2013 Team Needs: Washington Redskins
Despite the unexpectedly strong season, the Redskins were still eliminated in the first round of the playoffs on their home field. Saddled with a suspension to their new starting free safety, a salary cap penalty and injuries, Washington’s defense turned out to be the biggest flaw on the team. That’s not to say the offense (specifically, the offensive line) couldn’t use some upgrades. Here are some holes the Redskins need to fill, and some possible free agents who could help out.
Jammal Brown was supposed to man the right side of the line in 2012, but injuries prevented him from ever seeing the field. In his first two seasons with Washington, however, Brown received a combined -20.7 overall grade. With that, its fair to project that he’s likely gone before the 2013 season starts.
In Brown’s place was 2008 undrafted free agent Tyler Polumbus. Polumbus had his moments on an offensive line that turned out to be a solid unit in 2012. However, he was by far the biggest liability. Among all tackles that played at least 404 snaps, Polumbus had the second-lowest Pass Blocking Efficiency score and was responsible for seven sacks, four QB hits and 42 hurries. Polumbus also graded out as our second-worst run blocking tackle behind only the Packers Marshall Newhouse. An upgrade is necessary here.
Free Agent Fix: Ryan Harris
After getting burned by the Brown signing, it’s possible the Redskins either try to fill this need through the draft, or try to find a player who won’t command a high price tag. Given that the market is relatively bare for what the Redskins are after, they might look in the direction of Ryan Harris. He spent the past year with the Texans and has a history with Head Coach Mike Shanahan from his time in Denver when he had an extremely impressive 2008 season. Injuries have blighted his career since then, but he looked near his best in his 466 snaps for the Texans this year (+6.4).
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Tanard Jackson was supposed to be the starting free safety for the Redskins in 2012, but he was suspended by the league before the season began. Meanwhile, former Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather was limited to 44 snaps before an ACL injury ended his year. He will likely be back, but in what shape?
Veteran castoff Madieu Williams took over the free safety spot, while a combination of Reed Doughty, sophomore DeJon Gomes, and rookie Jordan Pugh filled in at strong safety. Williams had some unfortunately memorable coverage gaffes (including being at least partially responsible for Victor Cruz’s game-winning 77-yard TD catch-and-run), but also made some plays that went a long way in securing victories.
Still, he’s getting older (he was a 2004 NFL draft pick), lacks range and was a liability against the run (eight missed tackles). Doughty made a few impact plays in the Seahawks loss and has consistently been a willing tackler against run, but he cannot be counted on with regularity in coverage. Meanwhile, 2011 fifth-round pick Gomes was benched after three games (-5.5 overall in those contests). That’s a whole lot of question marks at a position where mistakes can change games.
Free Agent Fix: Chris Clemons
A 2009 fifth-round pick, Chris Clemons had a solid year as the free safety for the Miami Dolphins in 2012 after playing only 22 snaps the previous year due to injury. He did not give up a touchdown pass in his primary coverage, and the highest number of yards he was responsible for in a game was 63. He also had only two interceptions and only one pass defensed. Still, the Redskins would have taken his +3.0 coverage performance last year with the Dolphin getting beat for a first down or touchdown on a safety-low 0.96% of his coverage snaps.
Clemons played well against the run (+4.5) last season and was flagged for only two penalties. He’s young enough (27) and entering what should be his peak years, while with the kind of profile that should make him more affordable than some of the other safeties out there.
DeAngelo Hall is due a significant amount of money this offseason, and the veteran three-time Pro Bowler did make some plays in 2012. Hall picked off four passes, successfully defended nine others, missed only three tackles in run support (+1.0 overall in run defense) and conceded only three TD passes all year (two to Anquan Boldin when he was clearly playing injured).
However, Hall is one of the most maligned DBs in the league for a reason. He missed 10 tackles in coverage, tied for third with Asante Samuel among all cornerbacks who played at least 321 snaps. He also gave up 66.7% of passes thrown into his coverage, along with 1,050 yards and he committed eight penalties. He is, in some respects, a bad moment waiting to happen.
The other primary cornerback, Josh Wilson has proved a reliable pickup and solid contributor, despite getting beat for six touchdowns. In terms of guys you’d hope would step up, 2012 seventh-round pick Richard Crawford flashed some skill in 202 snaps but it’s a leap of faith to assume he’d be ready to start, while former Viking Cedric Griffin was suited to a limited role.
Free Agent Fix: Leodis McKelvin
DeAngelo Hall’s status with the team in 2013 will play a significant role in determining how much money Shanahan and company are willing to pay for a free agent cornerback. Assuming they are not willing to break the bank, they could target Leodis McKelvin. Drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2008, McKelvin has never lived up to that high selection with some injuries and costly mistakes seeing him fall out of favor in Buffalo.
That leads many to believe he was a bust on talent alone, but he has looked like a capable starter often in his career. Before injury ended his 2011 season he was playing extremely well, and he held his own in his limited opportunities for the Bills this year. In short, there’s enough talent to suggest he can be an upgrade, and with the budget the Redskins are working with they need to take some low-risk gambles on players if they’re to strengthen their roster.
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