The Washington Redskins have lacked a hard hitting playmaker at the safety position since the passing of Sean Taylor in 2007. With the addition of D.J. Swearinger, who signed a three-year $13.5M contract with the Redskins this offseason, the team hopes he can bring a Taylor-like presence to the secondary that ranked 25th in 2016.
Swearinger (5-10, 205 lbs) was drafted by the Houston Texans in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He did not live up to their expectations as he was ranked one of the worst safeties in the NFL by Pro Football Focus for both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. His over-aggressiveness on defense resulted in missed tackles and poor pass coverage performance. As a result, his stay with Houston was short lived as he was cut by the team in the 2015 offseason.
He was claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shortly after but his stint with the team wasn’t much different from his time in Houston. Though he didn’t start any games for the Buccaneers, he played only special teams and could not find a way to make it on top of the depth chart. He was cut and was claimed by the Arizona Cardinals near the end of the 2015 season. From that day forward, his career was never the same.
He set the tone with the Cardinals by displaying his hard hitting nature in his first two games with the team against the Eagles and Packers. He was one of the few bright spots in the Cardinals loss in the NFC Championship game to the Panthers. His passion was evident and his improved tackling and pass coverage was real. He signed his tender with the Cardinals in 2016 and proceeded to get career highs in sacks (6), pass defensed (8), and interceptions (3). Pro Football focus gave him an 85.9 coverage grade, which was ranked seventh overall among all safeties in 2016.
Just as he revived his own career to earn the three-year contract, the Redskins are hoping he can duplicate his successes and revive their secondary. Swearinger is reunited with his high school teammate Josh Norman and will continue to wear number 36 in memory of his football idol Sean Taylor, who wore the same jersey number as a rookie. He joins a safety position with 33-year old DeAngelo Hall, converted linebacker Su’a Cravens, Will Blackmon, and 2017 fourth round pick Montae Nicholson.
Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger, Su’a Cravens, and Bashaud Breeland are the projected starters for the Washington Redskins’ secondary.