With the return of DeAngelo Hall, the 2013 Redskins’ picture in the secondary becomes more complete but it is still not crystal clear.
The team will have its top two cornerbacks back in Hall and Josh Wilson. The Redskins had a total of 1186 defensive plays last year; Hall was in for 1155 of them and Wilson for 1136.
They also bring back Richard Crawford, who played 202 snaps as a rookie last year. They also have a intriguing prospect in Chase Minnifield, who showed promise before suffering a knee injury in OTA’s last year. Replacing nickel back Cedric Griffin, who played 394 snaps, is free agent E. J. Biggers. Entering his fifth NFL season, Biggers started 12 games and played 816 snaps for the Bucs in 2012.
Having your starters back at cornerback isn’t necessarily a good thing when you had the 30th-ranked pass defense in the NFL the previous year. However, the cornerbacks were far from the only issues with pass defense. There were issues in front of them as the front seven, hampered by early season-ending injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, didn’t generate much of a consistent pass rush. And the safety spot, with Brandon Meriweather missing all but part of one game and Madieu Williams struggling at free safety, was not up to NFL standards.
That being said, Hall did have his share of issues last year. He probably was not as bad as Pro Football Focus said he was. According to them, Hall gave up 1027 yards the second-most yards among all NFL cornerbacks. Some have analyzed film and found that PFF charged Hall with yards that should have gone to others due to the scheme. However, it is also fair to say that Hall had his share of issues in coverage. He also has had some noted tackling issues, like when he tried to tug the Ravens’ Anquan Boldin out of bounds late in their December game or when he declined to assist two teammates as they tried to drag down Rob Gronkowski in a 2011 game against the Patriots.
But he made some plays as well as he intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles. Hall was fourth on the team in tackles with 64. There are better corners out there but given the Redskins salary cap situation Hall was a good option. He was cheap (he came on a one-year, $2.25 million deal), available, and he certainly knows the defense.
If the Redskins can get some improved safety play behind him, perhaps his gambling ways can pay off.
The Redskins are not done with the secondary. According to a few reports the addition of Hall does not rule out the addition of Antoine Winfield. That would make for a rather crowded situation at corner. But you could also say that an NFL team can’t have too many competent cornerbacks. The downside of keeping four veterans would be that there would only be room for one inexperienced corner like Crawford, Minnifield, or one they might take in the draft later this month.
The issue with not being able to groom any young players is magnified when you consider that Hall, Wilson, and Biggers are all scheduled to be free agents in 2014. If they do sign Winfield, it also would be a short-term deal. The Redskins could find themselves needing to dig into the cornerback free agent market, which is generally an expensive place to shop.
The safety situation needs to be sorted out as well. We will know more about Brandon Meriweather’s rehab when OTA’s start next month. Training camp will start about eight months after he suffered the torn ACL and if he is not ready to go by then the Redskins will need a Plan B. We haven’t even seen their Plan A at safety; that could well come in the draft.
Even after they finish with all the moves, the secondary is still likely to be mediocre at best. But in the salary cap era it is nearly impossible to build a team with not weaknesses. The key to winning is to avoid being awful in any area and to be strong enough elsewhere to compensate. If the Redskins can continue to score 27 points per game like they did last year and generate a decent pass rush, the secondary could be just mediocre enough to win with.