Reporting Grant Paulsen
Ranking the Redskins’ Biggest Needs: Cornerback
1. Nose Tackle
3. Offensive Line
5. Wide Receiver
A year ago the Redskins entered training camp with depth at the cornerback position. Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall returned to anchor the Redskins’ pass defense and longtime-starter Phillip Buchanon signed a one-year deal to serve as the team’s third corner.
But Rogers and Buchanon are both impending free agents and both have told me since the final game of the 2010 season that they were looking forward to testing the market and gauging interest from potential suitors.
Rogers, a top-10 pick in 2005, has spent his entire six-year career in Washington. For all of his problems hanging on to potential interceptions, he’s become a well above average cover-corner.
The Auburn product has been a key piece to the Redskins’ defense since earning a starting spot at the end of his rookie season. But he wants to be paid like an elite cornerback and it doesn’t look like the Redskins will shell out the monopoly money he’ looking for.
Buchanon had a productive inaugural season in Washington. He defended a team and career-best 18 passes, two more than Hall and six more than Rogers.
He also tallied two interceptions, the same number as Rogers in seven fewer starts. But the former Miami standout was benched at one point last year for missing a goal-line tackle in a game against the Giants. A much more affordable option than Rogers, if the Redskins want to retain Buchanon they should be able to.
But with Hall suddenly the only proven cornerback known to be returning, the position has to be addressed in free agency.
Kevin Barnes, a 2009 third-round pick, will be returning for his third season. He could be a viable option to anchor Washington’s nickel position between the hash marks. He spent time filling that role when Rogers was out with an injury last season. It’s unlikely, however, that he would enter the season as the Redskins’ number-two corner.
Special teams stalwart Byron Westbrook is a restricted free agent and Boise State star Brandyn Thompson was drafted in the seventh round of April’s draft to compete for a roster spot. But both Westbrook and Thompson will likely have their eyes set on special teams roles, not on solidifying gigs in Washington’s secondary.
Entering a season with Hall, who intercepted four passes in a win at Chicago last fall, as your number one is acceptable but you need to have a legitimate cover-corner playing opposite him. He’s an elite ball-hawk with true play-making ability, but he’s more a play-maker than he is a shutdown corner.
Hall also registered an impressive 95 tackles last season, fourth most among all cornerbacks. Hall had never posted more than 73 in any of his previous six seasons. He should be commended for his run-stuffing efforts last season. But he needs help.
Nnamdi Asomugha, widely considered one of the top two cornerbacks in football, will draw interest from the Redskins (and just about every other team that needs secondary help). But his asking price is going to be higher than Rogers’. Cincinnati’s Jonathan Joseph and Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor should also garner consideration from Washington.
The Redskins ranked 31st against the pass last season, yielding 261.7 yards per game through the air.
Only the Houston Texans did a worse job defending the pass. Part of that can be chalked up to the team not generating a consistent enough pass rush and ranking 25th in the NFL in sacks.
But clearly the team’s secondary play has got to improve. Adding new starting free safety OJ Atogwe will dramatically cut down on the big plays the Redskins allow down-field. But a cornerback, or maybe two, has to be signed.
Hall and Barnes could both be quality options in their roles, but in today’s pass-happy NFL you need three starting caliber cornerbacks and a fourth defender you trust against a solid slot threat. Right now, the Redskins don’t have that