Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Redskins position preview: Defensive backs

Soldiering on with the depth chart profiles. We've previously looked at the defensive line and linebackers.

Here's the original projection, and remember it's from last Wednesday:

Defensive backs
Starting corners: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson
Starting safeties: LaRon Landry, O.J. Atogwe
Nickel corner: Kevin Barnes [Philip Buchanon is on a four game suspension, and will not initially count against 53 man roster]
Backup corners: Byron Westbrook, Brandyn Thompson
Backup safeties: Kareem Moore, DeJon Gomes
Notable cut: Chris Horton
Notable unretained FA: Reed Doughty

Let's start at the corners. We know what DeAngelo Hall can do - he's a flawed corner, but one whose strengths and weaknesses are a perfect fit for Jim Haslett's system.  And replacing Carlos Rogers with Josh Wilson was at worst breaking even, and given that Wilson has actually held onto an interception on occasion it could well be an improvement.

Now I am of the school that you can never have enough corner depth - your nickel corner is basically a starter in the modern NFL, so with even one injury your fourth corner is suddenly getting tons of playing time against quality third receivers.  That's why despite the fact that Barnes has shown promise I consider Philip Buchanon to be a key resigning. Teams tried to pick on Buchanon last year, and with the conspicuous exception of a Giants game in which he was abused and subsequently benched he mostly reacted by making a series of impressive plays to break up passes. This is a problem for the first four weeks, when Buchanon is out with a drug suspension.  My solution is to simply ban Hall, Wilson, or Barnes from getting hurt until week 5.

Byron Westbrook should have a chance for a roster spot due to his special teams experience, and Brandyn Thompson due to his status as a draft pick. At first this is fine - until Buchanon comes back and forces the Redskins to make a choice.

At safety, O.J. Atogwe was a huge signing at a position of real need. He's not perfect; his coverage skills are okay and nothing great. But remember that Haslett's defense concedes completions for the sake of turnovers - the best cover safety in the league would give up some balls in this system, but Atogwe is here for his demonstrated ability to get his hands on the football. And even at average, his coverage will be a big upgrade over Kareem Moore. For better or for worse, this is a defense based on so-called "playmaking ability." I'm not sold on the general approach, but if it's what we're going to do anyway then we got the right guy.

For depth at safety, I was pretty pleased to see Reed Doughty as a late re-signing. His limitations in coverage are well known, though he is still superior in that regard to Kareem Moore, who was oddly hyped at the beginning of 2010. Doughty excels in run support however, and if Landry's poor health lingers into the season then Doughty could end up playing a major role.

Before Doughty was re-signed I had both Moore and draft pick DeJon Gomes making the roster for depth, though I wasn't thrilled with that prospect given how poorly I think Moore played in all aspects of the game last year. With Doughty back, these guys suddenly might be fighting for one roster spot.

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