Washington Redskins Have to Think Defensive Back Early and Often in the Draft

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 25, 2014

Jan 9, 2014; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden speaks as general manager Bruce Allen looks on during a press conferences at Redskins Park Team Auditorium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the NFL draft is a crapshoot. But the sad reality is that the more blind darts you throw, the higher your chances are of hitting a bullseye. And that, frankly, is why the Washington Redskins need to keep focusing almost entirely on defensive backs during the key early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft. 

I know, the 'Skins used two of their top three 2013 picks on DBs and three of their seven picks in total. But since none of those three have proven themselves to be reliable NFL players, and because in this league there's very little room for patience, general manager Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden have to keep swinging. 

Last season, this secondary allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 65.6 percent of their passes while giving up 8.0 yards per attempt, which was tied for the second-highest average in the NFL. Those opposing signal-callers had an average passer rating of 96.1. 

And since the start of 2012, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings have surrendered more total passing yards than Washington. 

Most passing yards allowed, last two seasons
TeamYards allowed
1. Buccaneers8564
2. Vikings8503
3. Redskins8407
4. Cowboys8273
5. Patriots8166
Pro Football Reference

Veteran Josh Wilson is gone and free-agent addition Tracy Porter is nothing more than a warm, experienced body. He's a placeholder, but he's a journeyman for a reason. It's been years since anyone's been able to rely on him. 

DeAngelo Hall is a decent enough top corner, but he's a gambler who requires a ton of support, especially when facing quarterbacks like Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, who take up six games on Washington's schedule. 

Support is still something they lack in a significant way, especially on the back end. By bringing back Brian Orakpo to pair with Ryan Kerrigan while adding Jason Hatcher to the line, the pass rush has pretty much been maxed out for 2014. Between those three, Barry Cofield and Riley Cooper, this front seven is solid. 

And now that DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts have been added to the receiving corps, the offense is set. If Robert Griffin III can stay healthy and excel in his third season, the 'Skins should be expected to rank in the top five on that side of the ball, just as they did two years ago, before everything went to hell. 

Yeah, Griffin could still use some help in pass protection, but that's why you invested in big bodies Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn. It's silly to spend a second- or third-round pick on a center or guard, because far too many can be found in the later rounds and on the open market, and the 'Skins are already set with budding star Trent Wiliams in that all-important left tackle spot. 

So again, it's about that secondary. Keep tossing those darts. Because Bacarri Rambo missed the board. ESPN's John Keim isn't even sure Rambo will make the roster in 2014 after struggling badly as a rookie. The sixth-round pick out of Georgia was abysmal in coverage, even compared to typical late-round safeties. 

And then there's Phillip Thomas, the fourth-round safety out of Fresno State who is yet to play an NFL snap after missing his rookie campaign due to a foot injury. Can't expect to rely on him.

Second-round cornerback David Amerson showed some promise at times, but he was still victimized quite often. Maybe he'll be someone they can count on, but in this day and age you need to have close to a half-dozen defensive backs you can trust. 

Hall, maybe Amerson and Porter. Who else? Does anybody believe in Brandon Meriweather, who was also torched last season, has had a lot of trouble staying healthy and hasn't been a borderline-successful starter in half a decade? What about Ryan Clark, who will turn 35 this season and was showing real signs of decline last year in Pittsburgh?

Honestly, I was disappointed to see the 'Skins stay out of free-agent sweepstakes for blue-chip corners like Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brent Grimes and even solid peripheral guys like Captain Munnerlyn and Walter Thurmond. Safeties Jairus Byrd, Chris Clemons, Mike Mitchell and Antoine Bethea also would have been upgrades. 

I can only assume that was strategic, and that the front office instead believes it'll find some long-term contributors in what many consider to be one of the deepest drafts this century. If that's the plan and the Redskins stick to it, they might actually be on the right track. 

But if they shy away from defensive backs early merely because they invested so much in players from that position one year ago, they'll be making a huge mistake. The only way this franchise takes the next step is by finally addressing the secondary by hitting on some draft picks at the corner and safety positions.