Starters: CB Shawn Springs, CB Carlos Rogers, S Sean Taylor, S LaRon Landry
Top backups: CB Fred Smoot, CB David Macklin, S Pierson Prioleau, S Omar Stoutmire
Strengths: The Redskins have a lot of athleticism in the secondary, especially among the starters. Few corners are as versatile as Shawn Springs (when healthy, that is). And very few safeties can match Sean Taylor's skills. He's trimmed down this summer, which should result in even more speed and an ability to cover more ground. Taylor's speed provides flexibility in the defensive calls because he can do things other safeties simply can't. Rogers is among the most physical corners in the NFL. And the depth is much, much better this season. We included Landry among the starters, though he might not open that way. But our guess is he'll start very early – the coaches are extremely high on him. Even some who don't routinely praise young players drop them on him in private. He and Taylor could be the hardest-hitting safety duo in the league.
Weaknesses: Springs' age (32) and the fact that he's coming off a rather big injury are troubling. Can he last all season? The defense is different when he doesn't play, though the addition of Smoot and Co., should provide more cushion than last year. Taylor's skills are fabulous, but will he stop guessing so much? Rogers took a step back last year and too often was beaten with ease by good receivers. Landry is a rookie so his impact is really hard to predict.
Outlook: Good, especially if everyone stays healthy. But most teams say the same thing. So we'll assume good health. We like that the Redskins will use a free and strong safety. Our hunch is that will limit Taylor's penchant for guessing, perhaps giving him a little less to think about. However, our fear is that it's simply who he is as a safety and the Redskins will have to live with it. Springs is motivated by a couple things: how the Redskins treated him this offseason and the knowledge that he'll probably be a free agent at season's end (if he's cut). A good season equals a better payday.
Better than 2006?: Yes. Not having Adam Archuleta will help; he irritated some by blaming others for his mistakes. And he was a loner type who did not seem to fit in with this unit. The coaches, for sure, are much happier without him. He was a mistake all the way around. As long as Springs stays healthy, this group should be solid. He makes everyone better.
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