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Patience Pays Off In Secondary Search

Posted Apr 30, 2013

After losing patience with short-term answers at safety, the Redskins selected three defensive backs that can shake up the secondary for success in 2013.

For two consecutive offseasons, the Washington Redskins have allowed their starting free safety from the previous season depart in free agency.

First it was Oshiomogho Atogwe, brought in provide a rangy centerfielder to the secondary, but injury and age led to disappointing results.

Last offseason, the team signed another veteran in Madieu Williams, but experienced similar results.

This year, the team ignored high end veterans including Dashon Goldson and Ed Reed, focused instead on drafting and developing a long-term answer.

When the dust settled on the 2013 NFL Draft, the Redskins have at least two young, viable options at safety.

“We had a couple safeties with Phillip Thomas and [Bacarri] Rambo and two guys that played the free safety position but also played the strong safety position as well,” head coach Mike Shanahan told the media after the draft. “We felt like we needed some depth and some competition at those positions so we helped ourselves out there.”

Thomas led the Football Bowl Subdivision last season in interceptions, picking off eight passes for Fresno State. Rambo was second in interceptions in 2011, also with eight.

Combined with veterans Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes, Shanahan said he is pleased with the training camp competition shaping up at free safety.

“We love competition. When you’ve got competition it doesn’t matter if you are a first-year player, second-year player, or 15th-year player,” he explained. “You’ve got to go out there and prove it every day, every game each week.

“To me, when you have healthy competition it gives you a chance to get better.”

With the 51st pick of the draft, the Redskins also added NC State cornerback David Amerson, who brings quality speed (4.44 40) and size (6-1, 205 pounds) to the secondary.

"Here’s a corner that’s got some pretty good speed, good length," Shanahan explained. "He’s come up with some big interceptions throughout his career.

"He’s a guy we think can play in off coverage and in bump coverage. He’s just a guy we thought would fit into our system very well. Very sharp player, very smart player."

As a sophomore, Amerson led the FBS in interceptions in 2011, snagging 13 interceptions for the Wolfpack.

It’s no coincidence that the Redskins brass targeted three of the top ball-hawks in the draft.

"We've talked about turnovers since I've been here. Usually the team that excels in turnovers, they win championships,” Shanahan said. “If it's not Super Bowls, it's getting into the playoffs. That will always be an emphasis on offense and defense.

“These guys have come up with a lot of turnovers, one of the reasons they were drafted where they were."

Shanahan said Amerson brings positional flexibility but will be tested at outside corner before attempting to move him inside or elsewhere in the secondary.

"The first thing we want to do is see if he can play outside, because that’s the toughest position to play. If you can find that guy, you are in pretty good shape. I think he can play nickel, but we are looking at him as an outside corner and we’ll adjust some other players on the inside.”

Should Amerson or fellow newcomer E.J. Biggers earn playing time, the Redskins are prepared to move veterans Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall around accordingly.

“You’ve got the flexibility with a guy like D-Hall [DeAngelo Hall]. I like [cornerback] Josh Wilson to work inside as well,” Shanahan said. “So, we’ve still got speed on the outside, a little bit more flexibility on the inside with our nickel and dime packages.

“Combine that with our two new safeties and the possibility of Brandon Meriweather coming back full-speed. There's also Tanard Jackon, [Jordan] Pugh, [Jerome] Murphy. We’ve got a lot of guys competing and that’s what gives you a chance."

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