For Redskins, There's One More Position

The team has considered moving Shawn Springs to safety, but he's still considered its best cornerback.
The team has considered moving Shawn Springs to safety, but he's still considered its best cornerback. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Jason LaCanfora and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Add safety to the Washington Redskins' list of needs heading into this weekend's NFL draft. And with the Redskins also hoping to bolster the roster with a big wide receiver, center, tackle-guard, defensive tackle, defensive end and outside linebacker, it could be difficult for them to accomplish all their goals in this draft.

There is strong sentiment within the organization that the best move would be to move cornerback Shawn Springs to safety, team sources said, to mentor and play alongside LaRon Landry, who impressed during his rookie season.

At this point, however, that would be a difficult move for the Redskins because Springs still is considered their best cornerback and is projected to start again at the position opposite Fred Smoot. If the Redskins signed a nickel cornerback, preferably someone with experience, they could consider moving Springs to safety. Otherwise, having Springs change positions would be a luxury Washington probably could not afford.

Some within the organization believe that cornerback Carlos Rogers, a former first-round pick, will spend much of the first half of the season on the physically unable to perform list while continuing to rehab from reconstructive knee surgery.

Expecting a rookie cornerback to come in and play nickelback might be a bit much, but the Redskins will have depth at cornerback. With Rogers expected to be sidelined to start the season, Springs, Smoot and Leigh Torrence will be Washington's top trio. Youngsters John Eubanks and Byron Westbrook could battle for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots on the roster.

Also, the Redskins are expected to sign a veteran cornerback or acquire one through a trade before the season starts. The Redskins, however, are considered thin at safety. Landry and Reed Doughty, who just completed his second season, performed well down the stretch after Sean Taylor's death, and scouts and league executives continue to be impressed with Doughty's development.

"There's guys like Doughty starting for teams all over the league," one personnel executive said. "We like that guy. He could come start for us."

However, only Vernon Fox -- who has made his biggest contribution on special teams -- is behind Landry and Doughty. The Redskins' lack of depth at the position is among the reason some in the organization would prefer to have Springs change position.

The Redskins could still re-sign Pierson Prioleau or Omar Stoutmire at some point, but it would be surprising if they did not draft a safety this weekend. Washington often has selected defensive backs high in the draft, but the elite cornerbacks are expected to be off the board when the Redskins pick at No. 21.

Defensive coordinator Greg Blache has told everyone he's going to play the way Gregg Williams did. That would mean leaving cornerbacks on an island in man coverage with little-to-no-over-the-top help most of the time. Could this group, with Rogers still trying to regain his form, withstand that barrage again?

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