NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT
When the Redskins picked Florida tight end Jordan Reed in the third round of the 2013 draft, fans were worried about the gaping hole at free safety where Tanard Jackson remains on an indefinite NFL suspension for substance abuse and his replacements came up wanting in 2012.
But Washington addressed that need in a big way on day three of the draft, choosing two of the top-rated safety prospects, Fresno State's Phillip Thomas in the fourth round and Georgia's Bacarri Rambo in the sixth.
The Redskins, whose safeties picked off just four passes in 2012, suddenly had the nation's interceptions leader (Thomas with eight) and the player who ranked second in 2011 (Rambo had eight, ranking only behind North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson, whom Washington drafted with its first selection in 2013, 51st overall in the second round).
"Usually the teams that excel in turnovers, they win championships," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. "If it's not Super Bowls, it's getting into the playoffs. That will always be an emphasis (for us). These guys have come up with a lot of turnovers, (which is) one of the reasons (why) they were drafted where they were."
While Amerson will likely be the No. 3 corner at best this season behind veteran starters Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall (who are unsigned beyond 2013), Thomas and Rambo will compete to start with holdovers D.J. Gomes and Jordan Pugh and 2012 seventh-rounder Jordan Bernstine, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the opener. Reed Doughty, who played more at free safety than anyone last year, will likely return to his natural strong safety spot behind expected regular Brandon Meriweather.
"(Phillip) does a great job adjusting to the football," Shanahan said of the 6-1, 208-pound Thomas. "He had a lot of interceptions. That was one key. The next key is that he's not afraid to hit people. He would support the run. He played a lot of different coverages that we play. He was very quick mentally. I think for a guy like Phillip (the transition to the NFL will) be a little bit easier because he ran a very similar system to what we have."
Thomas, a self-described natural ballhawk, is pumped for the opportunity although it came two rounds later than expected.
"I started getting a little anxious, going throughout the whole draft and watching everybody get picked, but ... I couldn't be happier with where I'm going now. I'm feel I'm going to be the steal of the draft. I've been a Redskins fan my whole life. I know (Brandon) Meriweather was hurt this year and they needed a safety who could play the ball in the air. I'm happy that the Redskins organization chose me to be that safety."
The 6-1, 218-pound Rambo feels the same way after dropping to the sixth round, mostly because of concerns about his off-field issues which revolved around marijuana use and included a suspension for the first four games of 2012.
"I thought everybody had forgotten about me," he said. "I was sitting here praying, asking God to give me one team to like me. Then the Redskins called. I thank the organization for believing in me. It was very hard because I felt like a lot of those guys (drafted ahead of me) weren't near the guy I was, but everything happens for a reason. It put a big chip on my shoulder, so I'll just have to go out there and prove it to everybody."
Shanahan said the Redskins, who had offensive tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis as well as Jackson suspended for drug use during the past 18 months, aren't worried about Rambo's character.
"We do a lot of background checks," Shanahan said. "We talk to him (and his) coaches. If we don't feel comfortable with somebody, we don't sign him and we felt very comfortable with him. ... You can tell he's a tremendous athlete, former quarterback. Just a guy that has great intangibles and made plays all over the football field. I think his game will just get better and better."
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - NOTES, QUOTES
--While franchise record-setter Alfred Morris is set at running back and backups Roy Helu and Evan Royster combined for six games with 100 rushing yards in 2011 before Morris' arrival last year, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan sees a definite role for Chris Thompson, the first of Washington's two fifth-round picks out of Florida State.
"Chris is a guy that could excel against nickel defenses," Shanahan said. "He could be that third-down back. He's got great hands. He's got great elusiveness. He averaged a little over 7.5 yards per carry in his last year. He's the type of guy, I think, that can do it all."
The 5-7, 192-pound Thompson led the Seminoles in rushing in 2010, had his 2011 season ruined by two broken vertebrae and returned in 2012 only to suffer a season-ending left knee injury in October.
"That offense, I could feel real comfortable there, being able to be in the gun and do those things like the read option that are real dangerous," said Thompson, who has run 4.32. "With my speed and my ability, it could be a real great option."
--Eight spots after Thompson, Washington selected his Seminoles teammate, outside linebacker Brandon Jenkins, who racked up 21.5 sacks as a sophomore and junior before having his senior season end with a foot injury in the opener.
"I don't regret anything," said the 6-2, 251-pound Jenkins. "It made me a better person and player on and off the field. I'm ready to go to the Redskins and show what I've got. Nobody's life is perfect. You've got to fail to succeed. You've got to go through things to make you stronger and that only made me stronger. I'm in the door and I'm going to make sure I stay in the door. I'm bringing pass rushing dependability, great character on and off the field, and a hard worker."
--Washington's last pick was another vertically challenged running back, Rutgers' 5-7, 203-pound Jawan Jamison. After red-shirting in 201, he ran for 1,972 yards and 13 touchdowns the past two years despite ankle issues in 2012.
"Jamison is a guy that I thought would be going much earlier. We weren't really looking for that running back in that seventh round, but when he was there, we just thought he was too good to pass up," Shanahan said. "Not only could he excel in the nickel package, but he could be a first-down runner as well."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I play the safety position and to watch (late Pro Bowl free safety Sean Taylor) play the game, as aggressive as he was, as great of a player as he was. He studied the film and did everything he had to do and was a perfectionist at the game, so of course he would be my favorite player of my favorite team." -- Fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas on always rooting for the Redskins and being a fan of Taylor's.
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Redskins' picks:
Round 2/51 -- David Amerson, CB, 6-1, 205, North Carolina State
The Redskins passed on a more immediate need at free safety to go for the ball-hawking Amerson, who picked off 18 passes during his two full college seasons as a starter but also got burned by going for the big play so often.
Round 3/85 -- Jordan Reed, TE, 6-3, 243, Florida
Washington again opted to look ahead to 2014 with top tight end Fred Davis unsigned beyond this year. A high school quarterback, Reed made All-SEC with 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, his second year at tight end.
Round 4/119 -- Phillip Thomas, SS, 6-0, 210, Fresno State
After taking the Football Bowl Subdivision leader in interceptions in 2011 with its second-round pick, Washington again looked for a ball-hawk in the secondary by bringing in the player who led in that category last season. Thomas had eight interceptions, 84 tackles and four forced fumbles as a senior.
Round 5/154 -- Chris Thompson, RB, 5-7, 192, Florida State
Seeking a change-of-pace back for their option-based offense, the Redskins took a running back who tore the ACL in his left knee on Oct. 20 but should be ready for the start of training camp. Thompson had 657 yards and five touchdowns through six games.
Round 5/162 -- Brandon Jenkins, DE, 6-2, 251, Florida State
Graded by several scouting services as a potential selection in the first two rounds before last season, Jenkins broke his left foot in the opener and missed the rest of the year. After picking up 22.5 sacks in 40 games, he'll move to outside linebacker in the Redskins' 3-4 scheme.
Round 6/191 -- Bacarri Rambo, FS, 6-0, 215, Georgia
A pair of suspensions for drug-related incidents in college sank Rambo's chance of going higher, but the Redskins were pleased to scoop him up in the sixth round. He finished second to Amerson with eight interceptions in 2011 and had 73 tackles and three interceptions through 10 games as a senior.
Round 7/228 -- Jawan Jamison, RB, 5-7, 203, Rutgers
A running back who is adept in pass protection and catching passes out of the backfield, Jamison ran for 1,075 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, his redshirt sophomore season. He'll fit in well in the Redskins' zone-blocking running scheme.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (6)
--OT Jordan Black will miss the first game of next season under an NFL suspension and wasn't that great in his limited duty in 2012. Borderline to return.
--OT Jammal Brown, a starter in 2010-11 on the right side, missed all of last season following hip surgery. Brown will be 32 in March and had his contract voided this month. He's almost surely an ex-Redskin.
--TE Chris Cooley is one of the greatest tight ends in franchise history, along with the late Jerry Smith. However, Cooley hasn't been the same since knee surgery in 2011. He was cut last summer, made little impact after being re-signed and doesn't figure to be back.
--CB Cedric Griffin was decent as the nickel corner in his Washington debut before serving a four-game suspension following a positive drug test. The cap-strapped Redskins are thin at corner and will likely try to keep Griffin.
--S Madieu Williams was a disappointment as the fill-in free safety last year after Tanard Jackson was suspended. His career could be over at 31.
--DE Chris Wilson had a chance to become a starter after Brian Orakpo was hurt in Week 2 last season. Instead, Rob Jackson took the job and ran with it. Wilson, 30, could still return as a backup and special teamer.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--WR/KR Brandon Banks (not tendered as RFA) had a second straight down year as the return man and lost those duties in December. Don't expect the NFL's smallest player (5-7, 150 pounds) back in Washington.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--NT Chris Baker: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--TE Fred Davis: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Kedric Golston: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Rex Grossman: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB DeAngelo Hall: FA had been released by Redskins; $2.25M/1 yr.
--LB Rob Jackson: Potential RFA; $715,000/1 yr.
--LB Bryan Kehl: UFA; terms unknown.
--G Kory Lichtensteiger: Potential UFA; 5 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Logan Paulsen: Potential RFA; $3.41M/3 yrs, $1M SB.
--OT Tyler Polumbus: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--P Sav Rocca: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LS Nick Sundberg: Potential RFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--FB Darrel Young: Potential RFA; $6.2M/3 yrs.
--CB E.J. Biggers: UFA Buccaneers terms unknown.
--NT Ron Brace: FA; terms unknown.
--DE Phillip Merling: FA; terms unknown.
--T Tony Pashos: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Darryl Tapp: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Jeremy Trueblood: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--QB Pat White: FA; terms unknown.
--LB Lorenzo Alexander: UFA Cardinals; $9.5M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--CB D.J. Johnson (released).