On Monday, I previewed the 28 offense and special teams players I expect to make the Redskins. Today, let's look at the 25 that will make up the Skins' defensive unit.
While all 11 players that started the 2012 season on offense should remain the same, turnover is the theme on D, especially in the secondary. And for good reason. When you rank 30th against the pass, something needs to be shaken up. I expect to have at four new starters when the Redskins take the field on September 9th versus the Eagles.
Italics = 2013 rookie * = Anticipated starter, List represents depth chart.
Nose Tackle (3)
*Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Chris NeildOn The Bubble: Doug Worthington
Barry Cofield has enjoyed two of his best professional seasons since joining the Redskins, and both have come without great NT depth behind him. Two years ago, Chris Baker tore his quad muscle the same week he was promoted to the active roster. Last year, Chris Neild tore his ACL in training camp. Provided that both players stay healthy, I expect Baker and Neild to provide quality depth in the trenches of the Redskins defense. Doug Worthington is a good player, but will lose out in this numbers game, barring injury.
*Stephen Bowen, *Jarvis Jenkins, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston
On The Bubble: Phillip Merling, Ron Brace
It's been an up-and-down 24 months for Jarvis Jenkins. The former second-round pick hasn't looked as good as he did in training camp '11 before tearing his ACL. I not only expect him to return to form in 2013, but to overtake Adam Carriker's starting spot for good. I really want to pick Phillip Merling or Ron Brace over Kedric Golston for the 4th D-End spot. I really do. Former high draft picks intrigue me. But then I remember there is a reason Merling and Brace were first and second round picks respectively but were cut. There is also a reason Golston, a former sixth-rounder has been in the NFL for seven years.
Inside Backers (5)
*London Fletcher, *Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson, Bryan Kehl, Marvin Burdette
On The Bubble: None
London Fletcher and Perry Riley return for another year in the middle of the Redskins' LB corps. Keenan Robinson should become a staple in the Redskins pass defense package as a nickel linebacker, as well as give Fletch some breathers here and there. Bryan Kehl essentially fills Lorenzo Alexander's place on the roster as a utility backer and special teams ace.
surprise on the 53 is Marvin Burdette, undrafted rookie from
Alabama-Birmingham. I remember hoping the Redskins would spend a draft
pick on his guy. Why he wasn't drafted by any NFL team is a mystery, but
I'm not general manager. I am just happy the Skins were able to find
this guy flying under the radar. Like London Fletcher, this guy is an undersized tackling machine, setting
the UAB record with 406 career solo tackles. I wouldn't at all be surprised
to see Burdette on the 53 or to see him starting in a couple seasons. Don't take my word for it. See for yourself...
Outside Backers (4)
*Brian Orakpo, *Ryan Kerrigan, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Jenkins
On The Bubble: None
Can I PLEASE get a healthy and consistent season from Kerrakpo? If that happens, get ready for more than a few sack lunches from the duo this season. Darryl Tapp ill hold down the third outside backer role until Rob Jackson has completed his four-game league mandated suspension for banned substance. Even when Jackson returns, Tapp has a chance to stick around as a reserve defensive end, which is his natural position. Rookie Brandon Jenkins is coming off a torn ACL. If he is healthy, he could provide another specialty edge rusher for the Skins. Can you imagine it being third & long and seeing Orakpo, Kerrigan, Jackson and Jenkins all digging in to go get the quarterback? Sheesh.
*DeAngelo Hall, *David Amerson, Josh Wilson, Richard Crawford, E.J. Biggers
On The Bubble: Chase Minnifield
I think that David Amerson will end up the Redskins starter opposite DeAngelo Hall in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's base package. The Skins didn't spend a second-rounder on the rookie from NC State for him to sit on the bench. Besides, I believe with proper coaching, he can be a far more effective corner in '13 than Josh Wilson has been in either of his two seasons in DC.
Regardless, Hall, Amerson and Wilson will all see their fair share of snaps. The Redskins play a lot of 'Nickel', a pass-defending package that includes three corners on the field at once. In this scenario, Amerson and Wilson will play the outside receivers, with Hall either sliding down to the slot corner or to a safety position. When does move away from his outside corner spot, expect to also see some Richard Crawford who, by all accounts, is having an outstanding off season.
The fifth and last corner spot is will be one of the hottest battles to watch in camp, with the X-factor being Chase Minnifield. If you've never heard of him, its because he landed on the Redskins' injured reserve shortly before training camp last year, never playing a single down. The former U of Virginia star scored high on many draft boards, but went unselected because of a variety of knee ailments. Admittedly, his knees still aren't 100%, but if he proves healthy though camp, don't be shocked to see him take EJ Biggers' spot.
Free Safeties (1)
On The Bubble: Jordan Bernstein, DeJon Gomes
Strong Safeties (3) *Brandon Meriweather, Phillip Thomas, Reed Doughty
On The Bubble: Jordan Pugh
Never mind Bacarri Rambo's sixth round draft selection. He could be as talented as any player the Redskins took in April's draft and could easily be the starter at free safety week 1.
However, like the corner position, the label put on starting spots for the Redskins safeties aren't as important as other positions on this team because I expect several guys to share reps and play a lot in games. Rambo, veteran Brandon Meriweather and fellow rookie Phillip Thomas can all play both the safety positions and will probably get equal snaps in games. The adequate depth and superb special teams play that Reed Doughty brings keeps him around for another season. Jordan Bernstein will probably land on the IR for one more season or will be placed on the Physically unable to Perform list to start camp as he continues to rebound from a devastating knee injury.