New Redskins GM Scot McCloughan aimed to improve nearly every position through the draft or via free agency. How has he done? Over the next couple of weeks, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will examine and rate each group on the team. The ratings will be based on the quality of the players as compared to the rest of the league and, in particular, the division.
We’ll use a scale of 1 to 10. To receive a 10, a position group would need Pro-Bowl caliber starters and solid backups. A rating of 1 means the starters are aging and ineffective and there are no promising reserves in the pipeline.
Starters: Dashon Goldson (FS) and Jeron Johnson or Duke Ihenacho (SS).
Reserves: Johnson/Ihenacho, Trenton Robinson, Kyshoen Jarrett, Akeem Davis and Phillip Thomas.
Tandler: Once again, the Redskins did some patchwork at safety. They moved on from the aging Ryan Clark and the unreliable Brandon Meriweather but it remains to be seen if they upgraded. Goldson struggled mightily in two years with the Bucs after earning All-Pro honors in San Francisco. Was it a bad system fit or has playing a physical position started to wear down a player who will be 31 before the Redskins’ Week 2 game? They took a flyer on Johnson, who has all of one start and 275 NFL snaps on defense under his belt. Moving into a starting role could either be the logical next step in his development or a move up into a role that’s too big for him. Johnson will have to beat out Ihenacho, who started a Super Bowl with the Broncos but was dumped the following fall. In a league short on quality safeties you have to wonder Denver would cut a starter who was making the minimum salary. It appears that Jarrett has a good shot at making the team as a special teams player but both he and Davis have a lot to learn. Thomas, a 2013 fourth-round pick once envisioned as a starter by the organization, is having trouble getting snaps in the offseason program. Things could develop in training camp but right now this looks like a fairly weak unit. The rating is not as harsh as it could be because the safety position is in bad shape on teams all around the NFL. Rating: 3
El-Bashir: Just two years ago, the Redskins attempted to address their longstanding need at safety via the draft. It did not work. Bacarri Rambo was cut after a brief, miscue-riddled tenure in Washington and is now in Buffalo. As for Phillip Thomas, well, we’re still not quite sure what he’s going to be. Thomas remains on the Redskins roster, but, based on OTAs and minicamp, he’s lagging way behind Goldson, Johnson and Ihenacho. Just to earn a spot on the 53, in fact, Thomas will likely need to beat out Jarrett as well as special teams standouts Robinson and Davis. In other words, Thomas is going to have his work cut out in Richmond. And so, as Tandler said, that’s left the Redskins with a patchwork bunch that’s got more questions than answers. If Goldson sees the trade as a wakeup call, perhaps the hard-hitting free safety can regain his Pro Bowl form. If veteran assistant Perry Fewell can coach up Johnson and Ihenacho—they are still just 27 and 26 years old, respectively—perhaps they'll establish themselves as starting caliber players. That’s a couple of big ‘ifs’, however. After that, they’ve got Thomas, a sixth round rookie (Jarrett) and a couple of good special teamers (Robinson and Davis) who rarely played on defense last season. Please excuse me if, for now, I remain a bit skeptical about this position. Rating: 4