Key players: CB Champ Bailey, CB Fred Smoot, S Matt Bowen, S Ifeanyi Ohalete, S David Terrell.
Others to watch: S Andre Lott, CB Alex Molden, CB Rashad Bauman.
Darkhorse: S Ricot Joseph. He received some action toward the end of last season.
Welcome back: CB Lloyd Harrison. He was drafted several years ago because of his supposed talent on special teams. But he's a straight-line runner; we'll see if he's improved.
Camp battle: At safety, where Ohalete, Terrell and Lott will battle for the starting position opposite Matt Bowen. The Redskins had hoped Lott would displace Terrell or Sam Shade a year ago, but he struggled mightily in training camp and those plans were shelved. But he improved throughout the season, giving him a chance to win a job this summer.
Also, Molden and Bauman will compete for the nickelback job, though I expect Molden to earn the spot. Bauman is shorter than his 5-foot-8 listing and that hurt him a few times last season. Molden is an experienced starter and would help the Redskins. He's also a good insurance policy should Smoot struggle.
On the spot: Smoot. Make no mistake, he's one of my favorites because of his personality. He's fun to interview, always ready with a good quip and he's confident. But he didn't back up his talk last season of making it to the Pro Bowl. Smoot struggled against second and third receivers, too. Some in the organization said he was picked on because Bailey was opposite him. I say it was because Smoot wasn't covering well, something he'd probably agree with. Smoot too often bit on double moves and was easy to beat on third downs. He has the tools to be good--he had a good rookie year--now it's time to show it.
Last hurrah?: A big question throughout the year involves Bailey's contract status. Not much has happened yet, but it's still a bit early. Remember, at this time last year Jon Jansen thought he was gone. Actually, he still thought he was gone as late as a few days before he actually signed. But there's a difference: Jansen wanted desperately to stay and wasn't looking to move; Bailey would be more apt to test free agency, knowing he'd be one of the prize catches of anyone's offseason.
Key to the defense: how well the corners cover. That's important in any defense, but it's especially true in a system where the line is not expected to generate much pressure. That means the corners must hold their coverage for an extra second, allowing a linebacker, or a safety, to pressure the QB. That's why it's important to have a solid third corner such as Molden. And it's why more speed was needed at safety, which Bowen provides.
Anxious to see: Bowen. The Redskins value greatly a safety's ability to tackle and Bowen appears solid in that area. Washington's safeties last year missed too many tackles, leading to big gains. Terrell was constantly out of position or whiffed on his attempts.
Make or break year for: Ohalete. He showed flashes as a rookie and a few more last year. But he was way too inconsistent, always looking for the big play and getting out of position. Ohalete showed a nose for the ball in his first year, but if his consistency doesn't improve, this will be his last season in Washington.
Strengths: Bailey is one of the best in the NFL.
Weakness: No proven safety and it's still uncertain what type of player Smoot will be.
Final analysis: The Redskins should be solid at corner--we're betting that Smoot will have a better year than in 2002 and Molden gives them good depth. Bauman as a fourth corner isn't bad. I have a good hunch about Bowen, but am not sure about the other safety. I'm not a fan of Terrell's and never have been. Ohalete regressed and Lott is inexperienced. But if Smoot plays well, then the corners will carry this unit.
Scouting the Secondary
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