We are one day away from the 2013 NFL Draft, two days away if you are a Washington Redskins fan. There is no suspense about Washington's first round choice. It's Robert Griffin III. We get to celebrate that again Thursday when the Rams use the Pick we threw in for the savior of Redskins football. But who will the 'Skins select in the second round?
The smart money says Shanallenhan will pick a defensive back, probably a safety, with their 51st pick. Hog Heaven is not so certain, but we'll save that for another post. John Keim, Washington Examiner, wrote up an interview with former Redskins DB Matt Bowen and an unnamed coach for his email list on April 12 on what to look for in a DB. Here are excerpts of Bowen's comments with our (RHH) thoughts.
1. Don’t expect an immediate starter. Especially if the Redskins don’t draft a safety until, say, the third round. The adjustment is not easy and can’t be underestimated.
“You draft someone in the third round and they’ll have a tough time beating out Reed Doughty,” Bowen said. “Fans don’t want to hear that."
Bowen pointed out that revered safety Sean Taylor struggled in his rookie season.
RHH Thoughts: Talent-rich teams draft players with the following season in mind. Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris are exceptions that prove the rule that rookies need time to adjust to the NFL. For every RGIII rookie success, you can point to a Perry Riley or Rob Jackson who took several seasons to develop into starters, not to mention flops like Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Chad Rinehart. The fix for Washington's secondary is already on the roster.
2. Don’t go crazy over the 40-yard dash times. Yes, it’s important. No, it’s not everything. I’m sure you know this already, but what coaches should know and keep in mind is that players train all offseason to run the 40 at the combine. By the time the games roll around in September, they’re probably back to the speed they originally were. Quickness matters more than straight-line speed.
RHH Thoughts: We are less impressed by a DB's forward speed than in how fast he can peddle backwards. In coverage it's more important to take the correct angle to defend the pass. Yessir, geometry is better than velocity for safeties.
3. Find playmakers, but don’t be fooled by guys who make plays. Yeah, that’s sort of contradictory, but it’s true. A coach singled out N.C. State corner David Amerson, whom he is not high on, as a guy who will make plays but gives up more than he makes.
Bowen agreed with this assessment.
“I’d rather have a safety that doesn’t get beat,” he said. “What I want to see out of safeties is good angles to the ball, good range and good closing speed. Do you have the ability to get to the middle of the field from the top of the numbers? If you can’t, how will you play in the NFL in the middle when they throw a deep ball? That has nothing to do with speed. If a safety is a 4.5 or 4.6 guy, so what? If he takes good angles to the ball, it’s like he’s a 4.4 player.
RHH Thoughts: We are constantly annoyed by fans who judge DBs solely on interceptions. Cornerbacks and safeties have three jobs: make stops, defend passes, and force turnovers ... in that order of importance. INTs, and big hits, are icing on the cake, but there must always be cake. Cake without icing can be boring, but icing without cake can kill you.
4. Don’t go overboard talking about safeties covering in the slot. Yes, it’s important that they showed this ability in college, because it speaks to their athleticism and talent. Bowen, though, said he always red flags the comments that talk about a safety being able to play in the slot.
“For as much as everyone says it’s a deep safety class, don’t expect one of these kids to be a nickel just because he looked good on tape against Texas A&M. The same is true with [Tyrann] Mathieu. Everyone says he’s a nickel corner, draft him in the third round. That’s asking a lot of him. Does he have great footwork? Does he have enough ability to open his hips and run with NFL receivers in the slot? That’s asking a lot of him."
RHH Thoughts: There goes that name again, Tyrann Mathieu. Honey Badger draws a lot of pixels for one not considered the best safety in this Draft. Hog Heaven touched on him in three earlier posts. There is time for one more before Friday, if only in a cynical play to draw eyeballs here.
5. That’s not to say you can’t play a rookie safety. If a player proves himself in camp, of course he deserves a shot. And there’s a way to help him: good veteran corners and a strong front seven. The Redskins have veteran corners, though neither is a Pro Bowler at this stage, and they have a front seven that is considered the strength of the defense.
“I loved playing with Champ Bailey for a reason. I knew he always would be in the right spot and always on his guy. He hardly ever got beat. And another thing is the front seven. You don’t want your safety to be exposed in cover-2? Then get to the quarterback.”
RHH Thoughts: We already wrote that the best way to help the secondary might be to improve the pass rush through the Draft.
6. Finally, look for something you can work with, the coach said. And it can’t just be speed.
“Usually, those guys, you try to put them in, and they cost you and they last a year or two years,” the coach said. “They have to have something more to them than that.”
When the Redskins drafted players such as Doughty, Chris Horton and Kareem Moore in the later rounds, each offered them something they hoped to build around. In the first two, it was their toughness.
“That’s the first thing you have to look for,” the coach said. “That will carry over into everything. They can learn technique and work on physical skills.”
John Keim (twitter: @john_keim) will jump from the Washington Examiner to The Washington Post to cover the Redskins on July 1. That's a win-win-win for Keim, The Post and for Redskins fans. We extend our congratulations to all.
Ex-Redskins (2003-05) safety Matt Bowen (twitter: @MattBowen41) writes for the National Football Post.
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