With training camp set to begin later this month, Redskins.com previews the current state of the Redskins' roster, continuing today with the team's safeties.
The Washington Redskins head to training camp at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center with eight safeties out to prove they can start in the NFL.
Before the Redskins head to Richmond for training camp, check out who all is on the roster position-by-position. Today, it is the safeties.
DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon converted from cornerback to safety while Duke Ihenacho, Deshazor Everett and Kyshoen Jarrett return to the group. The Redskins also added David Bruton Jr., Su'a Cravens and Geno Matias-Smith during the offseason.
ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS:- Dashon Goldson (Free Agent)
- Jeron Johnson (Free Agent)
ROSTER ADDITIONS:-David Bruton Jr. (Free Agent; signed from Denver)
-Su'a Cravens (Second-Round Draft Pick; USC)
-Geno Matias-Smith (College Free Agent; Alabama)
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:Dashon Goldson, last year's defensive captain and a leader on defense, was released in March, but the Redskins safety group enters training camp with one of the most competitive units on the roster with converted cornerbacks, career special teamers, former starters returning from injury and rookies all hoping to prove they can start at the NFL level.
DeAngelo Hall earned multiple Pro Bowl appearances as a cornerback in his first 12 NFL seasons, but thoughts of retirement seeped into his mind while battling through Achilles and toe injuries the last two seasons. To lighten the physical demands of the game, he began playing safety on the scout team. Hall worked his way from scout safety to starting strong safety last year and converted to safety full-time this offseason. He feels the transition was necessary for him to continue his football career.
"I have always wanted to play safety because I felt like it was a little less stressful," Hall said. "You know, corner is stressful, mentally and physically. Knowing you're on that autobahn play in and play out, where any inch and a half of a mistake could be a touchdown. It's stressful, and to do that for twelve years, man I was begging to move to safety three or four years ago. But this to happen I am just overjoyed."
Hall isn't the only veteran cornerback transitioning to safety. Will Blackmon spent his first nine NFL seasons at cornerback and on special teams, bouncing around with the Packers, Giants, Jaguars and Seahawks before signing with the Redskins before Week 2 last year.
It is difficult enough for a player to learn a defensive system midseason, but switching positions at the same time is an even steeper task. The Boston College product defied the odds by logging one of his most prolific statistical seasons in 2015, but Blackmon is confident that he'll have the same sort of impact at safety this season, especially with a full offseason in Washington under his belt.
"Every week I had to learn a new defense," Blackmon said. "So now I know the whole thing. [Safety is] more cerebral. If you take out tackling it's less physically demanding in terms of running around where at corner I'm just in the heat of the battle and competing the whole time."
Duke Ihenacho is competing to reclaim his starting safety spot after spending much of the last two seasons on Injured Reserve with heel and wrist injuries. He returns to a very different safety group than the one he left, and he understands how difficult it is to work his way back to the top of the depth chart.
"I think people know I can play, but people want to know if I can stay healthy," Ihenacho said. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to scare some people away. So I've got an uphill battle I've got to climb, because two years in a row, that's a lot. I'm always going to have things to prove."
The unit added another safety with a chip on his shoulder when the team signed David Bruton Jr. in March.
The Notre Dame product spent the first seven years of his career as a special teams standout in Denver, earning a special teams captain designation from his teammates.
His toughness has also never been in question. He broke his fibula in a game against the Steelers last season and gutted it out for the last three quarters. Bruton Jr. won the Super Bowl with Denver last year, but he left in free agency to prove he can start at the NFL level.
"I did not come here to be mediocre," Bruton Jr. said. "I came here to be great. I didn't leave a place [Denver] where I have been comfortable just to be a special teams guy. My goal is to play every down and to make plays every chance I get."
Like Bruton Jr., second-round draft pick Su'a Cravens wants to prove he can start at the NFL level. Cravens was labeled by some before the draft as a "tweener" too small for linebacker and too big for safety. Cravens is so determined that when the first round of the NFL draft concluded without his name being called, he immediately went to the gym to prove he was worthy of a second round pick. Cravens appreciates comparisons to Troy Polamalu and Deone Bucannon, but he wants to forge his own identity in the league.
"I am my own player and I want to show people what I can do," Cravens said.
WHAT TO WATCH:Hall and Bruton Jr. have been working with the first-team and appear to be in line to start. Hall prepared all offseason at safety and will try to play more naturally at his new position after more than a decade of playing cornerback.
Bruton Jr. has made waves among his fellow players for his physical style during non-contact drills. When he throws pads over his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame, Bruton Jr. may gain the reputation as Richmond's monster in the middle.
Cravens has spent much of the offseason learning the defense with the inside linebackers, and potential reps at safety during training camp will be among his first at the professional level. If his instinctual ball skills translate to the pros, he could make headlines as a rookie.
Ihenacho has been working with the second team and will be fighting for reps at training camp along with Will Blackmon, Deshazor Everett and Geno Matias-Smith.
Second-year safety Kyshoen Jarrett is focusing on getting healthy for the season. Coaches have liked what they've seen from Jarrett in his limited action and want him to be 100 percent healthy before they send him back on the field.
REDSKINS IN RICHMOND:
--7/6: Nose Tackles
--7/7: Running Backs
--7/8: Defensive Ends
--7/12: Inside Linebackers
--7/13: Tight Ends
--[7/14: Outside Linebackers
](REDSKINS IN RICHMOND: --7/5: Quarterbacks --7/6: Nose Tackles --7/7: Running Backs --7/8: Defensive Ends --7/12: Inside Linebackers --7/13: Tight Ends )--7/15: Offensive Tackles
--7/19: Centers And Guards