While the Redskins' headlines this offseason may focus on the additions on offense, the backbone of the team in 2012 could be the development on defense.
Going into 2012, the Redskins return nine-of-11 starters, including all members of a talented front-seven. Key additions in the secondary could make a difference in the win column this season.
"We've got some more depth at the safety and cornerback positions," head coach Mike Shanahan told Redskins Nation. "Add in a draft choice here and there, and all the sudden I think we've made some drastic improvements."
When Shanahan came to Washington in 2010, he brought defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to implement the 3-4 scheme. After finishing a lackluster 31st in the NFL in total defense, the squad made major changes last offseason, and improved to 13th in 2011.
With three defensive draft picks, 11 free agents and the return of Jarvis Jenkins, Shanahan believes he has the personnel in place for an elite defense.
"From the first year to the second year, we brought in a few free agents that started and a couple draft choices that really helped our football team. We did the same thing this year," he said. "Hopefully, it will be the type of defense that gives you a chance to win a championship."
That hope rests heavily on improved pass defense, which ranked 24th in opponent passer rating last season (87.4). To remedy the situation, the Redskins moved on from LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe, carrying 15 defensive backs into training camp.
Former Bucanneers head coach and secondary guru Raheem Morris was also brought in to add his expertise to the mix.
"It's real early. You've got all these guys coming together—a bunch of new guys," Morris said. "I've been really proud of what those guys have been able to do on the field, picking up the defense and learning everything they need to learn in order to get what we want to get accomplished."
Morris and Co. will oversee the competition at safety, which features 2011 holdovers Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes, as well as newcomers Madieu Williams, Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson.
Morris gave an early review of the position battles going into camp.
"Gomes has a lot of experience playing in the system last year. Reed [Doughty] has done a nice job of talking to those guys and communicating and really formulating something that they are going to be special and I really like how that whole secondary is coming together.
"Meriweather has done a nice job of stepping into that role of strong safety and really getting a lot of help from those other guys that have been here.
"With Jackson being the new guy in, coming off the surgery, he's done a nice job of fitting into the group. Hopefully he can find a way onto the field and be productive for us and do some things as well.
"Madieu [Williams] has done a great job coming in here and having the ability to go through phase one, phase two and getting through that last part of mini-camp."
With at least two fresh faces in the secondary, the Redskins defense has championship-caliber dreams in 2012.