At safety, Thomas had recently displayed some nifty moves. After a slow start in his adjustment to the NFL, Thomas made up ground in camp. He would have played a lot this season, especially because veteran Brandon Meriweather — who appeared in only one game in 2012 — is slowly regaining form after knee surgery. In the past week, the Redskins increased Meriweather’s reps in practice. Still, he essentially sat out a whole season and is coming off major knee surgery. You shouldn’t pencil him in to have a Pro Bowl year.
If Meriweather is hobbled again, the Redskins would turn back to Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes. Both players do their best work on special teams. You won’t find anyone more committed to the Redskins than Doughty, who has started 30 games over the past three seasons and is beginning his eighth year with the organization.
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The Redskins, however, drafted Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, who starts at one safety spot, because they must get much better at safety. Haslett won’t receive the results he’s seeking if Doughty and Gomes play as much in 2013 as they did in 2012. The Redskins really need Meriweather to stay on the field. Same goes with Fletcher.
It is impressive Fletcher can even walk, let alone continue to play inside linebacker at a high level as he begins his 16th year in the NFL. Hamstring pain, a balance problem, an ankle injury — Fletcher overcame it all last season to extend his amazing consecutive-games-played streak to 240. He’s also the league’s active leader with 199 straight starts. The Redskins may have to lean on him much more than they would have preferred at this stage of his career.
The Redskins began preparing for Fletcher’s eventual retirement by drafting Keenan Robinson in 2012. But the succession process is on hold after Robinson tore a chest muscle in camp and is out for the season. Perhaps veteran backups Bryan Kehl and Nick Barnett would deliver if called upon. From the look of things at this point, though, the Redskins can’t afford to give Fletcher and his rising protege at the other inside spot, Perry Riley, many snaps off.
If the situation seems a tad bleak, remember: In 2012, the Redskins won 10 games and the NFC East title despite ranking 28th overall on defense and 30th against the pass. Rambo and rookie cornerback David Amerson will help the secondary. The return of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo should be a big boost for the pass rush, and Haslett was a play-calling whiz as the Redskins closed last season with seven consecutive victories.
Haslett will have to juggle things, especially in the first four games, but the good news for Redskins fans is that he has proved adept at problem solving. And no one said the road to 12-4 would be easy.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.