In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.
In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
What will the depth chart look like at safety?
Tandler: It really hasn’t been forever since the Redskins had a solid, reliable pair of safeties roaming their secondary, it just seems like it. It was in 2005 that they had Sean Taylor and Ryan Clark forming a solid safety duo so it’s really been “only” 11 seasons. The next year they released Clark and Taylor was lost the next season and they have been trying to find the right combination ever since.
They are unlikely to find their long-term solution this year and no Redskins safety is going to make a trip to the Pro Bowl but perhaps they have a group that can get the job done.
DeAngelo Hall and Dashon Goldson, who are 32 and 31 years old respectively, provide a pair of veteran starters. There are some red flags with both of them. Hall has missed 18 games due to injuries in the last two years and Goldson is paid like a top safety ($8 million cap number) but his performance does not justify his salary. It seems likely that he and the organization will be able to come to a redone contract that will satisfy everyone but until it’s done his status remains in doubt.
Able to step in is Kyshoen Jarrett, the Swiss Army knife of the secondary. Last year Jarrett played some nickel corner, corner, and both safety positions. Add in Jeron Johnson, who played better late in the season after being glued to the bench for most of September and October, and perhaps Duke Ihenacho if they bring him back as a restricted free agent and you have a group without a star but with some depth and flexibility.
El-Bashir: This is a tough one for a bunch of reasons. But I think it’s safe to make one assumption: DeAngelo Hall, who was widely praised for his smooth, mid-season transition from corner to safety, is in position to seize one of the two starting jobs in ‘16.
“I’m glad he’s with us,” GM Scot McCloughan said last month, referring to the 12th year veteran.
After Hall, though, I see lots of questions.
Dashon Goldson led the defense in tackles and was an invaluable member of the locker room’s leadership. But, as Tandler noted, his overall performance does not match his $8 million cap hit. Does Goldson, who turns 32 in September, return on a renegotiated deal? I think he does, but it's really early in the offseason.
Duke Ihenacho won the starting strong safety job in camp but got injured in Week 1. The 26-year-old has been limited to 13 snaps on defense the past two seasons due to injury and is a restricted free agent. Ihenacho can play and he told me recently that he’s 100-percent healthy, but do the Redskins trust him to stay that way?
Can Jeron Johnson earn a bigger role on defense in ’16? He was used primarily as a reserve in his first season as a Redskin. In the playoffs, he was used exclusively on special teams, where he finished the season as the team’s second leading tackler.
And what about Kyshoen Jarrett? McCloughan said recently that he expects the rookie to make a full recovery from the serious shoulder injury he suffered in Dallas. Assuming that happens, is he a corner, a safety or jack-of-all-trades reserve?
My best guess is you can pencil in Hall as one starter. The rest of the picture will become much clearer after free agency and the draft. If McCloughan is as aggressive in retooling the secondary as some expect him to be, though, this position could see some turnover.
25 Questions series
- Is McCoy the answer at backup QB for the Redskins?
- Should the Redskins try to keep Alfred Morris?
- Should the Redskins cut Andre Roberts?
- Will there be a surprise cap casualty?
- Will DeAngelo Hall return?
- Should the Redskins draft a quarterback?
- Are the Redskins set at outside linebacker?
- Should the Redskins make changes on the offensive line?
- Should Pierre Garçon return?
- What should the Redskins do at tight end?
- Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?
- Will Kirk Cousins improve in 2016?
- Who will start at inside linebacker?
- Who on defense will take the next step?
- How can the Redskins make it to the Super Bowl?
- Who on offense will take the next step?
- Should DeSean Jackson return?
- How can the Redskins fix the running game?
- Today: What will the depth chart at safety look like in 2016?
- Tomorrow: Should the Redskins draft a running back?