Strengths: They should have the necessary players in the secondary to allow Gregg Williams to be more aggressive. Once Sean Taylor signs -- now that he finally has an agent -- he'll give Washington a potential major playmaker in the defensive backfield. He's big, has speed and hits hard. Shawn Springs once ranked among the best corners and doesn't anymore. But he is a good fit in Williams' system, because of his size and ability to play press coverage. The player the coaches are really excited about is Fred Smoot. Even coaches at other positions eagerly talk about him. The fourth-year corner played well in a supporting role last year, rarely covering the top wideouts. But he's studied more this offseason, hoping to improve his consistency. Safety Matt Bowen returns to his natural strong safety position. His speed helps make this a fast secondary. Ifeanyi Ohalete is a decent No. 3 safety. Ralph Brown, Walt Harris and Rashad Bauman add experienced corner depth.
Weaknesses: There are a few. Taylor is a rookie, so there's no way to know how good he really will play this season. Springs has been injured too much in recent years, missing nine games the past three years for injuries. It's debatable how much he has left, but at least can be solid. Two years ago the Redskins kept their corners on one side of the field. Because of that Smoot was occasionally paired against top wideouts. He fared poorly and the Redskins eventually would move Champ Bailey around. Smoot is two years older and a lot wiser, so that should help. He's not as athletic as Bailey. And his concentration has contributed to inconsistency, so says Smoot himself and his previous coaches. Bowen doesn't make many plays. Harris is hurt and might not help much; he's a good backup but would be a step down as a starter. Brown should be nicknamed Toast.
Keep your eye on: Springs. His health could determine the success of this backfield. If he can play every game, or miss just one or two, the Redskins will be in better shape. With the addition of Terrell Owens, the Redskins needed to replace Bailey with a big corner, which is why they wanted Springs.
The big question: Can Smoot take the next step to being a No. 1 corner. Late this past season, his coaches would have said no. That's why they always moved Bailey around. Smoot had a very nice year, but he rarely faced a No. 1 wideout for more than a play at a time. This is a big step for him. The nice thing about Smoot is that he's made the transition from being just a witty young guy to a serious veteran. He still jokes around and has fun, but he's more serious about the game. He's also genuine. He models himself after Deion Sanders, but Sanders played the role of Prime Time. Smoot is himself 100 percent of the time. The only time I've seen him different is after he got hurt last season. He's an easy guy to root for.
Player on the spot: Taylor. He hasn't exactly distinguished himself of late with his decision making. Will he be signed in time for camp? And if he's a holdout, how long will it take him to catch up? Are we looking at another LaVar Arrington situation? Taylor must show signs of maturity before anyone can rely on him. This staff really is disappointed in his early behavior. Not that a few big plays wouldn't win them over. But so far he's not a Joe Gibbs player.
Positional Analysis: Secondary
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