Ask any fan what the biggest issue for the Washington Redskins was last year and the answer is always the same.
Reed Doughty may not provide many exciting plays for the Redskins from game to game. He is, however, a man who provides substance over style and consistency and security at a position the Redskins are desperate to improve heading into 2013.
Three safety positions are already spoken for heading into the new year.
Fourth- and sixth-round picks Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are both promising young rookies Jim Haslett feels can make an immediate impact. Brandon Meriweather is coming back from ACL surgery and has the inside track for the starting strong safety job.
Where does that leave Doughty?
The Redskins are expected to keep five safeties this year. Competing for the two remaining roster spots are Reed Doughty, Jordan Pugh, Jordan Bernstine, DeJon Gomes and Tanard Jackson.
Jackson, although talented, faces an uphill battle with his substance-abuse suspension keeping him out of training camp until at least August 31.
With so many names fighting for a couple of positions, what gives Doughty the upper hand? Two things: experience and special teams contributions.
Reed Doughty was drafted by the Redskins all the way back in 2006. With so much youth already locked in at the safety position, Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett will err on the side of more experience when selecting backup safeties.
How Many Games Will Reed Doughty Start in 2013?
In 2012, quarterbacks had a combined passer rating of only 85.9 when targeting Doughty, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). For a comparison, quarterbacks had a passer rating of 86.1 against Ed Reed.
In addition, Doughty was penalized only once in his 393 defensive snaps last year. Doughty's consistency and lack of mental errors makes him an ideal backup for the young rookies known in college for both their playmaking ability and their tendency to give up the big play.
Another area in which Reed Doughty will help the team is special teams.
In a press conference on June 6, via Brian Tinsman of Redskins.com, Mike Shanahan said the following about Doughty and his ability to contribute on both defense and special teams:
Reed [Doughty] did a fantastic job last year coming in and playing the role that he did, and you can see him play at a very high level besides special teams; he always plays special teams well.
Lorenzo Alexander left a big hole in special teams coverage when he was signed by the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. Throw in the fact that longtime special teams coach Danny Smith was poached by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there are a lot of questions about Washington's special teams in 2013.
After six years with the Denver Broncos, special teams coach Keith Burns will look for veteran leadership in his first year with Washington. Reed Doughty will be Burns' new best friend.
Even with the $18 million salary-cap penalty, the Redskins like their chances of winning the NFC East again in 2013. Reed Doughty doesn't have to be the reason they win games. He just has to be the reason they don't lose them.