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It’s hard to believe, but there truly looks to be “more” competition for roster spots on the Washington Redskins this year than last year. Seriously, other than quarterback, kicker and punter, there’s an abundance of quality players battling for a position. The offensive line, defensive line and receiving corps all could see some changes, but the most intriguing area to me is the defensive secondary.

Take a look at the names on the roster:

Richard Crawford (PR, CB)
Leigh Torrence (CB)
Chase Minnifield (CB)
Cedric Griffin (CB)(S)
Kevin Barnes (CB)
DeAngelo Hall (CB)
Brandyn Thompson (CB)
Josh Wilson (CB)

Eain Smith (S)
Jordan Bernstine (S)
Tanard Jackson (FS)
Madieu Williams (S)
Brandon Meriweather (FS)
Travon Bellamy (DB)
Reed Doughty (SS)(FS)
Dejon Gomes (SS)(FS)

 

Each of these guys has a great deal to offer. I really felt like losing Otogwe and Landry, combined with the poor performance we saw from most of the defensive secondary in 2011 was going to contribute to another season with a weak secondary for the Redskins. Looking at the talent coming in though, I think the staff will have a real tough time making decisions on who to keep and who to let go. Here are a few reasons why I think each player has a shot and a few things you may not know about these guys.

Chase Minnifield (CB): Minnifield is a very talented guy out of Virginia. He’s coming off a knee scope and microfracture procedure in January, but is expected to be fine. His father, Frank, was a pro bowl caliber cornerback for the Cleveland Browns (1984-92). Chase admits he doesn’t play the same way his dad did, but he did pick up all of his dad’s study habits. He’s good in man or zone coverage, great ball skills, but does not have blazing speed. I think Minnifield is probably second to Meriweather on the excitement level although not by much, and obviously much less of a headache.
Richard Crawford (PR, CB): Crawford was drafted in this year’s draft in the 7th round and not only will compete for a cornerback position, but will also look to work on punt returns on special teams (He had an 92 yard punt return for touchdown last season, see it here). With hints that Brandon Banks may be in the mix at receiver, Crawford has a great chance to move in on punt returns. Crawford is yet another SMU product and more notably, a June Jones product. Jones has a very good relationship with the Redskins, you may remember he coached Colt Brennan at Hawaii. Jones also has a relationship with Mike Shanahan from Jones’ days as QB coach at Houston.
Leigh Torrence (CB): Torrence is a veteran who is actually returning to the Redskins, having been released by the team in 2008. He is a very smart player having made Academic All Pac-10 while at Stanford. In 2010, as a Saint, he tackled Antwaan Randel El just short of the goal line to stop a drive in the first half in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass late in the 4th quarter to seal a Saints win. He was also a member of the Saints’ Super Bowl Championship team. He brings alot to the team and will be a great resource for younger players and can be electric on the field.
Cedric Griffin (CB): Griffin is a versatile player because he has the ability to play either S or CB. Make no doubt about it, Griffin is a superstar level player. He has excelled at every level he has played. He beat out Fred Smoot to start at CB for the Vikings his rookie year. The Vikings liked his play so much that they offered him a five year $25 million contract. The worry with Griffin is that he suffered torn ACL’s to each leg in back to back seasons.

 

Kevin Barnes (CB): The staff is still very high on Barnes and so am I. Barnes has a reputation for being a hard hitter, much like Meriweather. While at Maryland he hit Cal’s Jahvid Best(now with the Detroit Lions) so hard Best vomited before leaving the field. Here’s the video. My favorite play though was during the 2010 season vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Barnes, who was playing safety because several injuries, intercepted a David Gerrard pass which led to a field goal in OT for the win. Look for Barnes to challenge everyone and see significant playing time in 2012.
DeAngelo Hall (CB): What can I say, the guy is a three-time Pro Bowler. Hall struggled last year and nobody was more bothered by that than he was. Hall is a serious competitor and has been a captain on defense so don’t look for him to disappear much. He will thrive in the environment in camp this year. Hall has been the leader of the secondary and I don’t see that changing.
Brandyn Thompson (CB): Life in Redskins park is all about taking advantage of opportunities and last year was a huge opportunity for Thompson and in my opinion, he missed the opportunity. Thompson was moved back and forth between the 53 man roster and practice squad for the Redskins in 2011 so much that I just think the team is not sold on him. I know Jim Haslett is big on Thompson, but I think the competition will be a great deal tougher this year than last. Interesting sidenote, Thompson’s great uncle is former Georgetown University Basketball Coach and ESPN980 on air personality John Thompson II.
Josh Wilson (CB): Josh Wilson is another local product, having played for Dematha High School and the University of Maryland. His father Tim(also a Maryland grad) was a Houston Oiler RB and good friend of Earl Cambell. He passed away when Josh was 11. Wilson had a few rough plays last year, but for the most part played extremely well. He started all 16 games and had 2 interceptions. While with the Seahawks, Wilson also returned kicks and did very well. The CB spots are Hall’s and Wilson’s to lose at this point. If Griffin stays healthy and the Redskins decide to leave him at CB, expect him to put some serious pressure on Wilson for a starting role.

 

Eain Smith (S): Smith is a surprise for the Redskins. The West Virginia product was at the rookie camp for a tryout and made such a good impression that he was one of the very few undrafted players to make the team from a total of 62 players who were at the rookie camp. Smith had some ups and downs at WVU at FS and academically, but overcame the adversity and finished very strong. Smith did have a tough time dealing with losing his starting spot at WVU, spending a great deal of time sulking on the bench. After seeing how Mike Shanahan handled Aldrick Robinson, Drew Hankerson and Evan Royster most of last season, I wonder if Smith has the mental toughness to survive an extended period on the practice squad.

 

Jordan Bernstine (S): Drafted in the seventh round this year, Jordan started one season at Iowa as a SS, but has played both safety positions and CB. He is another player with kick return experience. He is a tough player, can at times be explosive, and is very good at defending the run. He has had trouble finding the ball on pass plays though. With so much versatility, I can see why Shanahan drafted him and would be surprised to not see him make the team somewhere.
Tanard Jackson (FS): Jackson is another local player, having attended Bullis High School in Potomac, Maryland. He played CB at Syacuse, but once drafted by Tampa Bay in 2007 they converted him to safety. He has been in trouble with substance abuse way too much, but if Raheem Morris can get him focused on football he has some terrific skills and can be very successful in the Redskins’ defense. He also is an example of what could happen to Trent Williams and Fred Davis if they violate the substance abuse policy again as he did. However, he may have turned the corner there and could possibly be a good example to Williams and Davis. Jackson was suspended for one year for repeated violations to the substance abuse policy. He was eleigible to be reinstated 9-22-11, but wasn’t brought back until 10-11-11. On 10-14-11 he was placed on the Buc’s active roster. Two days later he had an interception vs. the Saints and followed that up with another one vs. the Bears in London. Not bad for a guy who just took a year off. Raheem Morris and Bruce Allen are both very big on Jackson.
Madieu Williams (S): Yet another local player, Williams moved to Lanham, MD when he was 9, later attended DuVal High School and eventually the University of Maryland. Williams has had stints in Cincinnati, Minnesota (where he played with Cedric Griffin) and San Francisco. He has had terrific numbers when he plays. His knock though is injury. He’s missed a great deal of time due to injury. However, if he can stay healthy, he is another player who could start in the Redskins scheme. He can also make a decision for the staff very difficult.
Travon Bellamy (DB): Don’t sleep on this kid. Bellamy is a Greenbelt Maryland native and was a star CB at Elanor Roosevelt High School. He followed that up by playing CB for Illinois University. He went undrafted in the 2011 draft, but signed with the Rams. After being released by the Rams, Bellamy was picked up in late November 2011 by the Redskins as a practice squad member. He is a very hard working player. After leaving the Rams in August, he worked out 6 days a week, combining weight training and cardio so he would be ready. He’s not as flashy as the other names you see in the Redskins secondary, but he is great at solo tackles. That’s may be why he is listed as a DB on the Redskins roster after playing CB his entire football career up to that point.
Reed Doughty (S): Doughty is a great special teams player and well liked by the Redskins organization. That being said, even as a backup he struggled last year. His experience is a big plus though and he will be a great help to any young players in camp this summer. Don’t look for him to start, but he can play both safety positions.
Dejon Gomes (S): Gomes has been highly touted by Jim Haslett. Last season, before a rash of injuries and a suspension, the plan had been to use Gomes at both safety positions. Once the team let Gomes focus on just one safety position, he played much better. With a different set of players this season, I’d look for Gomes to be given the opportunity to improve in just one position and do better. Having said that, he does have a year of experience in the Redskins secondary and if Haslett and Shanahan are correct, he should flourish this season. Gomes has a chance to really cloud the field for choices at safety.

 

Brandon Meriweather (FS): Meriweather is a very, very talented player. He has a chance to become better than Laron Laundry was in 2010 but he has a long list of issues and getting a DUI before camp even starts when you are new to a team isn’t exactly a sign that you are serious about football. However, if Raheem Morris can get to him and straighten him out; get him focused on football (which Morris is very good at doing), look out!

As you can see, each player has something to offer. However, the Redskins’ 3-4 defense is all about pressure, so with the addition of Jarvis Jenkins, the return of London Fletcher and some nice added depth(Keenan Robinson sign please!), not to mention Ryan Kerrigan in his second year, the secondary may not be under as much scrutiny as they were in 2011. Bottom line though, having so many tough choices is a great problem to have.

Having said that, it has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world to tell players they didn’t make it, they’re not good enough. I guess there can be some solace with having the ability to try and get a few players on the practice squad, but to have to cut players every year, to have that conversation, has to really be tough. I couldn’t do it, but since I don’t really have to, I can guess at just who will stay and who won’t. So, here is my best guess as to who will be permitted to stay and who will be asked to leave and look for another team. My gut tells me the Redskins will keep only 4 safeties and 4 cornerbacks. Last year no defensive backs made the practice squad at the beginning of the season, but I just can’t do that. Here’s my list:

Josh Wilson (CB)
DeAngelo Hall (CB)
Kevin Barnes (CB)
Chase Minnifield (CB)
Richard Crawford (PR, CB)(Makes Practice Squad)

Brandon Meriweather (FS)
Dejon Gomes (SS)(FS)
Tanard Jackson (FS)
Jordan Bernstine (S)
Travon Bellamy (DB) (Makes Practice Squad)

So here is who Mike Shanahan (Not me, of course) would have to have that tough conversation with:

Leigh Torrence (CB)
Cedric Griffin (CB)(S)
Brandyn Thompson (CB)
Eain Smith (S)
Madieu Williams (S)
Reed Doughty (SS)(FS)

No real slouches on that list. I could see them all making another team. Of course it’s all dependent on how the rest of the team shapes up. Maybe it is possible that 2 defensive backs make the practice squad. Breaking it down, I could see 1 QB, 2 OL, 1 LB, 1 RB, 2 DB.

Either way, it’s a tough decision and I’m glad I don’t have to make it.

Just FYI, here’s who they kept for the original 53 man roster last year.

Barnes, Kevin cb
Atogwe, Oshiomogho fs
Buchanon, Phillip cb
Doughty, Reed s
Gomes, DeJon s
Hall, DeAngelo cb
Landry LaRon ss
Westbrook, Byron cb
Wilson, Josh cb

So Redskins Nation, what do you think? Who makes it and who doesn’t?

Hit me up at @monkeyhouserock on twitter and let me know what you think!

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4 Responses to “Tough Decisions: The Washington Redskins Secondary, Who to Keep?”

  1. Here’s my list

    I think they keep 5 CBs

    Josh Wilson (CB)
    DeAngelo Hall (CB)
    Leigh Torrence (CB)
    Cedric Griffin (CB)(S)
    Brandyn Thompson (CB)

    These guys are on the team but won’t contribute this year
    Chase Minnifield (CB)/PUP list
    Richard Crawford (PR, CB)(Makes Practice Squad)

    Kevin Barnes will be cut. I thought he was one of the most disappointing players last year. He missed way too many tackles, gave up to many receptions. His game wwill need to really pick up to be here.

    I think they keep 4 or 5 Safities depending on the numbers at other position

    Make the team

    Brandon Meriweather (FS) – If they keep 4, he’d be the odd man out
    Dejon Gomes (SS)(FS)
    Tanard Jackson (FS)
    Madieu Williams (S)
    Reed Doughty (SS)(FS)

  2. There’s no way they’d get rid of Cedric Griffin unless he was injured. The kid is just too good.

  3. I agree, but the guy has had an acl tear in both legs. Some people never recover from one. Obviously, the Vikings don’t think he’s healthy. In my opinion, there are some very difficult decisions to make, they won’t be able to keep everyone. Who do you think they decide to let go?

  4. It has already been awhile since I visited, but yet this is definitely a great post. I hope you keep up the good quality effort.


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