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How should the Redskins address their need at safety?

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How should the Redskins address their need at safety?

Over the next few weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2015, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2016. Today, we’re taking a look at the safeties.

Safeties

Grade: C.

2015 starters: Dashon Goldson and Duke Ihenacho in Week 1; by the end of the season, Goldson and corner-turned-safety DeAngelo Hall were the starters.

Backups: Kyshoen Jarrett and Jeron Johnson.

Free agents: Ihenacho (restricted).

Rewind: The season got off to an ominous start for the Redskins’ safeties. Ihenacho, who had held off Johnson in training camp to earn the starting strong safety job, suffered a dislocated and fractured wrist early in the season-opener.

As a result, Ihenacho was lost for the season—again. In 2014, a heel injury sent him to injured reserve after only three games.

The safety position was pretty much a scramble from that point on.

Trenton Robinson started seven games in Ihenacho’s place. But he struggled with missed tackles, got hurt and was waived in December. Jarrett started three games, while Johnson also got a short-lived crack at the starting lineup.

The only safety to enjoy a steady role was Goldson, who started 15 regular season games and, despite resting in Week 17, led all Redskins' defenders in snaps played (995). Goldson, who turns 32 in September, also led the team in tackles (110) and proved to be an invaluable leader on the field and in the locker room. But he also missed 19 tackles, the second highest total among safeties, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Hall, meantime, began the season as the starting left corner but finished his 12th NFL campaign as a starting safety. D-Hall proved to be a quick study, surprised coaches with his physicality and, overall, performed solidly down the stretch.  

In the final analysis, safety was not a position of strength for the Redskins’ defense. But given the injuries that besieged the backend all year, Goldson and Co. proved to be enough—just enough.    

Fast forward: This is obviously a position the Redskins will want to bolster this offseason.

Goldson carries an $8 million cap hit in 2016. That might be a deal-breaker for the Redskins, who liked what he brought to the defense and to the locker room but will likely balk at his current cost. Will he take less to stick around? That remains to be seen.

Hall, meantime, seems to have the best chance of being one of the two starting safeties in Week 1. In fact, both Coach Jay Gruden and GM Scot McCloughan have said they’re confident he possesses the savvy and the skill set to thrive at safety.

Where does that leave the others? Good question.

Ihenacho has vowed to win back his starting job and, given that he’s an RFA and just 26, he might get that chance. The concern, obviously, is that he’s played a grand total of 13 snaps the past two seasons. Jarrett played all over the place as a rookie but figures to be in the mix, as well. And you can’t totally count out Johnson, though he made a bigger impact on special teams (seven tackles and a blocked punt) last season.

Given all the question marks and the age of Goldson and Hall, it’ll be surprising if McCloughan stands pat. I actually expect him to target a young free agent (like 25-year-old George Iloka of the Bengals) and perhaps seek an eventual starter in the draft. 

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. The lack of talent at wide receiver has been evident throughout the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, with wide receivers accounting for just five of the Cowboys' eight passing touchdowns.

Following the 20-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys decided to make a quick fix, trading a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple reports.

Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has just 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. The former Alabama star had an equally disappointing 2017 campaign and has grown frustrated with his role in John Gruden's new regime.

Cooper will instantly become the Cowboys best deep threat and will allow Cole Beasley to shine both in the slot and spread out wide. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie Michael Gallup, who scored the Cowboys' only passing touchdown against the Redskins, has the second most targets among Dallas receivers, hauling in 10 of his 22 targets for 190 yards. Tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott has 25 catches for 175 yards.

Prescott is averaging just 202.2 passing yards per game, and while Cooper may not be a true top-tier wide receiver, he is the next best thing and will allow the offense to be more dynamic in its play-calling.

Cooper will make an estimated $13.9 million in base salary in 2019, meaning the Cowboys will have to pay a pretty penny to keep him.

The move makes it clear that the Raiders are shifting toward a full rebuild. It also shows that Dallas understands it didn't have enough firepower to compete for a divisional title.

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