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Need to Know: Who will be the Redskins’ strong safety in 2015?

Feb 11, 2015, 5:11 AM EDT

Jeron-Johnson

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 11, seven days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question comes from the Real Redskins Facebook page:

source:

If you read my posts here or follow me on Twitter, you may know that I don’t see any way that Alabama strong safety Landon Collins, who could be called the peoples’ choice for the Redskins’ pick at No. 5. Even though the pick would fill a major need for the team I can’t see any way that Scot McCloughan, who has a history of taking the best available player on the board, will pull the trigger on Collins with that top pick. There certainly will be better players on the board at that point.

Taking the best available player is great but the Redskins still will need someone to play strong safety in 2015. Who can do the job? Here are three possibilities from three different sources.

—If they want to fill the position from within, Phillip Thomas could get a shot. He was the Redskins’ fourth-round pick in 2013 and he has had to persevere through a year on injured reserve and a year spent partially on the practice squad. The Fresno State product did start four games at the end of the year and, as is typical for a young safety, he played pretty well against the run but struggled in pass coverage. Perhaps after a full offseason of work with the starting secondary he could improve enough to hold the position down at least in the short term and perhaps for longer.

—Going to the veteran free agent market is the traditional Redskins way of handling a position vacancy. They may go there but they are likely to stay away from the higher-priced end of the free agent market. Jeron Johnson was an undrafted free agent pickup by the Seahawks in 2011. Scot McCloughan happened to be in the Seattle scouting department then so he’s familiar with Johnson. Kam Chancellor’s 26-year-old backup didn’t play a whole lot last year (98 snaps on defense) but if McCloughan thinks Johnson has what it takes to be a starter, the Redskins likely could get him for a very reasonable cost.

Anthony Harris of Virginia is almost certain to be available when the Redskins draft in the second round and he could well be there in the third. He’s the second-best strong safety in the draft according to many analysts. It’s always a risk relying on the second-day pick to come in and start right away. But Harris, who has good instincts and has a reputation as a fast learner, may be able to pull it off.

The answer could end up being some combination of the options above. Maybe they will bring in Johnson and he and Thomas will have a situation substitution job sharing arrangement. Or Johnson comes in and holds down the job until Harris is ready. You can fill in the blanks with the names but that is likely how it will work out. Keep in mind that it’s a rebuilding team and that a solid, long-term solution may not be found in 2015.

Timeline

—It’s been 45 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 216 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 27; Redskins offseason workouts start 68; 2015 NFL Draft 79

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 11, 2015 at 5:47 AM

    At SS I would resign Merriweather and let him and Thomas compete for the starting spot. As for FS sign Antrell Rolle to a short term Contract and Draft Holliman.

    • shermanp79 - Feb 11, 2015 at 7:29 AM

      NO WAY!! I don’t want Merriweather back. That guy was only successful at letting guys get open. I’ve had enough of him. They should of moved on last year but Haslet wanted him back. That worked well for him. You could hope a new system gets more from him but I want no part of taking that chance. How many games will he miss due to injury or suspension? It’s time to move on from him.

    • babyteal1 - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      No to Merriweather…time for change. Don’t need anything with our defense backfield to look like last year. No to Rolle (age)….maybe to Holliman

      • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:44 AM

        Rolle’s nubers interceptions was down only because he played SS last year his tackles were up because he played closer to the line. I also said short term.

        • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:51 AM

          BTW Meriweather makes plays 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles while he was playing last year

        • bowlregard - Feb 11, 2015 at 12:50 PM

          The way they played him in Dallas was very good. He’s a good blitzer.

        • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:05 AM

          I agree, but I think we need to roll with the young guys at FS. Thomas, Ihenacho or Davis

    • mr.moneylover - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:33 AM

      Merriweather cant stay healthy and he cant cover…redskins looking for guys who can cover …l.Collins cant cover either so thats another reason why redskins might not pick him

      • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:11 AM

        I agree about Meriweather.

        Disagree about Collins. Collins can cover TEs, RBs & slot WRs but he’s not someone you want covering a WR downfield in one on one coverage. Seeing as that’s the only area of his game that Collins has to work on, I’d say Collins can improve on his deep safety play and be a good all around safety within a few years of work.

        Collins reminds me of Roy Williams of the Cowboys a decade ago. He can play FS, but he’s better as a SS and at either position he’ll make more plays than he’ll miss.

    • cowboyhater - Feb 11, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      ….and that is why you don’t make personnel decisions in the National Football League.

    • 214hof - Feb 11, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      Holliman=Bust…. Just saying.

      • Joe Greene - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:21 AM

        Nonsense. Holliman won’t be great, because he’s not a good tackler, but his instincts in coverage are phenomenal. He’ll be a quality starter for years, barring injury.

        • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:17 AM

          Ed Reed 2.0 in my mind. Ed Reed wasn’t a big imposing tackler as a FS but he did improve throughout his career as a tackler even though he was never great at it.

          One thing Holliman has that you can’t teach is great instincts and only two of redskins DBs currently have that – Breeland & Hall – the other redskins dbs have horrible play recognition and the Skins need a FS who has great play recognition and instincts.

    • Joe Greene - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:19 AM

      Two horrendous ideas. Merriweather can’t play and Rolle is pathetic.

      • jonevans511 - Feb 12, 2015 at 2:07 PM

        Is anyone good in your eyes? In reading your comments, I’m sure you also feel Beyonce is ugly, Michael Jordan is overrated, AP is an average RB, and Trent Williams is the worst LT in the league.

        I don’t know why you are so negative all the time, but there’s a reason people like you and me merely comment on decisions while the professionals make them. You act high & mighty, as though you’ve got everything figured out, when you very rarely (if ever) back up your comments with thoughtful insight. I’m always willing to engage in a debate, especially because judging talent is in my eyes equal parts objectivity and subjectivity, but you ruin this site and CSNWashington. You provide criticism, which all fans have the right to do, but you don’t provide any constructive criticism. As James Dolan so eloquently mentioned to a disgruntled fan: go root for another team, perhaps the Ravens, because the Skins don’t want you.

      • mattsilf - Feb 13, 2015 at 5:37 PM

        Youre pathetic. Do you ever shut up? Youre the only dbag on here that acts like they know it all. Nice to have an NFL front office guy here though. What team did you say you work for??

  2. shermanp79 - Feb 11, 2015 at 7:25 AM

    I think Johnson is the type of FA they should sign. We need young guys who won’t demand big money, who are young and have a chance to grow into the job. If not, they don’t kill your cap space. They may not get Johnson with the injury issues, they could sign him. I imagine he will want to look for a chance to start so that would be an advantage for other teams. I imagine they use the draft too, we desperately need to fix this problem, it has killed the defense. They did a poor job trying to fix it last year, so get a few young guys in here and let them fight for the job. We now have someone who knows talent which should end the 5 year searches for positions of need.

    • babyteal1 - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:12 AM

      he’s been in the league 4 years and still isn’t starting….pass. We’ve got plenty of non-starters already.

      • abanig - Feb 11, 2015 at 9:04 AM

        The only reason Johnson isn’t getting to play is because he’s behind the best two safeties in the nfl.

        I think Johnson would be a good signing for the skins and McCloughan knows a lot about him, which is a plus

  3. Stephfan - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    I like drafting Harris in the second round. He may or may not be ready to start come season time but the following season he maybe. I’m fine with a fa pickup at safety and right tackle as well. That way in the first round we can get a dline men or pass rusher. Aldo sign a cb in free agency as well

    • BornIntoThisHTTR - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:52 AM

      Why would you waste a pick in the 2nd round on a project that might not work..come on now

  4. abanig - Feb 11, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    What about Duke Ihenacho?

    There is no way Meriweather should be back. I like the idea of Thomas starting, but Id also bring back Ihenacho. He’s a restricted FA, I’m not sure if Id pay him $1.3 million as a RFA, but he should be brought back on the vet min of $800,000.

    For those who keep saying Holliman is a SS, you’re wrong. Holliman is a FS and plays like Ed Reed. Holliman is good at making plays on the ball but is inconsistent as a tackler.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:20 AM

      Ihenacho isn’t under contract. He’s an exclusive rights free agent and I just wonder why the Redskins haven’t gotten anything done. If he signs I’ll take a closer look at him. Right now, he may be out of the picture.

      • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:21 AM

        http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/washington-redskins/duke-ihenacho/

        Rich, spotrac says Ihenacho is a RFA, I suspect that’s why they haven’t made a move with him yet. I’m thinking they will sign him in March if they feel he should be back, but perhaps you are right, perhaps he’s not in their plans, which doesn’t make much sense to me… :/

        • Rich Tandler - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:42 AM

          Nope. Spotrac is not always reliable and they’re wrong here. Ihenacho bounced between the Broncos’ practice squad and active roster in 2012 and did not accumulate enough games on the 53 to get an accrued season. So he has only 2013 and 2014, two years making him an ERFA.

          > > >

    • thankslittlebrandonbanks - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:48 AM

      Inconsistent is a kind description of Holliman’s tackling. He was a great ball hawk though, I’ll give you that.

    • Joe Greene - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:22 AM

      He wasn’t any good in Denver. They did go to the SB, but that was despite a bad D. Notice how they went crazy in FA last year on D and the top pickup was Ihenacho’s replacement.

  5. murphsman - Feb 11, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    What about free safety?

    • abanig - Feb 11, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      Yeah, that’s our greatest problem on defense and has been since Sean died. There’s a lot of FS in the 2nd through 4th draft and several free agents the skins could sign including Devin McCourty, Rahim Moore and Kendrick Lewis.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      Another post for another day.

  6. Tre - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Redskins should draft Chris Hackett 2nd round

  7. bangkokben - Feb 11, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Skins could’ve had Chancellor. VA Tech player that modeled his game after Sean Taylor with Taylor’s size too but alas ‘skins drafted Perry Riley 30 spots before Cam. Very few draft picks that year for ‘skins.

    • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:37 AM

      That’s because of Cerrato selecting Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft to be a RDE and then Shanahan switched to a 3-4 the next year. Then, Shanahan traded away our 2nd round draft pick for McNabb and trading away our 5th round pick – which could have been Chancellor for the Redskins – to get Adam Carriker.

      Carriker was a good player for the Redskins for two years, it’s too bad he got hurt but at the time Id say that trade made sense for Washington. Of course, in the long run it did not because we missed on a talent like Chancellor.

      I guess that’s just another example that the redskins need to never trade away a draft pick for a veteran again!

  8. alextwrs - Feb 11, 2015 at 11:46 AM

    Akeem Davis should probably be mentioned since he has the tools and the coaches have been trying to get him ready. Lets give the kid a shot.

    • ET - Feb 11, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      Seems like he’ll get a look, but even best case scenario, could he really be the full-time starter?

      (I ask that as a Davis fan; I think he has huge upside but isn’t fully ready yet.)

      • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 9:58 AM

        I think we keep Davis as Thomas’ back up and if we sign/drsft a SS, we should keep 5 safeties, with Davis being the 5th and primarily be a special teams ace again.

  9. colmac69 - Feb 11, 2015 at 12:01 PM

    The gm says he will draft the best available player that will benefit team so it could be any position

    However defensively if they dont address the pass rush and dont acquire a dominant nose tackle it wont matter who plays safety

    It probably take two or three years of good solid decision making via draft and occassional free agent to get skins in position to challenge on a yearly basis so we will have to be patient

  10. ronwsd - Feb 11, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    Its time for the skins management to get off there asses and make things happen with there team roster they have been doing nothing the past three years to build a strong defense I am tired of just being content with what we have. Its time to gamble on some young players out of college and let go of these guys on the team that just are not performing well at there positions. Just saying…..

    • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:41 AM

      Agreed. The front office hasnt addressed the defense properly since the 2011 draft. And that was the only time in Shanahan & Allen drafting history until the Murphy selection last year that Redskins that we took a defensive player in the first 3 rounds.

      That’s just pitiful! How is the defense supposed to be good with that kind of neglect?

      Defense needs to be addressed this offseason with youth through the draft & with young free agency’s in their mid 20s

  11. captblood3000 - Feb 11, 2015 at 12:42 PM

    Rich, I’ve watched Anthony Harris and I didn’t see him play much in the box. They used him often as a second free safety. Nominally he’s the strong safety but that may be because Virginia’s other starting safety, Quin Blanding, is a prototypical free safety. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Blanding is a first year.

    • bangkokben - Feb 11, 2015 at 1:00 PM

      A strong safety plays on the strong side of the field: usually the side with the tight end but whatever side of center that has the most players. Typically the SS lines up “in the box” but can line up anywhere on the strong side depending on responsibilities. No team really needs a just in the box safety. Too much of a liability in the NFL.

      • captblood3000 - Feb 11, 2015 at 1:21 PM

        Thanks for the clarification, Ben. The Virginia safeties seemed to be used interchangeably. The game I looked at (Louisville?) often had Virginia defending against a spread offense.

  12. lorcanbonda - Feb 11, 2015 at 1:42 PM

    Trade down to a pick between 8 & 12, get a second second-round pick and take Landon Collins with the lower first round pick. Take an offensive tackle with the first second round pick (there are five good tackles available) and a Cornerback or Tight End with the second.

    • 214hof - Feb 11, 2015 at 2:12 PM

      Collins isn’t the player you think he is… After the combine and pro days he’ll be lucky to still be one of the top three safeties in this draft. Holliman is the the same boat.

    • Joe Greene - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:24 AM

      Collins can’t cover at all and is too small to play in the box in the NFL.

      • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:48 AM

        Since when is 6′ 222 pounds too small to play SS?

        That’s bigger than Meriweather, Doughty, Phillip Thomas and the same size as Laron Landry… :/

        • Joe Greene - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:23 PM

          Thomas is 6’1″ 223. Landry sucks.

          McCloughan drafts/signs big players and Collins isn’t one.

  13. bangkokben - Feb 11, 2015 at 1:54 PM

    Off topic:

    There were only three teams last year that had no return TDs for the season: Our ‘skins, the Saints, and the Jets.
    Here is how each team ranked offensively (Yards, Points, Off TDs).
    Saints 1st, 9th, 5th
    Skins 13th, 26th, 19th
    Jets 22nd, 32nd, 28th

    Now for some reason when you see how a team ranks offensively in points it includes all points. Doesn’t make much sense. So I looked at how each team ranks offensively in offensive touchdowns. The Redskins were tied in 19th with 33 offensive touchdowns. Still got work to do but their offense might be closer to above average than fans think – especially when you consider 7 games next year against teams with double digit losses and only 5 against teams with double digit wins. Last year only 4 games against teams with double digit wins the previous year (1-3) and 6 games against teams with double digit losses (1-5).

    The ‘skins also play teams 12 games next year against defenses that allowed at least 40 TDs compared to 9 games last year. And oh by the way, the Redskins were tied for last (30th) with 46 defensive touchdowns and dead last in all scored touchdowns with 53.

    • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:51 AM

      Redskins should have never let “speedy B” aka Brandon Banks go. Banks led the CFL in total yards last year. The Redskins should re-sign him as a kick returner, a 6th Wr, a guy we can use on screens and jet sweeps.

      Shanahan’s were stupid to cut him

  14. 214hof - Feb 11, 2015 at 2:09 PM

    Sorry to inform you, but Washington isn’t going win with anything next year but respect… The best thing they can do is bring in some cheap F/A’s and mid-late round draft picks to compete for a starting job. Competition brings out the best in players… This is why RG has been a bum, the only competition he’s had to make it on the field has been to overcome injuries.. IMO bringing in guys like K. Lewis, and J. Johnson on team friendly one or two year deals is best. Maybe add a mid-rounder through the draft and let them battle for playing time.

    • skins1970 - Feb 11, 2015 at 7:08 PM

      You do know Scot McLoughan signed some FAs who weren’t cheap like Justin Smith when the 49ers were in worse shape then the Skins right? You have to sign young guys who aren’t that cheap if you want to improve.The Skins got into trouble the last couple of years because we went cheap.

      • Rich Tandler - Feb 11, 2015 at 7:20 PM

        He signed Smith in his fourth year in SF.

        Talk to me in 2018.

        Teams have improved without signing expensive free agents. And doing so for years has not worked for the Redskins.

        > > >

        • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 8:57 AM

          Nate Clements says hi…

          Signed in 07 when McCloughan was San Fran VP of Player Personnel.

          In 08, when McCloughan was promoted to GM for the first time, the first move McCloughan made was to sign Justin Smith as his first big free agent signing as a GM in the NFL

        • skins1970 - Feb 12, 2015 at 2:46 PM

          I dont want Suh but I wouldn’t mind seeing us sign Dan Williams of the Cardinals.

    • abanig - Feb 12, 2015 at 10:04 AM

      Yeah, I’d be for signing Jeron Johnson & Keenan Lewis and drafting a FS to develop in round 3.

      Then, our safety position would be solid for 3 years with Johnson & Lewis starting and in 2018, Phillip Thomas & our 2015 rookie can start.

      SS: Jerron Johnson, Phillip Thomas, Akeem Davis

      FS: Keenan Lewis and one of 4 rookie choices – Gerrod Holliman, Cody Prewitt, Durrell Eskridge or Kurtis Drummond

      • 214hof - Feb 12, 2015 at 12:20 PM

        Yes… Exactly, only substitute Gerrod ” I capitalized on poorly thrown balls” Holliman for a guy like Adrian Amos and your statment makes much more sense.

  15. nomaan78 - Feb 11, 2015 at 8:52 PM

    Laron Landry just got released by the colts. Lets bring him back at SS. LOL Maybe not.

  16. Stephfan - Feb 12, 2015 at 5:52 PM

    That joe Greene don’t know football. He talks a nice game though

  17. mattsilf - Feb 13, 2015 at 5:31 PM

    Am I the only one who thinks Joe Greene is a dbag? Just stop talking man, you dont realize how idiotic you sound. Nobody likes a know it all who knows nothing.

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