Washington Redskins Offseason Needs: Defense
1. Free Safety-
Both safety spots are problems, but free safety is the biggest issue. While it is not ideal Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes are all capable of playing strong safety. At free safety all the Redskins really have is Jordan Pugh. Adding a starting caliber free safety is a must this offseason, and needs to be their number one priority overall.
DeAngelo Hall needs to be released if the Redskins hope to get under the cap without sacrificing the future. On top of the obvious cap reasons Hall, the Redskins need more production out of Hall’s spot. Despite a few flashy plays each year, Hall remains one of the biggest liabilities in coverage. He gives up a ton of catches and yards after the catch. He also struggles in zone coverage, and inside versus quicker receivers. The Redskins need to find a starting upgrade and this should be another big priority for them. They might not have the money for a big free agent so targeting a corner in the 2nd or 3rd round who can play early on, may need to be the way they go.
3. Nickel Corner-
Cedric Griffin is a free agent, D.J. Johnson struggled and Richard Crawford’s promise evaporated once the preseason was over. The Redskins will likely need a nickel corner 40-50% of the time, and possibly even more depending on how the season goes. While Crawford could get a look, his promising preseason last year is not enough reason to avoid adding talent. The Redskins may look to re-sign Griffin or another veteran corner of that caliber (price range).
4. Strong Safety-
Though the Redskins have some various options at strong safety none of them are really good. Doughty and Gomes are solid versus the run, but struggle versus the pass. They are really back-ups at best, and can stick around due to their special teams play. Meriweather came in with some hype last year, but much of it was unwarranted. Yes he was a former first rounder and Pro Bowler (though how much he deserved that is debatable), but he’s also a guy who got benched/released by two of the top defensive coaches (Bill Belicheck and Lovie Smith) in the league. Even when the Bears had two of their top safeties injured in 2011, they still kept Meriweather on the bench due to his inability to play within the system and his consistently giving up big plays. Last year Meriweather suffered 4 injuries, injuring one knee three times and then tearing his ACL in the other knee in week 11. He’s not a guy the Redskins should really count on to be the answer. Even if Washington can get by with these safeties, Meriweather and Doughty are both free agents after this year making long term depth an issue. The Redskins may not find a starting caliber SS this year, but should at least add depth to the position.
5. Inside Linebacker-
This could become a far bigger need if London Fletcher retires. If Fletcher leaves than there is only Keenan Robinson at this position right now. And he saw his rookie season cut short due to injury. The Redskins would need to add at least a stopgap capable free agent in that scenario. If Fletcher stays then they could still look for better depth, but it could be a much lower priority.
6. Pass Rushing Defensive Lineman-
Stephen Bowen has been a solid defensive end and Jarvis Jenkins filled in well for Adam Carriker (who may need to be a cap casualty), but neither one of them showed any ability to consistently get some pressure on the quarterback. Even if Carriker returns that won’t change as he’s an even worse pass rusher than either of those two. While 3-4 DE’s aren’t sack masters (unless you are J.J. Watt) typically you have at least one who is capable of pushing the pocket and getting consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Redskins have lacked that presence and it has really hurt their pass rush, particularly when Orakpo was injured last year. They need to find at least a role player who can get after the quarterback.
7. Rush Linebacker Depth-
Rob Jackson may be an unrestricted free agent and Chris Wilson is not likely to return. The Redskins really need to add some depth here, even if Jackson ends up returning. They need a pass rush specialist for this spot to help out situationally, even if Kerrigan and Orakpo are both fully healthy.
8. Nose Tackle Depth-
Barry Cofield had a really nice season last year, but he’s still doing way too many total snaps. Chris Baker is not a type of guy who can really take more snaps and he’s starting to get expensive as a restricted free agent (he might not even return). A younger cheaper option is really needed here, as someone who can develop into a solid rotational player.