Conventional thinking is that the Redskins secondary is vulnerable because Shawn Springs is out, and that they will get better as soon as he returns. Springs will shore up the secondary, but not as much as, or as fast as fans hope.
Springs missed the entire preseason and will miss half the regular season. When he is activated, he will not be, cannot be, in game condition. It seems likely that Gregg Williams will ease him into games, perhaps at nickel for a game or two, rather than have him man-up on Marvin Harrison or Terry Glenn.
It's Pierson Prioleau's absence that's the major hit. Springs is returning afterall. Prioleau is not. The Redskins could deal with either Springs' or Prioleau's absence, but not both.
Prioleau had the advantage of knowing Gregg Williams' playbook. While not as gifted as Springs, he offers more talent than those replacing him. In Springs absence, Prioleau would fill in at cornerback, giving Gregg Williams confidence to blitz more. If Springs were available, with Prioleau out, the Skins would cover with Springs and Carlos Rogers at cornerback. Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta would be safeties and either Mike Rumph or Kenny Wright could be a Duckett-like insurance policy.
Because neither Springs nor Prioleau are available, the Redskins secondary starts two short-timers; three in the nickel package. That goes along with Carlos Rogers who plays like a second year rookie. All of them, including Adam Archuleta, are on a learning curve for the defensive schemes. Sean Taylor is the veteran in the group. This secondary is green!
Comcast Sports Net interviewed defensive backfield coach Jerry Gray after the Giants game and he made that very point. I do not have a quote, but his forceful position was that the new players had to improve their knowledge of the playbook. Spring's return will fix 50% of the problem; but Houston, we still have a problem.
Carlos Rogers is slowly improving. He should be more effective in the second half of the season. However, no one compares him to Darrell Green or Champ Bailey.
Fred Smoot looks pretty good now. He was pronounced one of Gibbs "core players." He wanted to be paid market value and wasn't finding it here. He hopped the boat to Minnesota. He may be worth more to the Redskins now. Would a better use of the payroll been to have offered more to Fred and less to Brandon Lloyd? Maybe, maybe not; but he joins a growing list Snyder-era players we should have kept:
- Antonio Pierce
- Brad Johnson
- Trent Green
- Fred Smoot