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Do the Washington Redskins Need Tanard Jackson?

Will the Suspended Safety Be a Boost to the Redskins' Secondary?

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COMMENTARY | Tanard Jackson is not a player every Washington Redskins fan is familiar with. Signed in the 2012 offseason, Jackson was expected to start at safety, but he never made it to the regular season.

On Aug. 31, 2012, Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. It was not his first failed drug test, as he was suspended in 2010 as well. There were many who assumed his suspension meant the end of his short tenure in D.C., but the Redskins' inability to adequately address the problems in their secondary may mean a second chance for Jackson.

In many ways, 2012 was an incredible season for the Redskins. The team won seven consecutive games to close out the season and make the playoffs, the team's first playoff appearance since 2007 and first under head coach Mike Shanahan. It was also the team's first division title since 1999. And, let's not forget, it was also the debut season of a certain rookie quarterback.

Despite all the good, a clear weakness emerged: the pass defense.

According to, the Redskins were ranked 30th last year in passing yards allowed per game, better only than New Orleans and Tampa Bay. The team's options for improving the secondary were limited, however, by an $18 million cap penalty imposed by the NFL and the lack of a first-round draft pick.

The Redskins still recognized the problem and addressed it as best they could, drafting cornerback David Amerson and safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. With the healthy return of Brandon Meriweather and the addition of Thomas and Rambo, the situation had to be resolved, right?

Evidently not.

Meriweather has yet to play this preseason and there is no guarantee that he will be ready for Week 1. Phillip Thomas is out for the season with a Lisfranc injury. Rambo has played in all three of the Redskins' preseason games, but as highlighted by his complete whiff on Chris Johnson, he may not yet be ready to take on a starting role. There's no shame in that for Rambo; every player has to adjust to the NFL game and pursuit angles are something he can easily improve upon. The Redskins, however, may not be able to wait.

Jackson is still technically under contract with the Redskins. He is a proven, veteran defensive back who would undoubtedly add some stability to a secondary in desperate need of playmakers. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett even said he felt Jackson would be welcomed back by the team.

There are, however, several question marks surrounding Jackson and a possible return.

As Jackson was first suspended on Aug. 31, 2012, the absolute earliest he could be reinstated is on Aug. 31. Not only did he miss the entire 2012 season, but he has also missed OTAs, training camp and the preseason. The Redskins' first game is Sept. 9. Nine days is not enough time to get into football shape. It is also important to keep in mind that this was Jackson's second suspension. One slip-up would mean he would be lost for the remainder of the season.

Bringing back Jackson would mean having to make room for him. Would Shanahan be willing to give a spot on the 53-man roster to someone who would not be ready to play for several weeks and who has been suspended twice for substance violations?

If the secondary looks to be as bad as last season, there should be no question. The Redskins desperately need him.

Ultimately, the Redskins do not lose anything by bringing Jackson back. If he flames out, the Redskins end up in the exact same position they are in right now. If both Meriweather and Rambo play off the charts, then Jackson never has to step on the field.

As things look at the moment, the state of the Redskins' safeties necessitates that a move be made. Meriwhather's health continues to be an issue, and Rambo looks like he needs more time to adjust to the NFL game. If Robert Griffin III is healthy, the pass defense may be the only thing holding the Redskins back. Jackson represents a low-risk option for improving the secondary, even if he has to miss a handful of games.

When he is reinstated by the league, don't be surprised to hear he is back on the practice field.

JJ Regan is currently earning a master's in journalism at American University and is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy

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