Last year the Washington Redskins came into the 2015 season feeling as if they had upgraded their secondary.
A much maligned unit in 2014, the unit would have a few bright spots. But far too often, it could not stop opposing quarterbacks from forcing their will in the passing game.
Heading into this year’s past training camp the team envisioned free agent acquisitions Chris Culliver (cornerback) and safeties Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson shoring up the unit. These players, added to cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland; as well as the return of safety Duke Ihenacho, had most thinking the secondary could be a strength for the team in 2015.
Injuries would decimate the Burgundy and Gold during preseason and throughout the 2015 division-winning campaign however, and the unit is not set as this year’s NFL draft approaches in April.
Should the team use a high draft pick on a cornerback or safety?
Breeland has become one of the best young corners in the game and could possibly come into the 2016 season as the team’s true No.1 cover man. His progression in his second season (and first under defensive coordinator Joe Barry) is a promising sign for the team. Last year the second-year player out of Clemson tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He has four over his short career and that is a number that should not be overlooked.
Opposing teams have started to shy away from testing Breeland as his respect around the league has risen.
The big question is: who will be on the other side of the field opposite him?
Culliver, who signed a four-year, $32 million deal as a free agent from the San Francisco 49ers last offseason, was having an up-and-down year before tearing his ACL and MCL. Will he be ready for training camp or even the start of the season? Could he be a salary cap casualty on top of that?
These questions are, yet again, why some are leery that Washington has the right pieces in place on the corners.
Another young player who turned a few heads and played well especially down the stretch was converted wide receiver Quinton Dunbar. The former Florida Gator took advantage of his opportunity and now has a realistic chance to get a lot of playing time if he is a Redskin next season. His size was a welcome addition and Dunbar did not shy away from competition, defending five passes and registering one interception on the year.
Will Blackmon, who played well throughout the season after being picked up when the injuries started to take their toll, could also be brought back and added into the mix.
There are several top-notch cover guys in this year’s draft so the team will have a chance to address the corner situation early if they choose too.
The safety position is also one that is in flux. The season ended with longtime corner and veteran Hall finding a new home as he transitioned to the safety position with surprising toughness. He has a chance to make an impact at the spot this year having played it in 2015 and then getting reps throughout the 2016 minicamps, training camp and preseason.
Hall and Goldson (who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) clearly give Washington two solid vets. But do they have too much mileage on their bodies at this point in their careers?
Kyshoen Jarrett, who was drafted out of Virginia Tech in last year’s draft, was a big surprise as he played corner and safety to rave reviews and looks like a keeper for Washington. His big, hating style adds toughness on the back end and he should have a chance to start in 2016.
Ihenacho was playing great football throughout training camp before injuring his wrist which cost him the full season. If he can recapture the form he was displaying last offseason he will be playing in the Redskins defensive backfield in 2016.
In looking at all of the aforementioned players it could be possible the team does not feel the need to draft early at one of the secondary positions as they actually may have more depth than in any recent year. General Manager Scot McCloughan will have a tough decision to make as draft day approaches and as free agency takes shape.
Regardless, these are good problems for the Burgundy and Gold to have during this most watched offseason of football decisions coming out of Ashburn, Virginia.