Saturday, July 24, 2010

Redskins position preview: Defensive backs

Continuing the series expounding on my roster picks from last week. 

Defensive Backs (9 kept)

Corners: DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Philip Buchanon, Justin Tryon, Kevin Barnes

Safeties: Reed Doughty, LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Chris Horton
Cuts: Byron Westbrook, Lendy Holmes, Doug Dutch, Ramzee Robinson, Anderson Russell

Confidence Level: 7 out of 10

After the offensive line, the secondary was probably the Redskins most-maligned unit in 2009. My inclination, however, is to blame Greg Blache, who it appeared was out-coached week after week last year. He ended up with a decent defense that succeeded on the basis of raw talent in the front seven despite being put at a disadvantage. TV broadcasts don't give you a good view to judge receiver and secondary play, but the breakdowns in coverage were too frequent and too severe to have another explanation. It's an Occam's razor situation: Is it more likely that every one of the Redskins defensive backs are really dumb, or that opposing coaches were able to see what Blache was doing and outsmart him?

Another point on this topic: It is widely accepted that pass rush is as important, if not more important, than the secondary when it comes to pass defense. 2009 was the first time in years that the Redskins had an effective pass rush, yet they had had a good pass defense consistently for some time. A reasonable conclusion would be that the DB personel has been very talented if they managed to be effective despite the total absence of any pressure on opposing quarterbacks prior to '09. I am forced to conclude that Blache put his talented players in a position to fail (the flip side of this argument is that the secondary dropped off dramatically even as the pass rush improved, which means the regression here was even worse than some might think).


The two starting corners are probably overrated by their own minds but underrated by many Redskins fans. Carlos Rogers, in my opinion, has gotten a bad rap and actually has very effective coverage skills. His total inability to catch a football is undeniable, as is the fact that like many small corners he can get boxed out by bigger receivers. But he is highly unlikely to give up the cheap reception. Hall is more hit or miss in coverage, but of course has an uncanny knack for ending up with the ball in his hands. Neither one of these guys is Darrelle Reevis or Champ Bailey - but if the catastrophic breakdowns of '09 can be avoided they are both more than capable corners.

(Side note here: Hall is useful but certainly not worth his exorbitant contract. When the Redskins sunk that money into him it clearly meant that Rogers had no long-term future with the team. He got stuck here for one more year because the NFLPA shamelessly screwed over its members who had survived their rookie contract. But that's a rant for another day. Anyway, Rogers is probably gone after this year but Hall will be around for the forseeable future, and I am not at all convinced the Redskins bet on the right horse here).

The nickel position will be interesting. Philip Buchanon was a very nice little under-the-radar signing this offseason. He's nothing special, but in the event of injury (or if I'm wrong and Rogers is actually as bad as many others claim) he can be pressed into service as a started without causing panic. Ideally, however, Justin Tryon will beat him out for the job. Tryon took out our old friend Fred Smoot last year and played very well in the nickel role. Football Outsiders even has him ranked as their 5th ranked young prospect - I wouldn't have pegged him for being quite that good, but he has certainly shown that he should be thought of as a possible future starter. Cornerback is one of those positions where you can never have enough depth, and between these two guys I'm feeling decently comfortable.

Kevin Barnes was rarely trusted to set foot on the field as a rookie, but Byron Westbrook has seemingly been around as a fringe player forever and I figure that if he had NFL-level ability he would have found his way into action by now, so I'm picking Barnes to make the team as the fifth corner and Westbrook's time to finally run out.


Let's start here: Reed Doughty is the Redskins best safety by a wide margin. It is well known that the Redskins have three guys who are best at run support in the box - Doughty, LaRon Landry, and Chris Horton (let's assume for now Horton will be sufficiently recovered from his toe injury). However, Doughty was outright exceptional at that role last year (in my opinion), and deserved more credit than he got for having a breakout season. He is also the most reliable in coverage. And coverage is where he'll likely have to stay. It's not the best use of his skills, but its the best way to avoid exposing Horton and Landry.
Yes I know that I blamed alot of the coverage issues on Greg Blache above, but Landry looked befuddled too much of the time to scapegoat the coaching. And we all know about the many, many missed tackles when he tried to make a highlight hit on someone rather than taking the easy tackle. And this is not just a nitpick - he consistently gave opposing offenses free first downs which we could not afford.

A Doughty-Horton tandem could prove quite effective, and Kareem Moore could rotate through both their position providing reliable adequacy. But it seems necessary we will see alot of LaRon Landry this year. This is probably his one chance to show that last season was not a fluke and that he has a future with the Redskins.

Previous postion previews: Defensive line, Linebackers

Coming up next: The offensive line


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