The Washington Redskins took another step toward getting their starting secondary back together, welcoming cornerback Josh Wilson into the mix for the first time this preseason. But strong safety Brandon Meriweather remained sidelined for a third consecutive game as his surgically repaired right knee remains less than 100 percent.
Meriweather said in the days leading up to Washington’s 30-7 home victory over the Buffalo Bills that he hoped to make his preseason debut, but didn’t know if he would receive the green light. The Redskins elected not to play Meriweather, who missed all but one half of a game last year with knee injuries and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 11.
With Coach Mike Shanahan calling it unlikely that he would play his starters in the preseason finale against Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Redskins appear set to enter the regular season without having seen their top defensive backs on the field together in the preseason, and with a degree of lingering uncertainty.
The first-team defensive backs who played Saturday night experienced mixed results.
Wilson started at right corner — the spot he has manned the past two seasons, and the position that rookie David Amerson had held down while Wilson worked his way back into form after offseason shoulder surgery. Against three-receiver sets, Wilson slid inside to cover the slot receiver, and Amerson took over at right corner. DeAngelo Hall played his normal spot at left corner, Reed Doughty started at strong safety and rookie Bacarri Rambo remained the starting free safety.
The Bills went at Wilson right away, as quarterback Kevin Kolb attempted a long pass for wide receiver T.J. Graham, covered by Wilson, down the left sideline. The ball traveled 34 yards in the air and fell incomplete. But Wilson was flagged for pass interference and the ball was placed at the spot of the foul.
Two series later, the Bills went deep for Graham again, and he made the catch, but the play was called back because he pushed off of Wilson.
Wilson downplayed his struggles, saying, “I can’t call it.” He said that he came away from the game satisfied and glad to be back on the field.
“It’s definitely good to be out there, knocked the cobwebs off. It was the first time I had had contact since January, so it definitely felt good to have that,” Wilson said. “Just going out there and playing football. I feel good just having the chance to play football again — tackle football, not this touch stuff we’ve had in practices.”
Wilson also said he “loved” his new role of nickelback and the opportunity to play inside against slot receivers.
Meanwhile, Buffalo also tested Amerson. First, Kolb completed a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Robert Woods, and Amerson wound up grabbing Woods’s face mask while trying to bring him to the ground. Amerson later whiffed on an open-field tackle, and then committed pass interference 42 yards down field, trying to prevent a completion to Graham.
Amerson, who opened the preseason with two strong outings, also wasn’t overly concerned by his miscues.
“Some plays I could’ve made here and there, but overall, it was a pretty solid game,” said Amerson, who was credited with five tackles. “I think experience definitely helps, and the more and more you get in the game, the more freely you’re going to play. That helps you grow. Sometimes you can control [penalties], but you’ve just got to take it how your marbles are rolling and just go with it.”
Meanwhile, the other rookie in the secondary showed improvement after two trying outings. After struggling in tackling — particularly in the open field — against Tennessee and Pittsburgh, Rambo appeared more aggressive and sure of himself as a tackler and recorded three tackles, all coming in the open field. Rambo also did well in pass coverage and delivered a hit that jarred the ball free from C.J. Spiller’s hands to prevent a completion.
The Redskins’ first-team defense as a whole put on a strong performance. After one quarter — the only one that Washington’s starters played in — Buffalo had only 22 passing yards on three completions.