, that should force a good amount of attention and penetration. Bowen had a solid year rushing the passer last season, which helped Orakpo and Kerrigan get free more often. His run defense isn’t his strength, but it could be solid. Cofield had a nice impact by giving the Redskins at least a competent nose tackle. He didn’t get the penetration consistently that you’d like, but he did help this defense. Adam Carriker should move now to more of a reserve role, which suits him better. Despite 5 sacks last year, he’s really not a pass rusher, and his once solid run defense fell off last season. Hopefully his run defense can improve so he can help fill in some for Bowen. The rest of the depth isn’t that awe inspiring, but it should be solid for relief work. The real concern would be if 1 or 2 of the starters had to miss significant time. Then the depth might not be enough for full game action.
-This is definitely an area of weakness for the Skins. On paper DeAngelo Hall is the top corner, but he’s struggled mightily these past two seasons, despite making some big plays. While many point to his playmaking ability, they ignore the sheer number of catches and touchdowns he gives up. He spends too much time going for the ball, and it costs him (and the Redskins). Josh Wilson has quietly become the Redskins top corner. He’s not elite, or a lockdown guy, but he’s fairly consistent and limits catches. The third CB situation which is basically a starting level position given the number of snaps they will see, is very much in flux. Cedric Griffin is likely that guy, but he’s far from a sure thing. Beyond him are a bunch of developmental projects or guys who have been disappointments. While someone like Chase Minnifield could emerge, they are likely to have a limited impact in 2012. As if relying on Hall as the ‘top corner’ wasn’t risky enough, the lack of a.3rd corner (possibly) and any quality depth, makes this position a huge question mark.
-The Redskins appear to be cleaning house with their safeties this year and could have three new guys, including two new starters. Brandon Meriweather is a former Pro Bowler, but his free-lancing style of play has gotten him benched on two teams, and has become somewhat of a liability. He can come up with some big plays from time to time, but if he’s not playing within the system he’ll likely do more harm than good. Tanard Jackson comes over from Tampa Bay, where he too displayed the makings of a playmaking safety. He’s got major off the field issues and could be a lockerroom headache (Meriweather isn’t far behind either). Jackson also is a very poor tackler and will give up a lot of extra yards. Madieu Williams was a former starting safety, and could push for that role if Meriweather or Jackson struggle. He’s a good lockerroom guy and at the very least will help out on special teams. Returning guys Reed Doughty and Dejon Gomes figure to battle it out for presumably the final safety spot. Gomes has more upside so he’s more likely to get the nod, though Doughty appears to be a coach favorite. With major questions about everyone from the starters to the depth, this position could really hurt the defense as a whole.