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Redskins finding that safety is a tough position to fill

Redskins finding that safety is a tough position to fill

The Redskins can’t be accused of completely neglecting the safety position the past two offseasons. Last year they spent two of their seven draft picks on the position, taking Phillip Thomas in the fourth round and Bacarri Rambo in the sixth. This year they brought back Brandon Meriweather and signed veteran Ryan Clark.

As Redskins fans well know, the position remains unsettled. They could have done more in free agency. Some thought they should have made a bigger effort to land the Bills’ Jairus Byrd, who landed with the Saints, or Carolina’s Mike Mitchell, who ended up signing with the Steelers.

But they chose not to spend heavily at the position and instead brought back Meriweather, who started at safety last year, and signed Clark, who started for the Redskins in 2004-2005 before moving on to the Steelers.

Clark lined up alongside Sean Taylor during the two seasons that Clark was here. Since Clark left, the Redskins have not had the same two primary starters at safety in any two seasons. There are the two safeties with the most starts for the Redskins each season since 2006:

2006: Sean Taylor, Adam Archuleta
2007: Taylor, LaRon Landry
2008: Landry, Chris Horton
2009: Landry, Reed Doughty
2010: Landry, Kareem Moore
2011: Doughty, Landry, O. J. Atogwe (Landry and Atogwe started 8 games each)
2012: Doughty, Madieu Williams
2013: Doughty, Brandon Meriweather

The Redskins have had some bad luck at the position, most notably the tragic loss of Taylor in 2007. Atogwe and Meriweather both had fairly healthy NFL careers before coming to Washington and suffering from some injury woes. It looked like Tanard Jackson was going to be a decent stopgap before he was suspended for substance abuse. Thomas was slated for a big role last year, perhaps even a starting job, before he suffered a Lisfranc injury in a preseason game.

But it’s not as though the Redskins have done much to try to create their own luck at safety. Their free agent signings have been second-tier players at best. Since they took Landry with the sixth overall pick in 2007 they have drafted five safeties, none taken higher than the fourth round. By devoting few dollars and low draft picks to the position the Redskins have created their own outcome.

To be fair, the safety position is getting to be very difficult to fill. “To me, that’s the hardest position to evaluate in college football is safeties,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said prior to last year’s draft. “The guys that used to be the most explosive athletes and were playing in the back end, they’re going to play corner because they feel like maybe at corner, they can play 10 years. You look at the franchise tag numbers, the corner position is higher than the safety position. That is going to be the constant struggle. When you talk to people around the league, it’s hard to find safeties.”

A look around the NFC East bears out what Roseman said. The Eagles did manage to start the same tandem at safety, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman, for two consecutive seasons (2011-2012). They also kept Brian Dawkins and Sean Considine together in 2006-2007. Other than that, like the Redskins, no team in the division has managed to start the same tandem of safeties in consecutive seasons going back to 2006.

As far as the Redskins go, their ability to solve the problem might depend on trying to do something beyond trying to get lucky with a late draft pick or squeezing another year or two out of an aging veteran. Historically, the chances of finding a solid starting safety with the 34th pick are pretty strong. If you look at the drafts from 2000-2013 you’ll find multi-year starters like Mike Brown of the Bears, Eric Weddle of the Chargers and Eugene Wilson, who was drafted by the Patriots and now with the Texans, who were taken between the 30th and 40th picks.

The problem is that history doesn’t mean much when you’re on the clock and staring at your draft board. Even if the Redskins would like to find a quality, long-term starter at safety in this draft, there might not be one there when they pick.

They did take Thomas (4th round) and Rambo (6th) last year. When you’re picking on Saturday you have to be patient and a little bit lucky to find a long-term starter at any position. We will see if they want to stick with those two and try to develop them as starters or if perhaps Bruce Allen is not as high on those two as Mike Shanahan was.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?

RELATED: FORMER TERP PLAYS HERO IN VIKINGS' MIRACLE PLAYOFF WIN

Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 

RELATED: WHAT REDSKINS CAN LEARN FROM THIS WEEKEND'S PLAYOFF GAMES

Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.

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Redskins can't base Kirk Cousins decision on the makeup of the final four

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Redskins can't base Kirk Cousins decision on the makeup of the final four

For many fans who would like to see the Redskins move on from Kirk Cousins, the case was closed by the results of the divisional playoff round.

When the dust settled from the weekend, three of the four winning quarterbacks were Nick Foles, Blake Bortles, and Case Keenum. In Foles and Keenum, two journeymen who were free agents last March, available to any team that had a million bucks or so of salary cap space. Bortles was the third overall pick of the 2014 draft but he was widely viewed as a big-time bust.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT CAN THE REDSKINS LEARN FROM THE PLAYOFFS?

So, to some the lesson was that you can roll any random quarterback out there and if you have some other pieces in place you can get to the final four.

Not so fast, my friend. Such thinking is based on a small sample size. This year is very much an outlier in terms of the quarterbacks who make the conference championship games. Let’s expand the sample size and look at the final four QBs standing in the previous six seasons.

2016: Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger

2015: Cam Newton, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning, Brady

2014: Russell Wilson, Rodgers, Brady, Andrew Luck

2013: Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, P. Manning, Brady

2012: Kaepernick, Ryan, Joe Flacco, Brady

2011: Brady, Flacco, Eli Manning, Alex Smith

There are 13 different quarterbacks here. Ten of those, Ryan, Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Newton, Palmer, Wilson, the two Mannings, and Luck, are true franchise type quarterbacks. Of those, five were first overall picks in the draft, Ryan was the third pick, and Roethlisberger was the 11th, and Rodgers went later in the first round. Only Wilson and Brady were late-round finds.

Of the three others, Smith (1st overall) and Flacco (18th) were first-round picks. Kaepernick was a high second-rounder.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

At the time of their playoff games, all of the 13 quarterbacks were on the teams that drafted them. None of them were looking for work the previous March, or at any time, for that matter.

As the Redskins decide if they should make a desperation attempt to retain Cousins or let him walk and start over at the most important position on the field, which data point should they consider? The most recent season in front of them, or the six prior years (and many more before that)?

Let’s say you’re looking to sell your house and you want to figure out a fair price. One comparable house down the street recently had sold for $200,000. But the previous six houses that sold in the last couple of months all went for around $300,000, Are you going to price your house based on the most recent sale? Or are you going to factor that in but pay much more attention to the six previous sales?

You have to step back and look at the larger sample size before using a particular set of facts as even a partial basis for a major decision with far-reaching ramifications.

With all that said, there are other factors at play besides what other teams have been able to accomplish. There are plenty of valid reasons for moving on from Cousins and those may outweigh the case for keeping him. But pointing to three quarterbacks on four teams and saying, “case closed” is way too simplistic an approach.

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