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Roster Review: Safeties

gary-banner2.jpg breaks down the Redskins' roster position-by-position and identifies potential need areas. Up next: safeties.

The tragic death of Sean Taylor last year altered the Redskins' secondary forever. Taylor was poised to become a dominant safety for years to come.

It was hoped that Taylor and LaRon Landry, the Redskins' 2007 first-round draft pick, would form a Pro Bowl safety tandem for years to come.

In his rookie year, Landry showed flashes of being an intimidating presence in the secondary as well as an effective blitzing safety. He finished with 97 tackles, 1.5 sacks and seven passes defended and was named a third alternate to the Pro Bowl at season's end.

Landry lined up at strong safety early in the season. After Taylor's death, he moved to free safety. His versatility gives the Redskins' defensive coaches great flexibility next season.

Most of last season, Reed Doughty was a valued special teams player, recording 16 tackles on coverage units.

When Taylor died, Doughty was thrust into a starting role. After a shaky start, Doughty settled down and was solid in the season's final weeks. He finished with 49 tackles, a half-sack and two passes defended.

Certainly, it was tough for Doughty to replace Taylor in the lineup, but he earned respect by playing within himself--and not trying to play like Taylor.

Pierson Prioleau continued to serve as a nickel safety in defensive packages. He overcame a devastating knee injury in 2006 to play in all 15 games--with four starts--last season.

Coaches were confident enough in him to use him in coverage and he finished with 38 tackles and 16 special teams tackles.

The Redskins signed Omar Stoutmire late in the season to help provide depth in the secondary. Stoutmire is an 11-year veteran who played with the Redskins in 2005, so he was able to adjust quickly. He logged four special teams tackles in limited action.

After starting six games in 2006 at strong safety, Vernon Fox served as a reserve last season while continuing to excel on special teams. He logged 16 special teams tackles on the season.

The Redskins added defensive back Eddie Jackson to the roster in mid-January. Jackson is a 4-year vet who has had NFL stints with the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers. He has played in 42 games.

#### Positional Analysis

The Redskins have a star in the making in Landry. His versatility gives the Redskins options next season.

Doughty impressed down the stretch and could have earned another chance at the starting job beside Landry.

Coaches could look to add a safety in free agency or the draft to challenge Doughty and improve depth at the position. Team officials have indicated that safety is a need position this offseason.

Prioleau and Stoutmire are unrestricted free agents. Their future with the Redskins is uncertain.

Fox is a special teams standout who can fill in as a starting defensive back in a pinch. Jackson will compete for a roster spot in training camp.

## Three Safeties Eligible For Free Agency
As of March 3, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Michael Boulware, Houston Texans: Boulware started for the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 Super Bowl. He was a reserve defensive back for the Texans last year, recording 11 tackles in 16 games.
  • Nick Ferguson, Denver Broncos: Ferguson, 33, developed into a regular starter with the Broncos the last five seasons. He has six career interceptions, five of them coming in 2005.
  • Jerametrius Butler, Buffalo Bills: Butler was with the Redskins in 2007 offseason, but he was released during training camp. He plated in seven games for the Buffalo Bills last year.

Three Safeties Available In the Draft

As of March 3, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Kenny Phillips, Miami: He's regarded as the next in a long line of top Hurricanes safeties, from Bennie Blades to Ed Reed to Taylor. He had 241 tackles and seven interceptions in three seasons.
  • Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame: He was a nationally ranked boxer who is quick and intense. He logged 293 tackles and eight interceptions in four seasons at Notre Dame.
  • Thomas DeCoud: DeCoud tarted his college career as a cornerback, then he moved to safety, logging 116 tackles and one interception last year.. He is an outstanding special teams player.
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