SS Brandon Meriweather’s left knee sprain, coupled with FS Tanard Jackson’s indefinite suspension, leaves the Redskins without two starting-caliber safeties. In assessing the magnitude of losing Meriweather, though, let’s be careful not to overrate his ability. Without having played a regular season game for the Redskins, he’s largely an unknown quantity in their system.
DeJon Gomes, or perhaps Reed Doughty, could replace Meriweather at strong safety for the two to four weeks while Meriweather recovers from a sprained MCL and PCL. Gomes flashed around the line of scrimmage during his rookie season, and he is a sure tackler when he is decisive and attacks in the box. Doughty is smart, and he, too, can tackle well when he’s in position. The situation would be much direr if either of those two natural strong safeties had to fill in at free, which was the case last season when Oshiomogho Atogwe was hurt.
Gomes’ or Doughty’s success in deep coverage will determine the level of dropoff from Meriweather, and it’s not as though Meriweather’s cover skills are renowned. The Redskins do have better depth to withstand Meriweather and Jackson’s absences because they have another free safety on the roster in Madieu Williams. Williams isn’t known for his range at this stage of his career, but playing him against New Orleans’ high-powered attack on Sunday is better than forcing two strong safeties into the lineup.
Whoever replaces Meriweather likely will have to play deep coverage at times against New Orleans, and that’s a matchup the Saints will try to exploit. Gomes is faster than Doughty, so perhaps that gets him on the field in passing situations. Gomes says his coverage has improved in his second season now that he went through a full offseason program. If he proves it, losing Meriweather wouldn’t be nearly as detrimental as it might seem now.