Redskins positional glance: Defensive backs

Taking a look forward, while seeing what went wrong or right during the 2014 season, for each position. Today: defensive backs.

Under contract for 2015: CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Tracy Porter, CB David Amerson, CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Kenny Okoro, CB Courtney Bridget, S Phillip Thomas, S Akeem Davis

Free agents: Ryan Clark, Brandon Meriweather, Duke Ihenacho (restricted)

2015 cap hits:

Hall: $4,812,500

Porter: $3,328,175

Amerson: 1,050,246

Breeland: $631,500

Bridget: $510,000

Okoro: $510,000

Thomas: $510,000

Davis: $510,000

Best bargain: Breeland. He arrived as a fourth-round pick and exited the season as a guy who should help them in the future. Breeland made his mistakes and needs to cut his penalties down -- by a lot. But his tenacity, competitiveness and physical style are worth developing.

The review: It wasn’t good. The Redskins once more tried to patch together solutions at safety rather than find anything long-term. But it’s also not as if last year’s safety class amounted to much this season for any team (with a few exceptions, notably T.J. Ward in Denver). But the absence of speed deep hurt and losing Hall early in the season really hurt. The Redskins have just done a poor job of picking talent here, while also having some bad luck with injuries. Porter battled injuries during his entire time here; he has a history of that. They tried to make it work with Bacarri Rambo again and, though he looked better in the preseason, that wasn’t the case once games started. There were too many missed assignments, whether from execution (more often the culprit) or miscommunication. They did have two young corners starting for most of the season so some of that was to be expected. Amerson seemed to be too anxious to make big plays and it cost him -- it’s OK to give up some big plays, but you need to then make some. He did not. If that doesn’t change, he’s a short-term starter. Breeland was a pleasant surprise and Meriweather played as expected. But they lacked depth at both safety and corner and lost an opportunity to groom a young safety when they drafted no one last April to play behind the veteran Clark.

The outlook: Well, a lot depends on what happens the rest of the offseason. They definitely have to find help at both safety and corner, but will it come in free agency or the draft? Also, a lot depends on what the new defensive staff thinks of the holdovers -- and what they expect from their players. The Redskins need a legit solution at safety -- and they must find someone with speed. What do you do at corner? Hall, if healthy, can still start. Breeland had a better year than Amerson. Breeland could be worked inside if need be on nickel downs (not sure that’s a plan for him or not). I want Breeland’s mindset on the field; adds toughness. While Perry Fewell was not a great defensive coordinator, he does have a good reputation as a position coach. A stronger pass rush would help, but the coverage has to do its part as well.

What they said: Here’s what one opposing executive said about Bashaud Breeland, “I really like him. He has a bright future. When we got ready to play them, I recommended working Amerson more than Breeland. He’s just a good combination of size, instincts and toughness. He’ll get more confident as he goes.”

Key questions: Who returns? Clark hasn’t announced his retirement, but it would be surprising to see him back. If he were a backup? OK. But he’s no longer what they need in a starter. Meriweather can still play, but this defensive staff has no history with him. This whole offseason is one big question mark for the secondary. Also, for Hall, that's a big cap hit for someone at his age (31) coming off an injury. They like him, but I wonder if something will be done with his contract.

Stat(s) that must improve: Seven interceptions. Yuck. Only three teams finished with fewer. Remember ‘the plan’ two years ago was to draft ballhawking defensive backs? Yeah, Amerson, Thomas and Bacarri Rambo combined for two turnovers the past two seasons. Also, the Redskins ranked 25th in percentage of coverage sacks (13.1), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Yes, while I’m a firm believer the rush must improve, they need to find more players who can cover -- or do a better job matching coverage schemes to rushes.

Stat that surprised me: The Redskins tied for seventh in fewest yards after the catch, which goes against what you’d think. Part of it could stem from 16 teams having allowed more completions – and teams not needing to throw as much vs. Washington because of the score.

Free agent options: There are definite options at safety, some with connections to the Redskins front office or coaching staff – Seattle’s Jeron Johnson (general manager Scot McCloughan was there when the Seahawks drafted him) and San Diego’s Marcus Gilchrist (new coordinator Joe Barry was with the Chargers). Devin McCourty is a free agent, but it’s real hard to imagine him leaving New England -- or if he does -- venturing to Washington. There are some fine options at safety in the draft, though not at No. 5. There are no corners worthy of the fifth pick, either.

Here's a look other positions in this series:



Running backs