-Now many think that it is a shoe-in that Carriker will regain his starting spot, but that might not be the case. Jenkins really came on with some nice performances down the stretch for the Redskins last year. While he didn’t record any sacks, he was more consistent about pushing the pocket and creating pressures than Carriker has ever been. The biggest knock against Carriker though is likely his injury status. Despite suffering his injury in Week 2 last year, Carriker’s status for the start of camp and the season is a bit up in the air right now due to setbacks. Even if he is “healthy” by the start of the season, it is likely that Carriker will be a bit behind given that he will have missed all the OTA’s, Minicamps and possibly a portion of the training camp/preseason. Golston helped fill in for Carriker last season, but he’s a long shot, given that he is really just a rotational guy.
Prediction: Jarvis Jenkins- He’s younger with bigger upside, and isn’t coming off an injury. If healthy Carriker will definitely see his fair share of snaps, but I expect Jenkins to win this job.
-In 2011 Chris Neild was the back-up NT, and was expected to earn a spot last year before he suffered an ACL injury in camp. Chris Baker who was having a strong preseason won the starting job, and did okay last season, but he will still have to fight for the job this year. Baker is probably stronger versus the run, but Neild has an edge in rushing the passer. Former Patriots 2nd round pick Ron Brace is a longshot option, and while the potential has always been there, he’s woefully underperformed and had injury issues.
Prediction: Chris Baker, Neild may still squeak out a roster spot, but Baker should probably be the primary back-up NT. Cofield is a good pass rusher and will be in there on passing downs so it kinda negates any advantage Neild brings to the table. The bigger key is stopping the run, which is Baker’s strength. The Redskins allowed far too many Red zone rushing TD’s and allowed too many yards per carry.
-This is a wide open battle and one that could even see a corner get into the mix. Though he is much more likely to earn the starting strong safety spot, veteran Brandon Meriweather may be asked to be more of a free safety, given the lack of natural free safeties on the roster. Bacarri Rambo is probably the most natural free safety, but he was a 6th round pick, and it would be a surprise if he was more than a back-up this year. Fourth rounder Phillip Thomas played some free safety in college, but he’s probably a more natural fit at strong safety. Among the longshots, both Pugh and Gomes should be considered poor free safety fits. When they’ve been asked to play more of the free safety role they have struggled. Converting cornerback DeAngelo Hall has been an option that some of have mentioned, but given his track record, it probably isn’t a good fit.
Prediction: Phillip Thomas, now in reality I think we will see a lot of interchanging of the roles between the strong and free safety (likely Meriweather and Thomas), but that Thomas will likely see the lionshare of the work as the free safety. I also expect Rambo to get some opportunities as well, as the team will likely want him as the longterm FS (with Thomas moving to more of a SS role).
-It is very likely that Meriweather will start at one of the two safety positions, but his most natural fit is at strong safety. If Phillip Thomas struggles though at free safety, it could open up a more interesting battle for strong safety. While Phillip Thomas obviously would have the upside and potential, Reed Doughty, Gomes and Pugh have all proven to be better SS options than FS’s. Doughty and Pugh could resume the time-sharing role they had last season. Another thing to consider is the fact that Meriweather is returning from a mid-season ACL injury, and could not be 100%.
Prediction: Brandon Meriweather, While it is possible he is tabbed as the free safety, I think he will be considered much as the strong safety when it is all said and done next season.
-This is an interesting battle, in part because the starting jobs aren’t exactly settled. Likely the starters will be DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson (though that is far from guaranteed), which will pit free agent E.J. Biggers vs 2nd rounder David Amerson for the role of the 3rd corner. Now if it is Biggers he may end up playing it as the true “slot” corner, whereas if it is Amerson, he would force one of Hall or Wilson to move inside to slot role (note: even with Biggers one of Hall or Wilson could kick inside). Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield would both be long shots for this role, but there chances are extremely small. Of the main two guys, Biggers has the advantage of being in this league and his knowledge of secondary coach Raheem Morris’s style of play. Amerson has the upside, and could be valued higher given his draft status.
Prediction: E.J. Biggers, Amerson may have the ball-hawking ability, but Biggers has the experience and the familiarity with Morris which could go a long way. Amerson will probably need some time to adjust to the league, and will likely see more limited work this season.