The Washington Redskins face the New Orleans Saints and their pass-happy offensive attack Sunday, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he isn’t concerned about his secondary.
The team will be missing its starting strong safety and will field a secondary that features a new free safety, a new third cornerback and holdover players who are learning new roles.
But Haslett said DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty – both of whom saw significant playing time filling in for starters last season – are capable of doing the job. Haslett also expects the other members of the secondary to band together to try to limit Drew Brees & Co.
“First of all, they’re a heck of a football team, but we’re not concerned,” Haslett said. “We’ve got good players in the back end. The guys that are going to play for Brandon, they’ll fill in. They played a lot last year and did a nice job for us. They’re more experienced this year. It’s the guys that we’ve got. I think they’ll do a nice job. We have a good plan against them, and we have to go out and execute.”
Gomes has worked with the first team this week, and Haslett describes the Nebraska product as a natural playing in the box who is improving in his downfield coverages. Haslett believes Gomes will improve with more playing time.
The coach added that the absence of Meriweather will require free safety Madieu Williams to take on an even greater leadership role, and Haslett believes he will do just that.
“Madieu is a really a smart guy and there’s a reason why we wanted to get him. He does a nice job running the back end,” Haslett said. “He’s kind of like London [Fletcher] in the front. And he still has a lot left in the tank. He can play. He’s started a bunch of games in this league, been very productive. He’s a very good football player.”
Haslett is comfortable with cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Cedric Griffin, who will try to match up with wideouts Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Robert Meachem. But the Redskins also will have to account for tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Darren Sproles, two other pass-catching threats.
The Saints averaged 467 yards and 4.1 touchdowns a game last season, so stopping them completely is likely impossible. But Haslett said the key for Washington’s defense will be to try to limit the Saints’ production.
“Drew’s a really good football player. Then you’ve got other things you’ve got to be concerned with,” Haslett said. “You’ve got a great tight end, four really good running backs, good receivers, great offensive line. They’ve got the whole package. Drew to me is the kind of guy that you’re not really going to trick him. He’s seen everything and he deals with it, and he gets the ball out of his hands really fast. Everyone’s going to have to play at a really high level, about as good as you can play…They’re going to catch some balls, they’re going to move the ball on us a little bit, but if we can do a good job of tackling and hold them to minimum gains, we’ll have a chance.”