Projection time and not just about the Redskins' 53-man roster. This new series on Breaking Burgundy tackles the question of the best and worst units.
Unit #6: The safeties
What to watch for:The fight for the job at strong safety is an intriguing one, and worth watching as it progresses at training camp. When the team inked Jeron Johnson to a contract over the offseason, it looked like you could pencil him in at the No. 1 spot on the depth chart and call it a day. However, Duke Ihenacho, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, got a lot of reps with the first team defense during OTAs, which was a bit of an eye-opener. It’s probably still Johnson’s job to lose, but the competition is already more heated than most expected. Ihenacho has more playing experience than the former Seahawk, so he could certainly push him for the right to start Week 1.
Why the safeties land at #6:It’s a unit that should be a lot better, but the ceiling doesn’t look very high. The front office is banking on the fact that Goldson was misused in Tampa Bay the last two years, and that he still has the talent he displayed while in San Francisco. However, there’s certainly a chance he could be the second coming of Brandon Meriweather. Johnson and Ihenacho, on the other hand, look like solid pieces, but are they total difference makers? That remains to be seen. To put it simply: if this group can just do their jobs and not get beat for 70-yard touchdowns on a weekly basis like the last few units that preceded them, then they’ll be heroes amongst fans.
Unit #5: The linebackers
What to watch for: There’s a battle going on between Trent Murphy and Preston Smith for the right to start opposite Ryan Kerrigan, but both guys should see a lot of snaps on the edge this year for the defense. There’s been more hype around Murphy this offseason than there is for the upcoming Star Wars movie, which is saying something; many think he’ll be the team’s breakout star. Smith, meanwhile, has drawn rave reviews from his coaches and teammates thus far as well. The “starter” title probably means something to each second-round pass rusher, but if both can contribute six or seven sacks, no one will really care who plays each game’s first snap. Their development, if each do capitalize on the potential they have, could really elevate the defense as a whole.
Why the linebackers land at #5: The linebackers land just outside the top four units, which is where there’s real promise, but still, this group looks solid. Like Jordan Reed and the tight ends, a lot is riding on Keenan Robinson’s ability to stay healthy. But if he does, the starting four of Kerrigan, Riley, Robinson, and Murphy/Smith is a stout one that a lot of people outside of the nation’s capital may regret sleeping on.