Redskins Defensive Needs: Free Safety
The Redskins finished the season ranked 31st in total defense. Only the Houston Texans gave up more passing yards than Washington, who yielded 13 rushes of 20 yards and four that went for 40.
A major reason for the team’s struggles was the Redskins’ lack of an impact player at free safety. Washington didn’t have a hard-hitting, ball-hawking presence roaming around in centerfield who could strike fear into opponents.
Sure, LaRon Landry’s emergence as a pro bowl strong safety was the best thing to happen to Washington’s defense this season. But when he moved positions, a gaping hole was left at free safety that the Redskins were hoping would be filled by Kareem Moore.
Moore injured his knee in an August preseason game against Baltimore and never returned to 100 percent health in the four months that followed. Limited at practice all season, the Nicholls State product missed Washington’s first two games and eventually had to watch the team’s season finale from the sidelines as well.
But when Moore played he missed too many tackles. He also took curious routes to ball-carriers in the open field and didn’t make enough plays on the football in the passing game. Moore defended just five passes and his only interception came in Week-3.
At year’s end, converted cornerback Kevin Barnes was anchoring the back of Washington’s secondary. He filled in admirably and increased his value, but he’s not going to be the Redskins’ starting free safety next season.
Harris isn’t a lock to return this coming season and Doughty is better suited at strong safety. He proved that with inspired play as a run-stuffing force while filling in for Landry at the end of the season.
Chris Horton, who also ended the season on Injured Reserve, is probably better suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage as well.
Depending on how much the Redskins think Moore was hindered by his knee injury, they could give him another season to prove himself. But it’s more likely they try to upgrade the position in an effort to improve a defense that gave up far too many big plays.
The Redskins have drafted two safeties in the top-10 twice since 2004 (Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry), but they wouldn’t have to spend the No. 10 overall pick on a free safety to add a player who could compete for a starting job this summer. (Philadelphia took Nate Allen at No. 37 last year and he may have been their defensive MVP in 2010).
Safety is a position where there are usually a few “can’t miss” prospects in the draft who are projected to make immediate impacts. Of course, if the Redskins decide to invest their limited draft picks on other needs, they would have to shop for a ball-hawking safety in free agency.
Running a defense predicated on generating turnovers sure would be easier with a play-maker on the back-end of the secondary.