Many football analysts were surprised when the Washington Redskins did not take a safety in this year's NFL Draft. After last season's performance, it was one of the biggest needs on defense. However, team president Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden felt like there were other needs to fill and that the safety position was safe for now.
One of the biggest questions this offseason was the availability of Phillip Thomas to play in 2014. As a rookie last year, Thomas was expected to start at strong safety until he injured his left foot in the first preseason game. That injury kept Thomas out the entire 2014 season, a player who led the NCAA FBS with eight interceptions his senior year.
If Thomas can stay healthy this preseason, he could find himself starting on opening day. Thomas did mention that his injury did help make him a better player even though he was not on the field.
"It just gave me time to learn the playbook, see what other people are doing right and trying to mimic them, seeing what they're doing wrong and making sure I keep it out of my game," Thomas said. "That's what everybody tells me. It's a feel-good thing to just say it was a redshirt year, because of course I don't want to be out, but it gave me time to mature and learn the defense." (Credit: The Washington Times)
The 2013 fourth-round draft pick will look to make an impact this year now that he is healthy. Head coach Jay Gruden showed confidence in his secondary roster by not drafting a safety. He and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris feels that Thomas will help the Redskins once he's back on the field.
"He's just getting back in the flow," Gruden said. "Raheem (Morris) is working with him and he's doing a good job. Between he and Meriweather, we expect good things from that safety spot."
Washington resigned free safety Brandon Meriweather during this offseason. He showed flashes, but had a hard time staying on the field with suspensions, an ACL injury two seasons ago and a concussion injury last season. If Meriweather can learn how to not hit defenders with helmet-to-helmet contact, he can be a great play-maker on defense for Washington.
As for Tanard Jackson, he hasn't appeared in an NFL game since 2011 because of suspensions. However, Gruden sees some potential for Jackson and that is why he was resigned by Washington this year. The 28-year-old has been reinstated by the NFL to play this season and could see a lot of playing time as well. The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer starter is also reunited with his old coach Raheem Morris, so there's some familiarity to the team that should help him transition back to playing form.
There's also Bacarri Rambo who has great hands, but not so great tackling. Rookie draft pick Bashaud Breeland plays corner, but also has the versatility to play safety as well. Veteran Ryan Clark has been added in free agency and could compete for the starting spot.
There is a lot to look forward to this training camp. The secondary will have the most competition and the starters at the safety position are not set in stone. Look out for this position battle once preseason comes along.
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