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Redskins scouting report: Dashon Goldson

After watching four games and talking to some people around the NFL, here's my scouting report on new Washington Redskins safety Dashon Goldson, obtained in a trade with Tampa Bay last week:

What I liked: Goldson is physical and decisive when playing against the run. Time and again Goldson read run and quickly reacted, seeking contact --but not at the expense of being disciplined. Goldson will arrive with some pop and does not hesitate to get involved. He always seemed to be around the pile. He uses a lot of shoulder tackles, but typically does a good job of getting the man on the ground. Goldson played both safety spots, aligning up in the box and also deep. He showed good instincts as well, mostly for where the ball was going than for making big plays. Still, those instincts came in handy in preventing longer gains. Sometimes those instincts force the quarterback to go elsewhere with the ball, as they did against St. Louis on one occasion. Other times when he knew a ball had to come out fast he could react accordingly and it led to one pass broken up with a big hit. He had a good feel for the run game and where to fit -- and where he needed to force the ball.

What I didn’t: His coverage skills. Too often targets, typically a tight end, created extra yards of separation because he was willing to fall for a hard fake. It happens to many, of course, but it certainly bit him in the three games I watched of his from 2014. Too often it resulted in several extra yards of separation and an easy reception. Carolina’s tight end got open this way by selling an outside cut only to come back inside. Goldson also fell for a triple move by Carolina receiver Kelvin Benjamin -- biting on the out, then again on a post route. Benjamin was wide open -- but somehow missed. Finally, Randall Cobb got him to fall for an outside fake only to cut back inside to grab a pass for 30 yards. Knowing the middle was uncovered on this play, Goldson should have protected the inside leverage more. He will be tested downfield. Goldson missed the occasional tackle (including one whiff on an end around by the Rams’ Tavon Austin) but it was not an issue. He often tries to tackle with hard shoulder hits rather than just wrapping, but he did show the ability to do the latter (often above the waist of the ball carrier). He was not much of a playmaker.

What I’ve heard: From talking to a few people around the league, the word is that Goldson was just not a good fit in Tampa Bay, that there was some concern he lost his aggressiveness after the heavy fines in 2013. But there was a sense he still had solid instincts and is good in the locker room. Another notion was that he’s definitely on the down side of his career.

Lesson learned: Goldson is one exhibit for why it’s hard to throw big money at safeties. They’re a little more scheme-reliant and dependent on what’s around them. Goldson did well in San Francisco, but he was surrounded by a talented roster. The Niners did not have to ask him to do things he could not -- like cover one-on-one too often. Also, in one 49ers game I watched from 2012, the Niners had Goldson line up a little deeper when playing deep middle -- by perhaps two yards from what Tampa would do in a similar look. It may have just been the one game I saw or it could have been because with the talent in front of him, they could afford to have him aligned this way.

How he fits: Goldson spent a lot of time playing deep -- in the middle as well as half the field. Jeron Johnson also has played both safety positions, though his lone start came at strong safety. Still, the Redskins say he can play both free and strong. So adding Goldson gives the Redskins another safety who can play near the line or down field. The Redskins have to hope they can coax a good year or two from Goldson, giving them time to find a longer-term solution. As one person told me last week: He’s better than Madieu Williams. Goldson can be effective if used a certain way. For the Redskins, effective would be welcomed.