Grading the Redskins: Cornerbacks struggle

Grading the Redskins: Cornerbacks struggle
January 31, 2013, 11:45 am
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Over the next two weeks, CSNWashington.com Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2012 and evaluate its outlook for 2013.

Go here to see the rest of the posts in the series.

Position: Cornerbacks

Grade: D

2012 starters: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson (both started 16 games)

Key reserves: Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford, D. J. Johnson

Key free agents: Griffin

Rewind

When the fantasy football gurus were making their start ‘em or sit ‘em recommendations in 2012, their go-to pick was the wide receivers who were going up against the Redskins. It was like stealing money. In the opener it was the Saints’ Lance Moore with six catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. Week 2 owners who had the Rams’ Danny Almendola got a great deal of help from his 15 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown.

An on it went. Through the first seven weeks of the season at least one opposing receiver put up 100 yards or more every game. And frequently the highlights of the receivers’ big days had Hall or Wilson in the picture, in futile chase of the man with the ball.

When opposing quarterbacks targeted Hall’s receiver they rang up a passer rating of 90.0 according to Pro Football Focus. Targeting Wilson’s man led to a 94.3.0 rating. It all added up to 4511 passing yards for the opposition, 30th in the NFL in 2012 and the most in team history by more than 300 yards.

It wasn’t all on Hall and Wilson, of course. Nickel back Cedric Griffin had not caught on to the defensive scheme in the early going and then he missed three games with a strained hamstring early in the season and then he was out the last four games of the regular season due to a PED-related suspension. When he was in there, QB’s enjoyed a passer rating of 100.0 when targeting his man.

The corners who filled in for Griffin weren’t quite up to the task. The rookie Crawford was still learning and Johnson and David Jones were journeymen for a reason.

Add in poor safety play (we will cover that tomorrow), a pass rush that was questionable even before Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker were lost for the season with injuries, and the fact that the Redskins’ offense was fourth in scoring, forcing the opposition to throw a league-high 636 times, and you have plenty of mitigating circumstances.

But Hall and Wilson certainly warrant their share of the blame. In spite of that, it would not be surprising to see both of them back as the Redskins’ starters

Fast forward

At some point during the next month or so, the Redskins will be placing a call to Hall’s agent. He is scheduled to make a salary of $7.5 million next year and the team would not pay him that even if it wasn’t operating with an $18 million salary cap penalty. Hall has said that he is willing to take a pay cut to return. If they can come to an agreement, Hall will be back. But if they can’t, the Redskins will be looking for a corner in free agency or in the draft.

Wilson is on the last year of his contract and he will make $3.9 million in 2013. The team may want to sign him to an extension to get some relief from his salary cap charge of $5.33 million.

Griffin is a free agent and it’s difficult to read the tea leaves with him. The Redskins can’t be happy with the PED suspension but they might want to bring him back for the sake of continuity.

Even if Griffin is back, Crawford should get a shot at the nickel spot. He struggled early in the year and was inactive five games during the middle of the season. But after Griffin was suspended Crawford played well enough to earn a chance at additional playing time this season.

Chase Minnifield was thought to be a steal when the Redskins picked him up as an undrafted free agent. But the Virginia product didn’t make it to training camp due to a knee injury. If he is healthy, he will have a shot at a roster spot.

The Redskins might want to start all over again at the cornerback position but the realities of the salary cap and their lack of a first-round pick could make the 2013 crew look a lot like the one from 2012. If that happens, they can only hope that an improved pass rush and a year in the system for Griffin and Crawford will improve the unit.