Redskins

Redskins

With free agency in the rearview and the NFL Draft fast approaching, the NBC Sports Washington Redskins crew examines the entire roster by position group. Today: Safety.

The biggest Redskins free agency acquisition from a year ago came at the safety position when Washington signed Landon Collins to a six-year, $84 million contract.

Collins was solid with the Redskins in 2019, but almost everyone who played opposite Collins struggled. Montae Nicholson was the team's starting free safety to begin the season and was consistently beat in coverage. He also missed multiple weeks due to injury, and his replacement, 2018 fourth-rounded Troy Apke, was not much better. Nicholson has since been released by Washington while Apke will likely be fighting for a final roster spot come training camp. 

In free agency, the Redskins added former Pittsburgh Steeler and DMV native Sean Davis, who will presumably start at free safety opposite Collins. Davis has played both safety positions during his four-year NFL career and brings versatility to the secondary unit.

How well Collins and Davis coexist with one another will be one of the intriguing storylines surrounding the 2020 Redskins defense. Here's a breakdown of the group.

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Landon Collins -- 6th-year pro, signed with Washington in 2019

2019 recap: Expectations were sky-high for Collins entering the 2019 season after signing a massive contract. While he had an all-around solid season with the Redskins, it was nothing special. The safety was one of the Redskins' better defensive players and led the team in tackles with 117, but Collins lacked the ability to create turnovers (2 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions) or simply provide a spark. To put it simply, the Redskins were looking for more out of the 26-year-old when they signed him to his enormous deal last March.

 

2020 potential: After playing more in coverage than he would have liked a season ago, Collins will truly get to play strong safety in 2020 and line up closer to the line of scrimmage. Playing in the box is where Collins is at his best. He's excellent playing against the run and is a great tackler. Over the past few years, Collins has been unable to replicate his outstanding 2016 season where he notched five interceptions and was named to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro. Playing in his more natural position and in a simpler scheme under new DC Jack Del Rio should elevate his play in 2020.

Sean Davis -- 5th-year pro, signed by the Redskins in 2020

2019 recap: Davis missed all but one game a year ago with a shoulder injury. He had played in 47 of a possible 48 games during the first three seasons of his career.

2020 potential: After the Steelers let Davis hit the free-agent market this offseason, the Maryland native signed a one-year prove-it deal with his hometown team. Davis has experience playing both safety positions over his career, and versatility is something new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera emphasizes. Davis will play free safety in Washington, as the combination of his size and speed best fits that position. While he only has one full season at the position under his belt, he has the chance to prove to the Redskins (and the rest of the NFL) that he can be a solid free safety for a long time. If so, he'll have plenty of suitors for his services come free agency next year.

Troy Apke -- 3rd-year pro, drafted by the Redskins in 2018

2019 recap: Apke started two games at free safety in place of Nicholson and was notched his first-career interception against the 49ers. The speedy 2018 fourth-round pick has been mainly a special teamer during his two seasons in Washington and is not a lock to make the roster in 2020.

2020 potential: Fourth-round picks are usually expected to contribute more than just on special teams, and Apke hasn't been able to do that much since his arrival. A solid preseason could cement a roster spot for the third-year pro, but Apke certainly needs to show improvement as a safety -- starting with training camp -- in order to make the roster. The best-case scenario for Apke is he does just that and proves he can be a solid backup at the position while continuing to stand out on specials.

DeShazor Everett -- A special-teams ace, Everett has seen significant time on defense during his five seasons with the Redskins, too, including eight starts in 2017. But he played in just seven games a season ago due to injury with only 38 total snaps on defense. Everett is a valuable depth piece but don't count on him seeing meaningful defensive snaps next season.

 

Jeremy Reaves -- Played in nine games for the Redskins a season ago, starting three. Reaves has spent time bouncing in between the practice squad and active roster during his two seasons with the Redskins. He will likely once again be fighting for a roster spot.

Maurice Smith -- Signed by the Redskins late last season and appeared in two games. Will fight for a roster spot come training camp.

Overall Safety Projection: Collins and Davis have skillsets that should compliment each other nicely, but no one will truly know if the pairing will work until they get out on the field. Best case scenario, this duo could form a solid backline on the Redskins defense and be one of the better tandems in the NFC. If they don't, the Redskins safety play will be very similar to last season. Plus, there's a major dropoff in talent after these two. Should either Collins or Davis get injured, this unit is in big trouble. 

Overall Safety Grade: Between Collins and Davis, there's plenty of potential and talent. But the depth behind these two is a little concerning. For both of those reasons, this group gets a C. 

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