Redskins need their young corners to step up
The Redskins knew their secondary was going to be a work in progress this season, but the hope was they would be able to cobble together a unit that was at least average on the back-end. At corner the Redskins hoped to mix veterans DeAngelo Hall and Tracy Porter with youngsters David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland, to give the Redskins a combination of corners who could hopefully improve on the unit from last season. At safety the Redskins employed a similar strategy, bringing in veteran Ryan Clark to go along with Brandon Meriweather, to compete with 2nd year players Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. Safety was considered to be more of an issue, as there were more question marks and a less upside. The corner position though had a healthy case of optimism entering the season with their top 4 guys in place.
DeAngelo Hall was coming off easily his best year as a Redskin, and arguably his best season in the league last year. Hall had always been a big play corner, but his problem was inconsistency where he would disappear for games on end. Last year, he still had a couple bad games, and bad portions of games, overall he was much more consistent and limited or shut down a number of the top receivers in the league. The hope was that while Hall was getting older he still had a couple good years left in him and this promised to be set up for a good season for the veteran. Moving into the starting line-up opposite Hall, would be 2013 2nd round pick David Amerson, who played in a 3rd corner role last season. Amerson teased big play ability as a rookie, but had a number of struggles facing off versus 2nd and 3rd receivers last year. He had the physical tools though and just about every offseason report praised him for the steps that he was taking and it appeared he was ready to play up to his draft status. The team had such confidence in him that they said that they wouldn’t have Hall trail team’s opposing top receiver, so Amerson would be challenged some by the best in the NFL.
To fill out the corner depth chart the Redskins signed veteran Tracy Porter to handle slot corner duties and drafted Bashaud Breeland in the 4th round to fill in as needed. Porter has had an up-and-down career, which has been filled with injuries that limited him. He was coming off a healthy year in Oakland, though his results were mixed. Breeland similar to Amerson was a bigger corner who has the size/speed combo that teams love to add. He was a bit of a raw corner, but he displayed plenty of potential and looked to be able to contribute in at least a limited role as a rookie. The Redskins also had veteran corner E.J. Biggers as a 5th corner and another guy with some starting experience.
Unfortunately for the Redskins their corner depth has been tested as DeAngelo Hall tore his Achilles in the 3rd game of the season and Tracy Porter has played only a handful of snaps this year due to a hamstring injury (he’s already been ruled out for tomorrow). That has forced David Amerson to become the de facto number 1 corner (though he’s still facing a lot of 2nd and 3rd WR’s), and made Breeland into a starter and Biggers into the slot corner role. The results have not been pretty. The Redskins are allowing teams to throw on them at will these last couple of weeks, and there seems to be at least one blown assignment in the secondary (not always the fault of the corners) on just about every play. This is just making it too easy for opposing offenses to move the ball through the air, and play basically mistake free football.
One big issue facing the Redskins young corners is their inflexibility. Both Breeland and Amerson are better on the outside and have very limited ability to play in the slot (Breeland has more ability here than Amerson). This allows teams to move their best option into the slot role to match him up versus a safety or E.J. Biggers, which is going to be a win in most situations for the opposing offense. Another area where the Redskins young corners are struggling is their inability to play press coverage. Both Amerson and Breeland are bigger corners, and by looking at them you would think that press coverage would be a strength of their’s. Neither corner though really did this in college and when asked to do it in the NFL they have really struggled. This inflexibility really limits what the Redskins can do defensively and allows for offenses to come up with a game plan that exposes these weaknesses.
The Redskins young corners face an uncertain match-up this week, as the Cardinals quarterback situation is considered murky at this point. One thing they do know for sure is they will face a pair of talented receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald and Floyd have been limited due to injuries at the quarterback position this year, but both pose a legitimate threat. From a pure talent perspective they are probably the best two receivers the Redskins have faced this year (a case could be made for Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins), and both are big physical receivers with a large catch radius and good speed. Amerson and Breeland need to find away to maintain their coverage and hopefully be in a position to take advantage of any mistakes the Cardinals QB might make. If the two young corners can’t step up this week, and not have the blown assignments that we’ve seen each week, then it won’t matter what QB the Cardinals are starting as they will find one of their top receivers open.
While injuries have obviously shaken up the Redskins corner back depth chart, Washington needs to see more from their two young corners this year. It is unclear when Porter can return to the line-up full time and even then he will be working some in the slot, leaving the outside corner duties to the young guys. They need to play better or they will continue to be exposed, particularly as the Redskins face better receivers and quarterbacks throughout the season. They obviously aren’t going to turn into a great unit overnight, but they can’t be a liability if the Redskins have any hopes of turning their season around.