The short answer is: I don’t have a clue. The Skins’ secondary was already the weakness of the defense, and they’ve gotten worse this offseason, perhaps a lot worse, especially at safety. LaRon Landry was a very good player when he actually played, but his inability to stay healthy forced the team to let him seek employment elsewhere. In a much more surprising move, in my opinion, the Skins cut S Oshiomogho Atogwe in a salary dump. Atogwe wasn’t the playmaking ballhawk he once was in St. Louis on some very bad Rams teams, and he too battled injuries, but at the very least he was a solid, skilled player. The Redskins have not yet adequately replaced either player.
Let’s start with Cedric Griffin, who the Redskins signed to a 1-year deal. Griffin has torn both of his ACL’s since January 2010. After what was described as an “abysmal” season in Minnesota, Griffin was asked to take a pay cut. He refused, and was shown the door. Equally alarming to his poor play, in my opinion, are reports that players in the Vikings’ secondary refused to run the plays called by defensive coordinator Fred Pagac:
According to two sources, a group of defensive backs raised concerns about Pagac’s play-calling — specifically, the timing and frequency of blitzes and man-coverage calls — within the first month of the season.
At times, some players simply refused to play the defenses called, yelling out their own coverages as they broke the huddle.
It’s believed by people that follow the Vikings closely that Griffin was a main culprit in not running the defenses that were being called. He would eventually be benched, and even drew some very harsh words from head coach Leslie Frazier:
“We made that switch to try to get someone in there that would slow the Titus Youngs of the world down,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to play the kind of defense we want to play if you don’t execute that part of the defense.”
Sunday’s benching came one week after coaches took Griffin out of the base defense late in a loss to Denver. Frazier said the next day Griffin only was continuing to play because injuries and other issues have decimated the secondary — but that wasn’t enough to keep him on the field against the Lions.
“Even though we may not have our full complement, there are certain things that we have to be able to do to be able to function,” Frazier said. “Being fundamentally sound, technique sound — that doesn’t take a lot of talent. You’ve just got to be able to execute some of those basic fundamentals that we ask. Made a change and the guys that got in there, they battled and they fought and they held their own pretty good.”
It is believed that the Redskins are going to try to convert Griffin from CB to S. So to recap:
- Two torn ACL’s (one for each knee) since January of 2010
- “Abysmal” season in 2011
- Reportedly refused to run the play calls in Minnesota
- Benched on multiple occasions in Minnesota
- Has to learn a new position in a new defensive scheme
Let’s just be kind and say that opposing offenses might try to test Griffin early and often.
At the other safety spot, the Redskins signed Brandon Meriweather. In the last seven months, Meriweather has been cut from one team and had another show zero interest in bringing him back for a second season. Although physically talented, Meriweather has red flags galore, running the gamut from a shooting, to kicking opposing players in an onfield brawl at Miami, to repeated fines for helmet-to-helmet hits, to other bizarre associations with seedy types.
In 2011, after starting in Weeks 2 through 5, a span in which he played 268 of the Bears’ 279 defensive snaps (data from Pro Football Focus), he was benched in favor of rookie 3rd round draft pick Chris Conte. Over the next 8 games, Meriweather was in on just 94 snaps. He saw 41 snaps in Week 15 when Conte was lost for the season with an ankle injury, and then never saw the field again.
Longtime Packers beat writer Bob McGinn classified Griffin and Meriweather as such:
DeJon Gomes is a 2nd year player that impressed me during the preseason last year, but struggled when he got his chances in the real games. He’s the primary competition for Meriweather and/or Griffin. Reed Doughty is not a viable NFL starter. Beyond that, the Redskins could of course draft a safety later this month, but there’s a very real possibility that Griffin and Meriweather will be the Skins’ opening week starters. Not good.
At one corner spot, DeAngelo Hall will be back again, which makes no sense to me. Here’s what I wrote abut Hall last week:
Remember when DeAngelo Hall stole the ball (and some dignity) away from Tashard Choice in the Skins’ Week 1 game against the Cowboys in 2010? Remember when he picked off Jay Cutler 4 times in one game in 2010? He got into the 2010 Pro Bowl largely on those two things, undeservedly. The guy will make the occasional big play. I’ll certainly give him some credit for that. But when he’s not making plays, he’s one of the worst CB’s in the league.
Football Outsiders has a stat they use for corners that they refer to as “success rate,” which charts the percentage of passes that don’t manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed yards on third down. It’s an imperfect stat (as they all are) that also requires some level of football knowledge to determine which defensive back is being “targeted” on any one play. Still, it provides a pretty good framework of which corners are playing well, and which ones aren’t.
In 2010, DeAngelo Hall had the 2nd worst “success rate” in the NFL at 39%. He also gave up the 3rd most yards per target in the NFL (10.5), and the 3rd worst yards after catch (5.8).
2011 was actually worse. Through 12 games on the 2011 season (Football Outsides hasn’t yet published their full-season findings), Hall was 3rd worst in the NFL in success rate (36%) and 2nd worst in yards per target (11.1 yards). Missing in action were the big plays, as he managed just 3 INT’s (his lowest total since his rookie season in 2004) and 1 FF.
At the other corner spot is Josh Wilson, a competent, yet unspectacular player. I like Josh Wilson, but when he’s the best player in your secondary, you have major issues.
Beyond Hall and Wilson, the only depth of note at CB is Kevin Barnes, who has been a huge disappointment after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2009.
If indeed the foursome of Griffin, Meriweather, Hall, and Wilson is going to be the Redskins’ starting secondary, they better get a ton of pressure on opposing QB’s. Otherwise, they’re simply not going to be able to stop the likes of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten, to name a few.