Redskins' defense might just need tweaking

Posted Jan. 06, 2012 @ 5:43 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

With all the attention the Redskins' offense is sure to get this offseason — including the likely addition of a starting quarterback — it's easy to forget about the other side of the ball.

The defense made very good strides in Year Two of coordinator Jim Haslett's system. There was less thinking and more reacting. The players felt comfortable in their roles. Even with the new faces, the group meshed well together. More importantly, the talent level was sufficient to be a strong group.

Now, it appears as if tweaking a few positions could be all it takes to make the Redskins a top-10 defense again.

They'll start in the secondary, where the primary concern is at safety. LaRon Landry will be a free agent and he needs surgery — which he surprisingly has delayed so far — but still could be back in an enforcer's role. And there is worry that Oshiomogho Atogwe, at age 30, might not ever return to his best form from his 20s. So, adding depth and talent there would appear to be a foregone conclusion, especially if Landry doesn't return. Rookie DeJon Gomes showed some promise as a box safety but doesn't appear to be starting-caliber material just yet. There also is a need at nickel corner, where Kevin Barnes struggled.

The front seven should continue to be a strength. The biggest question could be the return of free-agent ILB London Fletcher. He likes the team but is frustrated with losing. The team would love to have him back and seemingly couldn't find a replacement for his leadership and talent (he led the NFL in tackles this season) on the free-agent market or through the draft. On a defense where most of the starters will be in their 20s, especially on the otherwise young LB unit, having Fletcher as a mentor on the field appears to be too good to pass up.

Up front, keep an eye on the rehab of 2011 second-round DE Jarvis Jenkins, who had come on like gangbusters in training camp and the preseason before suffering a torn ACL. Adding him to the mix could be like getting a bonus draft pick this year. And the coaches are expecting even more big things from NT Barry Cofield, who did a good job adjusting to his role in the 3-4 but should be even better with another year in the scheme.