Skip to content

Assessing the Redskins’ needs on defense

Feb 1, 2016, 12:00 PM EDT


Everyone knows the Redskins have plenty of personnel needs on both sides of the ball and the temptation is to say that they just need everything. And while there isn’t a position on the field where they can’t use some help, some areas are in more dire need than others.

In an attempt to quantify that, let’s put each position group on a needs meter. The scale is 1-10 and here’s the scale:

1—The depth chart at the position is completely set with players entering prime ages with market value contracts.
5—The team has enough NFL-caliber players under contract at the position but it could use quality depth and some replacement planning for aging players.
10—There are no players under contract who could reasonably be expected to start 16 games.

We looked at the offensive side of the ball earlier, today it’s the defense.

Defensive line—As many as four players who were on the depth chart in 2015 could be gone. NT Terrance Knighton is slated to be a free agent, Jason Hatcher and Kedric Golston will be 34 and 33, respectively, when the season starts and an upgrade could be found for Frank Kearse.

Need Meter: 8 Assuming that at least three of the four possible roster openings are there, the Redskins will have to be aggressive both in free agency and in the draft to fill in the holes.

Outside linebacker—If we take Junior Galette’s vow that he will return to the Redskins at face value, they are in pretty good shape here with him, Preston Smith, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy.

Need meter: 3 You can’t have too many good pass rushers so if one pops up on the draft board Scot McCloughan may pounce. But other than that they should be in good shape, perhaps looking at someone who could fill the last spot on the depth chart.

Inside linebacker—This is a tough one. Can the Redskins start the season with Will Compton, Perry Riley and, if the re-signs, Mason Foster at the top of the depth chart and 2015 draft pick Martrell Spaight as a backup? Sure, they could. But the defense could be helped greatly by the addition of an impact player in the middle? Absolutely.

Need meter: 5 If that impact player is there on the draft board they should strongly consider pulling the trigger. And they might do some succession preparation as Riley is in the last year of his contract.

Cornerback—Beyond Bashaud Breeland there are a bunch of question marks here. Will Chris Culliver be recovered from the serious knee injury he suffered on Thanksgiving Day by the time to season starts? Is it worth continuing to develop Quinton Dunbar as the nickel back? Are reserves like Dashaun Phillips and Deshazor Everett, both of whom played well on special teams, good enough to win with?

Need meter: 7 Cornerbacks are like pass rushers; with teams lining up in multiple receiver sets so frequently you really can’t have too many. They don’t need to go out and get an upper-echelon free agent like Culliver again. But they could justify going for a cornerback in any round of the draft including the first.

Safety—The Redskins’ perpetual problem area got a little better with the rapid development of sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett as a viable option at safety. The other side of the coin is that Dashon Goldson turns 32 early in the season and carries an $8 million cap number and DeAngelo Hall is 32 and will count $5 million against the cap. At the very least the Redskins need eventual replacements for those two players.

Need meter: 8 The need is higher than it might be otherwise because good safeties are hard to find. The draft is perpetually thin as the better athletes at defensive back want to play cornerback. That scarcity works its way through to the free agent market. If they can find a good safety in the draft they need to grab him.

  1. James McFullan - Feb 1, 2016 at 12:07 PM

    Sign Eric Berry, he is a young player who is very good and a very good leader

    • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:01 PM

      And a survivor – CANCER SURVIVOR. The Redskins should avoid any player that has Cancer Free on his medical. Having said that, Berry is a fantastic player and an inspiration. I wish many healthy years for him.

    • firesnyder - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:12 PM

      Eric Berry isn’t leaving Kansas City… no way. He loves it there and the fans have a LOT of love for him.

    • sidepull - Feb 1, 2016 at 3:23 PM

      I would rather sign a couple FA’s that e may be able to get cheaper but could be very productive.
      I would like a NT and I like the kid from SF, Ian Williams
      I also would like t get a DT like Akeem Hicks from the Pats, 6’5 and 324 lbs.
      Berry is at home in KC.

    • berniebernard666 - Feb 1, 2016 at 4:19 PM

      Eric Berry..if he hits the market I will hit the floor in amazement. Please wake me up when that happens.

      • Trey Gregory - Feb 1, 2016 at 10:43 PM

        I agree. I do t see it happening. Weddle would be our best bet. However, once again he would be old, declining and need to be replaced soon. He’s also probably going to be expensive as the NFL is thin with quality Safties and he will be looking for his last payday.

        We have to stick with what we have and draft new guys. Unless there are some decent free agents that won’t cost a lot that I’m not aware of.

  2. nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 12:20 PM

    I think we should absolutely keep developing Dunbar. Definitely get depth so we don’t have to continue using him as much while he figures a whole new position on the completely opposite side of the ball. I think nothing from last year says he can’t do it.

    Will Compton needs to be resigned and have first crack at starting in the middle. Sure tacklers are way more important to me than athletic freaks who miss tons of tackles. Pair him with someone and we should be good.

    Safety and Redskins don’t seem to go together since Sean Taylor passed. Reload.

    Defensive line-Reload. Swaggy should stay at end and we need a NT and another end just for starters.

    • nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 12:30 PM

      Sorry I forgot about Jarrett. He seems to have some good talent. I would give him first crack at one of the safety positions.

    • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:07 PM

      The redskins do have 3 starting quality DL – Baker, Paea & RJF. That said they do need to bring in some younger talent. I think they’ll sign a few DL and draft a DL or two also.

      I think they’ll re-sign Ihenacho to compete with Jarrett & Jeron Johnson for the starting SS spot. Jarrett could play FS also. I think Hall will have the first crack to win the starting FS job this offseason, but I do think they’ll draft or sign another younger FS type.

      • nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:19 PM

        Your right about Paea. I think he will be better this year. Hopefully. I think RJF is more of a rotational guy. My opinion.

        Safeties I think your right with how that will go down.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:19 PM

          RJF was arguably our second best DL last year after Baker. I think he made more plays than Hatcher, Paea & Knighton the second half of the year for sure.

        • nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:31 PM

          Does that speak to his talents or the lack of talent we had on the line. I like RJF. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s great for our team. He is without a doubt a step up in depth.

          Scot M knows what he is doing.

          I’m not a fan of Hatcher. Hatcher had his best year in Dallas in a 4-3. Knighton is a space eater who didn’t dominate the way he should have and Paea had a rough go last year. I said I hope Paea plays better this year.

      • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:36 PM

        I don’t see why Jeron Johnson suddenly gets a shot at starting. He seemed to get every opportunity last off-season and continually got bypassed by anyone on the team for defensive snaps. He’s a special teams player, period. He’s not really even a back-up. Trenton Robinson, DeAngelo Hall, then it’s Dashuan Philips? He get’s defensive snaps if all your other options are hurt.

        • nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:52 PM

          I’m not sure how it will break down in the end.

          Goldson might take less money to stay.

          Hall could get better with a year in that position.

          Duke could be good at SS

          Scot M saw something in Jeron. Maybe he just wasn’t getting the scheme and now with a year he can just play rather than think. But your right about just about everyone passed him.

          I can’t even pretend to know how this will go.

          I hope whatever it is it looks improved by a lot.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:17 PM

          I’m just saying he’s there and may make the team as a back up SS. Not saying he will be starting.

          I mean in reality everyone on the roster gets a chance at starting every offseason. The likelihood of most starting is very slim, but still Johnson will be on the 90man roster and thus he’ll have the same shot as Jarrett and others to win a starting job.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:41 PM

          Yes, Johnson will be on the roster and in theory could win a starting job but everyone on the 90man roster doesn’t have the same chance to win a starting job. Same shot? Sure, one shot. Same chance? Johnson has a less than 5% chance.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:47 PM

          Well I never said he did. You’re reading too much into a generic comment. I was merely stating he was on the team, at least for the time being. I’m not even convinced he makes the roster next year if we sign and draft an upgrade at safety both.

          I’m merely stating he’s in the group that will compete for a spot on the team. Nothing more.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:59 PM

          Fair enough. Most of this type of speculation – at least from Rich – disregards fringe players.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 2:54 PM

          I’ll also add that I’m not sure why we should re-sign Trenton Robinson. Seems to me he’s a free agent safety that we should just let go and replace him with a draft pick or a different free agent.

          For example, I’d rather have Ihenacho as our back up or starting SS than having Robinson. I’d rather have Hall, Jarrett, Ihenacho and A rookie/Johnson as our safeties then re-signing Robinson.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 3:02 PM

          The Redskins already released Robinson during the year. (Maybe an injury settlement after placing on IR.) Me mentioning Robinson was the fact that our team thought he was a better option than Johnson at a time and then released the guy who they thought was better.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 4:06 PM

          Yeah, I’m just saying I don’t think Robinson should be re-signed. He is a free agent this year anyways.

          Trust me I’m not jumping up and down about Johnson, but he is on the roster. I just couldn’t leave him out for that reason.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 4:24 PM

          Man, we are saying the same thing with two different starting points. Neither of us want Trenton Robinson or Jeron Johnson as starting safeties for our team and neither want the ‘skins to re-sign Robinson. [I don’t mention him since the Redskins parted ways with him in December. (Waived injured Dec 5th, reverted to IR, then released with an injury settlement Dec 15th.) He’s not considered one of the Redskins’ free agents. He’s just a free agent.] We also both don’t care if Johnson makes the team next year and if he was an Allen signing, I doubt he would. But since special teams is actually something important to this staff and he was of the GM’s signings, I can see him sticking around. Bottom line, safety remains a high priority. The two ‘starting’ safeties remaining on the team are old and costly.

        • abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:58 PM

          Yep! All I’m saying about Robinson is he shouldn’t be re-signed. I don’t think I ever said he was a “Redskins free agent” but he is a free agent non the less and anyone could re-sign him, I don’t think it should be us.

          I’d also say most good safeties are expensive. Goldson has been on a downward trend for 3 or 4 years. He should certainly be gone, unless he takes a huge pay cut to stay. I think Hall stays. Hall can start at corner and safety. That’s important.

          It’s possible that if Jarrett or Ihenacho wins the starting SS job, Hall is the starting FS and we draft s FS in rounds 2-5 to develop behind Hall that Johnson could be gone.

          I’d hope for that outcome rather than keeping Goldson for another year even if Goldson does take a $2 to 4 million in a pay cut.

          Which is fine, because Jarrett, Ihenacho and the rookie would all be able to play special teams. We wouldn’t miss Johnson then.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 6:30 PM

          I agree with you that GOOD safeties are expensive, that Goldson is in decline, that if he stays it should be with a reduced salary, and that Hall can play both anywhere in the defensive backfield. I also like your scenario with Jarrett or Ihenacho starting at SS, that we draft a future FS to eventually replace Hall there. The problem with releasing Goldson in THIS plan is that Goldson and his $8M would have to remain on the books until after the draft or tip our hand that we NEED to draft a safety. You couldn’t work out a deal for a reduced contract and then cut him after the draft.

          As for semantics…

          We certain define/interpret words differently. Sure, if the Redskins were to suppose, sign Robinson, then it is possible that the reports of such a signing would say, “Redskins re-sign Robinson” because he last played for the Redskins. However, if Atlanta were sign the safety, the reports would say: “Falcons sign safety, Trenton Robinson.” I’d also argue, that if the Redskins made the signing reports might instead say: “Redskins sign safety, Trenton Robinson, who played for the team from 2014-2015..” All of this is to illustrate, that I’m not TRYING to read into your comments just show you where my point of reference is.

      • goback2rfk - Feb 1, 2016 at 7:08 PM

        Barely starting quality.
        Big Swaggy is alright.
        Paea has been nothing short of a major disappointment. Certainly the GM’s worst signing or in the running for worst signing.
        RJF is well I guess the best way to say it is, he is just ok.

      • Trey Gregory - Feb 1, 2016 at 10:49 PM

        I’m sorry but I don’t think we should set with Paea and RJF as starters. Also, none of those guys are quality nose tackles. Say what you will about Knighton, but he’s a better NT than any of those 3. If we don’t sign him and don’t get a replacement as good or better than him, the. We’re downgrading a line that was already pretty bad against the run.

        Now, Paea has played better in the past so maybe he had a down year and will play better next year. But so you want to bet the season on that? RJF, I really like him, but as a rotational player. Maybe he looked so good because he didn’t play as much and was fresh? I also think he was an underrated leader (from reports, obviously I wasn’t in the locker room).

        I wouldn’t be just livid if those are the 3 starters. But Baker had suck a good season at DE and I think it would be such a waste if we move him back to NT. Also, we would basically be wiping our depth clean and would need to bring in guys to play behind them anyway. As much as I want an impact ILB, I hope we focus on the DLine in the draft’s early rounds and maybe free agency.

  3. bk70 - Feb 1, 2016 at 12:24 PM

    Top draft picks should lean toward defense positions. DL needs to get younger and healthier in 2016. Need a taller DB also, Dunbar surprised everyone in 2015.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:11 PM

      Lots of good D.L. in the draft, a guy like Billings might be McGlue’s choice in the 1st.

  4. abanig - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:02 PM

    I agree with the need levels. The DL & Safety are by far the two highest. That being said in the draft we do need to take the best player available.

  5. bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:05 PM

    I’m in agreement with Rich except for ILB. I’ve got Riley gone as a cap cut at some point and therefore the need is higher. I hope they target a stud early in the draft.

    • hail74 - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:41 PM

      Agreed. One thing I was wondering was what about moving Kerrigan inside? This would put Preston and Gillette on the outside. We know he can cover,that was usually more his responsibility when playing with Rak. Just wondering.

      • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:48 PM

        Ryan, is clearly a smart guy but I don’t think he has the football experience to make that kind of transition. He’d have to drop back in zone coverage, cover running backs and TEs one on one AND diagnose plays. In his current role, it’s either rush this way or rush this way (which is slightly different) and occasionally cover. He seems to always get fooled on the bootlegs. Basically, he’s a DE that plays OLB on occasion. I know that is an oversimplification but that seems like a tall order.

        • hail74 - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:16 PM

          No, it’s a fair comparison and your probably right. I was just thinking of ways to get the best players on the field and we seem to have three good to really good OLBs.

        • bangkokben - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:51 PM

          Yeah. I imagine that during nickle they’ll have four down-linemen and move Smith inside and have Galette and Kerrigan rush from the ends. Even in this situation they’ll rotate guys.

    • Trey Gregory - Feb 1, 2016 at 10:56 PM

      I usually think Rich is right on in his analysis but I can’t figure out why he doesn’t think ILB is a bigger need. I think it’s one of the weakest groups on the team.

      That being said, I would rather build a lasting DLine first. So I guess I agree that we need to start there and hope for the best at ILB. Also because you just need corners in today’s NFL. You have to be able to pass rush, cover, and stop the run. Since I think OLB is one of our stronger units, we should focus on collapsing the pocket from the inside, improving our DBs, and getting better run stuffers up front.

      Also, I think it would be nuts to take the team’s best pass rusher and move him inside. Especially since he’s getting pass rusher money. Until Galette proves otherwise, Kerrigan is our most lethal edge rusher. Smith seems very promising, but he needs to show he can be consistent and do it for more than a year. Not to mention you need depth at any position and moving Kerrigan would erase quality depth from that position.

      The only OLB I would maybe like to see moved is Smith to DE when we go to an 4-3 look. If he can be that versite for us, that would be amazing.

  6. bk70 - Feb 1, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    Does anyone else feel that we have too many short Defensive Lineman? If Hatcher (6-6) retires and Kearse (6-5) isn’t re-signed the rest are 6-3 or under. Who then will block passes from the line?

  7. babyteal1 - Feb 1, 2016 at 3:04 PM

    Inside Linebacker (need meter 9), Outside Linebacker (3), Defensive lineman (8), Cornerback (6), Safety (7). You want to stop the run…get some playmakers in the middle. Our inside linebackers do not make plays.

  8. babyteal1 - Feb 1, 2016 at 3:44 PM

    Just read the Washington Posts article on Will Comptons performance by Mark Bullock. Its spot on!!! We need two inside linebackers….Need Meter 9!!!!!!!!!!!

    • nhskinsfan - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:22 PM

      All of the examples were against the best offensive line in the league. I do see that he guessed on the wrong gaps in a couple.

      Dallas Cowboys offensive line makes a lot of defensive players look silly.

      • babyteal1 - Feb 2, 2016 at 7:41 AM

        Oh please…lets not make excuses. Its his job to fill the right gaps no matter what the offensive line is doing.

  9. troylok - Feb 1, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    The team had a lot of guys that played last year and with no respect to them, some of them were just warm bodies. The team had a lot of spackling players. This offseason they need to get real about finding some talent on the DL, at MLB and at Safety. They need athletes. I like Hall’s speed at safety but I don’t trust his ability to stay healthy. With Goldson, I just don’t buy the whole “team leader” excuse for keeping a player around that is past his prime and he also is going to cost a bundle. Let him go.

    This is a draft that has a few safeties. The team should be able to stock up. They should also be able to pick up some rotational defensive linemen in free agency and I am of the group that believes Knighton should be re-signed. I’d like to see an athletic interior linebacker that is good in coverage and solid against the run.

    Yep, they have a lot of needs on defense and it wouldn’t disappoint me that after getting their center they make this a “defense only” draft.

  10. berniebernard666 - Feb 1, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    I think you are selling Quinton Dunbar short. Very short. I don’t want to see him come back and compete for a NICKLE spot. I don’t see any reason he cannot compete for a shutdown corner spot. Remember, he had no training last spring as a cornerback. In fact he had no idea at all that he was going to make the team, much less as a defensive back.

    There is no reason to believe anything other than that Dunbar will improve over last season. He will have a different mindset this offseason. He will engage in film study. And he will get more experience during camps and preseason. He played pretty well last year and made some HUGE plays at times. With a full offseason and a new mindset, I don’t see why he can’t be a starter at CORNERBACK opposite Breeland.

    The Skins just need to focus on SAFETY, INSIDE LINEBACKER, AND DEFENSIVE LINE.

    • hail74 - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03 PM

      I agree with the last sentence and would like to see Dunbar compete too tho I wouldn’t let that be my only way of addressing the corner spots. Build up that front 7 and it will make the DBs look that much better.

    • renhoekk2 - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:18 PM

      I don;t know anything about Dunbar, but he would have to be gifted both physically and intellectually to go from WR to a shutdown corner in one year. Even two. Slight improvement over last season would be commendable. There are maybe 3 or 4 shutdown type CB in the entire league. To think Dunbar can get there in one off-season is asking a lot of him.

  11. renhoekk2 - Feb 1, 2016 at 5:05 PM

    First two picks in the draft have to be defense. DL, CB, or ILB. Depending on how the first 20 picks go. It’s a very deep draft for DL so that is probably the best value at 21. A guy sitting there at 21 this year might normally go in the top 10 in another year’s draft. I think 3-4 ILB is another position being impacted by college offenses. A lot of LB coming out of the draft are sized like safeties because they do more pass coverage than run defense in college now. So maybe if a stud ILB is sitting there they might want to grab him while they can. That’s why they hired McCloughan. Let him figure it out.

  12. goback2rfk - Feb 1, 2016 at 7:04 PM

    I am going with a (8) on ILB. We could definitely use an solid figure in the middle of the defense. I may be willing to say we definitely need 1 ILB and could really use 1 more younger draft prospect. That makes 2 ILB
    The defense needs a lot of work. Too much work for one season. Actually, the defense really sucks when you really get down to it. You see what a real defense can do to the likes of Tom Brady in the Broncos. The Panthers defense abused the Redskins. Defense wins championships.
    Make a couple moves on offense, but I hope the GM fixes this mess they try and call a defense. And sign Quinton Dunbar to an extension that guy showed some balls over quite a few games.

  13. TXSKINSFAN - Feb 1, 2016 at 7:40 PM

    What about picking up some solid late round or undrafted recievers and converting the willing into corners or safeties? Quinton Dunbar did a phenomenal job, so why couldn’t we find another diamond in the rough? They already understand the fundamentals on the offensive side, which could then translate to the defensive side.

  14. rtcwon - Feb 1, 2016 at 8:42 PM

    I don’t understand why there is all this ILB need talk but OLB is ok? They seem good with Kerrigan and Smith but want to upgrade Compton & Riley? I would much rather have my average players at ILB and my super stars at OLB.

    Hopefully Galette addresses this but even if he returns to form, I would still want another OLB before ILB. To me, ILBs are like RBs, devalued in today’s game and easy to find good, cheap guys everywhere. As I say, even bad GMs can find value at RB and ILB.

    • hail74 - Feb 1, 2016 at 8:55 PM

      Perhaps that’s true but it used to be you always built from the inside out.

      • rtcwon - Feb 1, 2016 at 9:28 PM

        You didn’t get the fax? It said times are changing!

    • babyteal1 - Feb 2, 2016 at 7:51 AM

      That’s why are run defense is awful. Are you watching the games at all? The inside linebackers are to be making the tackles that get threw the interior. That’s not happening until they’re 5 yards up the field. You want just average players in the middle??? Devalued in todays game??

  15. rtcwon - Feb 1, 2016 at 8:45 PM

    How is DL not a 10 when there are no, as in none, zero NTs under contract? Archives

Follow Us On Twitter