Nickel Package: Springs to Safety?

The Nickel Package: What is the future for Shawn Springs? That and the four other hot issues at Redskins Park this week.

1. Shawn Springs' future. Springs' season will end on injured reserve after he broke a bone in his shoulder against St. Louis. The question is, what future does he have in Washington? Joe Gibbs said Tuesday that Springs is part of the Redskins' future. But Springs is due to count around $7 million against the salary cap. That's way too much for a soon-to-be 32 year old corner coming off an injury-filled season. Before his latest injury, several NFL talent evaluators said the Redskins needed to find another corner, whether through free agency or the draft. Of course, the other option is to put him at safety. Springs has the size and athletic ability to play back there. But the key is this: does he tackle well enough to handle that role? That much is very uncertain. Springs' tackling the past couple seasons has been spotty. If he can't tackle better, then the move to safety will not be a boon.

2. The kicking game. Derrick Frost and Shaun Suisham give the Redskins a tiny ray of hope for the future. At least they have one problem solved after enduring a couple years of headaches trying to find answers at these spots. Frost has been better since he stopped having to kick off. He's also been better at finessing the ball inside the 20. And Suisham has been dead-on perfect on his last eight attempts. He also has kicked off fairly well, showing both distance and the ability to kick to a side. These two alone won't turn the Redskins around, obviously. But they enable Washington to solve other problems in the offseason, and not have to spend big money to lure a name kicker here.

3.T. J. Duckett trade. The Redskins have definitely lost their third-round pick for the upcoming draft in this deal. There's a chance they could lose more. It's reason No. 500 why the Redskins need a general manager. Nobody in his right mind would have given up this much just for an insurance policy. Especially considering they were high on Ladell Betts BEFORE this deal. Another problem is the way Duckett runs. He does not run as hard as you would expect a guy his size to run. His legs almost seem to be running on air; it seems like there's not much power coming from the lower body, which is why would-be tacklers don't bounce off him.

4. Rookie play. I'm not happy Marcus Washington was injured. But I am happy that Rocky McIntosh is getting a chance for real action before the season ends. It's good for the Redskins, and McIntosh, for this to happen. He responded with a decent game the other day, with 10 tackles, and even stuffing a run on third and 1, when he sprinted from the sidelines just before the snap. McIntosh seems to have good instincts, is strong and physical, which is why he has done well on special teams. He uses his arms very well, enabling him to get off blockers. Coaches worried that he did not know the defense well enough, but he was not the problem on Sunday.

5. Offseason hope. The Redskins, regardless, will finish with their third double-digit loss season in the past four years. Over the last 15 years, they've resided more with the Arizona's of the world than with the elite. It's not even close. But what fans, and players, want is hope. Jason Campbell provides that to a degree; he seems to have the talent and has shown enough good things to be excited. But so did Patrick Ramsey. However, by the end of Ramsey's first year he was battered from the pounding he took and it affected him in the pocket. Campbell has not been similarly affected, thanks to better protection schemes and a stronger pocket presence. Another reason for hope will come in the offseason when the Redskins pursue players. It's not just fans who need it here, again it's the players. Some have grown frustrated at redoing their deals only to see Washington act like madmen throwing gobs of money around to bad players. Just remember that if you see some players opt not to redo their deals this offseason. They want to see the Redskins be smarter with their money, signing a couple worthwhile players and then building through the draft. Alas, they've traded away so many picks that that's not possible. Gibbs likes to talk about the Redskins way. Well, that way hasn't worked since 1991. They're not so far off that it requires a few more years of patience. But it would be nice if, for once, they actually could build up the present while maintaining the future at the same time. That's what San Diego has done. That's what New England has done. They need to pay attention.

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