Redskins' 'red flag': Secondary

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
2:10
PM ET
Football Outsiders is doing a series of posts called "Red Flags," which take a look at the biggest remaining issue facing each team with the draft behind us and minicamps getting underway. Today's post is on the NFC East teams Insider, and I'm going to break it up into four smaller posts to examine the red flags team-by-team. We start with the Washington Redskins, for whom the Outsiders have identified the secondary as the biggest remaining issue.

Washington drafted cornerback David Amerson in the second round, safety Phillip Thomas in the fourth and safety Bacarri Rambo in the sixth. Yet, the Outsiders remain skeptical:
The general consensus seems to be that Amerson is a DeAngelo Hall clone, which begs the question: How many DeAngelo Halls can one team afford to play? Thomas and Rambo are the safety equivalents of Amerson -- Thomas led the nation in interceptions in 2012, while Rambo was second behind Amerson in 2011 -- but in each case, the ball-hawking ability is paired up with some questionable tackling skills.

As we have discussed here a few times, the Redskins' plan in the draft seemed to be to collect players they considered to be high-end talents but who might need their rough edges smoothed out. Their idea is that you can teach someone proper tackling technique and coverage discipline, but you can't teach the kinds of playmaking instincts that guys like Amerson, Thomas and Rambo showed when they were at their best as college players. That ability won't go away just because you teach a guy how to be a sure tackler, and the Redskins believe defensive backs coach Raheem Morris can help develop players quickly at the NFL level.

So yes, the secondary for Washington remains the biggest question area (other than the health of the surgically repaired right knee of starting quarterback Robert Griffin III). But considering the cap penalties that prevented them from addressing it in free agency, and considering they didn't have a first-round draft pick, I think they were wise to try and reach for high-upside guys they believe they can coach up rather than looking for "safe," NFL-ready starters in the middle and late rounds.

Sean McCormick, who wrote this piece for Outsiders, also points out the return of a healthy Brian Orakpo at linebacker could be the biggest boost to the secondary, no matter who's playing in it. And he's right that the ability to get pressure on the quarterback takes some of the pressure off of the guys who are covering the receivers. Washington was able to piece things together in the secondary last year and will have to do so again, but it'll surely be helpful if they can stay healthier up front.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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