The Redskins did some repairs to their hole at cornerback yesterday by signing E. J. Biggers, formerly of the Buccaneers. Whether or not we can declare that hole to be filled remains to be seen.
Biggers is 25 and after a rookie 2009 season lost to injury and subpar seasons in 2010 and 2011 he took a leap forward last year. Pro Football Focus liked his play in coverage and his overall rating was tied for 27th best in the NFL among the 71 cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their teams’ snaps. The player he was tied with was Josh Wilson, the only other player on the Redskins’ roster with experience starting NFL games at cornerback. By comparison, former (and perhaps future, see below) Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall ranked 48th.
Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris, who was the head coach in Tampa Bay for the first three years of Biggers’ career, seems high on his new corner. “He has elite qualities,” he told ESPN 980 on Wednesday night. “He's a fast guy, who could really stick you in coverage.”
If you drew up a depth chart today you would have Wilson and Biggers as the starting corners and second-year player Richard Crawford as the nickel back. If you’re talking about having that group going up against the pass-happy teams in the NFC East not to mention Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan, all of whom are on the 2013 schedule, you’re talking about bringing a knife to a gun fight. They also would have no depth.
It is likely that at least one, and probably two, cornerbacks will be added to the roster before OTA’s start. One could be a veteran. Mike Shanahan said on Wednesday that the door is open for Hall’s return so perhaps he will come back for a (greatly) reduced salary. Another possibility is Antoine Winfield, the former Viking who will be 36 in June but still might have a solid season in him.
The other addition could come via the draft. It seems likely that when the Redskins make their pick in the second or third round they will find a cornerback who is close enough to being the best available player to justify taking him.
The presence of Biggers and another veteran would allow the rookie to be brought along at a moderate pace and he would not need to be thrown in to the starting lineup right away.
If the rookie develops and Biggers shows he’s ready for, well, bigger things, the duo could be the starting cornerbacks in 2013. Wilson will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and while the Redskins might want to keep him it would be good to have other options.
While none of the potential major contributors for 2013 can be described as anything remotely resembling a “shutdown corner” none of them has to be. In the salary cap era the NFL is not about being strong at every position. It is about being able to minimize weaknesses while being strong enough in some other areas to compensate. The group could be good enough for the Redskins to be competitive if the return of Brian Orakpo can generate an improved pass rush and the offense can run the ball and produce points like it did a year ago.