Safety Issues: Pats Not Alone

The Patriots have had their fair share of issues at the safety position, reloading yet again for 2012. Other teams, namely the Redskins, seem to have similar issues. Now they've turned to a guy who didn't make it Foxboro to help them out of their jam this season.

Last year, established regular LaRon Landry and veteran free-agent pickup Oshiomogho Atogwe were going to be Washington's safeties, if healthy.

   However, with the oft-injured Landry not having been re-signed and Atogwe having been released after a disappointing season, the back end of the Redskins' defense is wide open.

   Washington has added veteran safeties Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams as well as seventh-rounder Jordan Bernstine to compete with longtime backup Reed Doughty and 2011 fifth-rounder Dejon Gomes, the safety tandem for the final four games last year.

   Jim Haslett called Doughty "steady Eddie" and said that Gomes has "really grown up" since last season, but it's the newcomers with NFL experience that have Washington's defensive coordinator excited.

   "Brandon is really athletic and really instinctive," Haslett said. "He's got a great nose for the ball. You can see why he was in the Pro Bowl. Madieu is really, really smart. He's kind of like having a coach on the field. (Tanard's) like having a corner back there. He can cover a lot of ground."

   And yet, all three newcomers have serious issues.

   The 28-year-old Meriweather, who was arrested on a DUI charge less than six weeks after signing with Washington, was accused of freelancing and of dishing out borderline hits in New England and Chicago, each of whom found him wanting during the last year even though he was a Pro Bowl selection for the Patriots in 2009 and 2010.

   Jackson, who turns 27 next month and missed much of the offseason while recovering from knee and shoulder injuries, was suspended for a total of 20 games the past three years after positive drug tests with Tampa Bay.

   And while the 30-year-old Williams is a solid citizen, he intercepted just one pass and defensed just six more the past three seasons perhaps showing that he's longer starter material as San Francisco determined in 2011.

   "It's a very competitive situation," said Jackson, a Washington-area native like Maryland graduate Williams. "It should bring out the greatness in all of us. We've all got chips on our shoulders so the Redskins are going to get the best out of all of us."

   That would be a boon to the Redskins since Meriweather, Jackson and Williams combined for 10 interceptions, 21 passes defensed and four forced fumbles in 2009. Compare those stats to the three interceptions (all by Atogwe), 14 passes defensed and three forced fumbles for which Landry, Atogwe, Doughty and Gomes produced in 2011.

   "I think we held our own, but there could have been a higher level of play, for sure," said Doughty, the only one of the current safeties who has been in Washington for more than a season. "I don't think we lost any games, but we didn't win any either. We need to make more plays on the back end."

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