March 24, 2009

Washington Redskins' Defense: Little Depth Means Big Problems

With the release of Jason Taylor, the Washington Redskins now have several large holes to fill on last year's number four ranked defense.

The 'Skins brought in Albert Haynesworth to bolster a non-existent pass rush and then proceeded to cut their best end rusher in Taylor. Though his time in DC was a disappointment, Taylor still had better pass rushing skills than the rest of the 'Skins' D-line.

The fact that Dan Snyder gave up second and sixth rounders to land him hurts even more.

Demetric Evans also left DC, signing with the 'Niners yesterday. He provided a solid presence against the run and was an occasional pass rushing threat.

This leaves the Redskins with just five defensive ends on their roster: Rob Jackson, Chris Wilson, Alex Buzbee, Renaldo Wynn, and Andre Carter. Carter is the only one with starting experience, while Jackson and Buzbee might not even make the final roster next season.

Jackson will be entering his second year after being drafted in the seventh round out of Kansas State while Buzbee is coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered in training camp.

Wilson has been a capable reserve, but at 247 lbs., he is too light and doesn’t possess the talent to be an every-down player.

Wynn will be entering his second stint with the 'Skins, but he can’t be expected to put up much anything at the age of 34. He is coming off a two sack season with the Giants.

So what can the 'Skins do to remedy this shortage of defensive ends? They have four picks in the draft and they just might have to use several on DEs.

Brain Orakpo, Michael Johnson, or Aaron Maybin are first-round considerations, while guys like Robert Ayers, Paul Kruger, or Maurice Evans could be available in the second and third rounds.

Orakpo is receiving the most attention, with his freakish size and athleticism. He can play LB or DE. However, he will most likely be taken before the No. 13 pick.

The 'Skins could roll with Johnson or Maybin, but again Maybin might be gone by the time Washington is on the clock. Johnson's stock is falling due to his lack of motor and strength. He can't stop the run and hasn't filled out his 6'7" frame. Too many questions, if you ask me.

Everette Brown could also be an option in the first round, but with offensive tackle being a pressing need, the 'Skins might find Michael Oher or Eben Britton to be of better value at No. 1.

Unfortunately, the ‘Skins are short on linebackers as well. London Fletcher is still the man in the middle, but for how much longer? HB Blades might be able to fill in down the road, but he could find himself penciled in at OLB as a replacement for Marcus Washington this year.

Blades is a solid player, but he really isn’t fast enough to be an OLB. He’s a MLB and will be exposed at OLB. However, the 'Skins may have little choice but to bite the bullet and see how he fares at OLB.

Rocky McIntosh has quietly been effective at the other OLB position, but his knees are questionable. He could improve as he is now over a year removed from rehabbing the knee he injured in 2007.

But the linebacker position is lacking some quality depth. So DE and LB have little to no depth. With only four picks in the draft (and a weak offensive line), there’s no way to remedy all these problems.

Washington’s secondary is the strength of the defensive unit. They re-signed DeAngelo Hall, who will start alongside Carlos Rogers, forming one of the better CB tandems in conference. Fred Smoot and J.T. Tryon will provide some depth while Byron Westbrook tries yet again to make the roster.

Laron Landry and Chris Horton are both tremendous players. Landry can be a game breaker and rarely gets beaten while Horton does a great job in run support. Kareem Moore looked promising as well last season.

Overall, signing Haynesworth was a big move, but I wouldn’t say it’s the right one. The 'Skins have more needs on defense than meet the eye.

They were a top 10 defense last year, and they should be again. However, I still think they are lacking all the pieces to be a tremendous defense, which can create pressure and force turnovers.

Great work again, front office. Bring in a player in an attempt to make your defense a premiere one and then release your best pass rusher? What’s going on in Redskins Park doesn’t add up to me.

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