Secondary Issues


September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (80), Washington Redskins safety DeJon Gomes (24) and cornerback DeAngelo Hall (23) reach for a pass during the fourth quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

As the Redskins come out of their bye week, the optimism generated by the play of rookies RG3 and Alfred Morris and a top five offense from the first six games has degenerated into traditional Redskins short term pessimism, wondering where the next win will come from, and longer term concerns with a team short on draft picks and short on cap space.

In 2011, the Redskins had the twelfth best defence and a struggling offence. After ten weeks of the 2012 season, the Redskins offence ranks fourth while the defence is 28th overall and a pathetic 31st against the pass. Since 2004, the Redskins have invested heavily in the secondary, both through the draft and via expensive free agent signings. So where did it all go wrong?

In 2004, 2005 and 2007 we spent our (high) first round draft picks on Sean Taylor (#5 overall), Carlos Rogers (#9) and Laron Landry (#6) respectively. The tragic loss of Taylor is still tough to come to terms with while Rogers and Landry were allowed to leave via free agency after six and five years on the team.

In 2004 we also splashed out on Ryan Clark and Walt Harris to join 2003 signing safety Matt Bowen, who’s play for some reason, went in to a tailspin after one reasonable season with the Redskins, and went on to play a couple of games for Buffalo in 2006 before being out of football completely.

Clark joined the Steelers in 2006 and is still enjoying a productive career with them while Harris joined the 49ers, started every game with them for three years during his best period in the NFL.

Adam Archuleta was rewarded by the Redskins after an impressive first five years in the league with the Rams. His hard hitting style was to be the final piece in the Redskins’ secondary but, in an all too familiar story, he failed to provide what the Redskins were looking for and played just one year in DC before leaving for Chicago. After one year in the windy city, he too was out of football.

With the failure of the Archuleta signing, the Redskins went back to the draft in 2007 and selected free safety Landry to pair up with Taylor in a hard hitting pair that would scare any receiving corps. This dream team, nicknamed “Area 51” was supposed to serve the nation’s capital for years to come but the heartbreaking death of Taylor in November 2007, set the unit back from which it has never recovered.

Pro Bowl corner DeAngelo Hall was a big money signing by the Raiders at the start of the 2008 season but his stint in Oakland lasted just eight games before he was surprisingly released. The Redskins signed him for the remainder of the season and were impressed enough with his play to offer him a long term deal.

Oct 21, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) is tackled by New York Jets safety LaRon Landry (30) during the first overtime quarter at Gillette Stadium. The New England Patriots won 29-26. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

Long term starting corners Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot (back with the Redskins after two unsuccessful years with the Vikings) left after the 2008 and 2009 seasons and Rogers left to join the 49ers in 2011 where he played to a pro bowl standard. Landry was allowed to leave after his final two seasons were plagued by injury, despite playing at an elite level.

Another free agent splash in 2011 in the form of OJ Atogwe also failed with the safety playing just one year in the burgundy and gold, leaving the section led by Hall and supplemented by a number of low round draft picks and other team’s cast offs. We don’t know how much difference a healthy Brandon Merriweather would have made or an eligible Tanard Jackson, but the play of the current group is obviously not up to standard. Patching up the secondary with low round hopeful projects, the likes of Chris Horton, Kareem Moore, Kevin Barnes, Reed Doughty, Dejon Gomes, Brandyn Thompson, Byron Westbrook, Leigh Torrence, Justin Tryon, Ade Jimoh and this year, Richard Crawford has not been the answer. Some contribute more than others but we have not been able to establish an NFL caliber starting secondary and hold on to them.

Since 2004 we have had our share of tragedy, busted free agents, and poor personnel decisions that have allowed some good players to leave. While our free agent signings in the secondary seem to come to Washington and struggle, too many players that are allowed to leave seem to blossom in their new surroundings. Signing other teams’ cast offs has finally caught up with us resulting in the 31st ranked secondary. So what does the future hold? There are too many holes to fill in one year, especially with few draft picks and reduced cap space so our front office is going to have to make some shrewd moves to overhaul this struggling unit.