Need to Know: Will the Redskins rely on Fish Smithson at safety?


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 30, 27 days before the NFL draft.  

With Cravens gone, will the Redskins need Smithson to step up?

The Redskins had to trade Su’a Cravens for the sake of peace in the locker room. That’s all well and good but they now are in need of help at safety. Unless they’re not.

D.J. Swearinger came in as a free agent last year and took over a leadership role and played at a high level. Montae Nicholson was a fourth-round pick who moved up the depth chart when Cravens abruptly left the team right before the start of the season. He showed great promise but between a shoulder injury and a concussion, he was only able to play in eight games. Deshazor Everett was set up to have a reserve and special teams role but between Cravens’ departure and Nicholson’s injury he ended up starting eight games.

There was a rotating group as the fourth safety last year. Stefan McClure surprised nearly everyone by making the team in September. But he played sparingly in seven games before he went on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and later waived. DeAngelo Hall came off of the PUP list and played in five games. McClure has signed with the Lions and Hall is likely to retire so neither is an option for 2018.

There is one carryover option. Fish Smithson, an undrafted free agent last year, made a good impression in training camp and he was placed on the practice squad. He was promoted to the 53-man roster in Week 16, and although he played only seven snaps on defense, his elevation to the roster ensured that the Redskins would keep his rights.

Many thought that Smithson would be drafted out of Kansas in the late rounds last year. Scouts pointed out his physical limitations (he’s 5-11, 196) and his lack of impressive speed (4.55 in the 40 at his pro day) as reasons why he was not drafted. But they liked his football intelligence and his hard hitting. He may not be starter material, at least not at this point, but with a good offseason, he could be a reliable backup.

Will the Redskins want to hedge their bet on Smithson, especially given Nicholson’s injury history? There are a few veteran options out there, like former Bronco T.J. Ward and ex-Saint Jairus Byrd. But it would have to be made clear that if either one signs it would be to compete for a roster spot.

There are possibilities in the draft. In the unlikely event that Derwin James of Florida State is available at pick No. 13, they might have to take him if he is clearly the best available player. But the chances of him being there are slim and that would shake up the entire depth chart, perhaps even at cornerback. But perhaps a late-round option to compete with Smithson and perhaps Everett could happen.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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In response to Jay Gruden saying that he is looking for a back who can run between the tackles and catch passes:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 17
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 119
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 163

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