One can hardly mention the safety position around the Washington DC area without someone invoking the name of the late Sean Taylor.
Some people will cry, some will recall the excitement he brought, others will think about what could have been.
What could have been was a dynamite safety combo consisting of Taylor and Laron Landry. Each is/was a freak athlete and together they could have formed one of the most feared combinations of today’s NFL.
However, Taylor is gone and Landry is now teaming up with second-year man Chris Horton. Considering the loss of Taylor, things are going fairly well at the safety position.
Landry filled the free safety spot left vacant by Taylor while Horton stepped into the strong safety position.
Landry is no Taylor, but he doesn’t let anything behind him and rarely gives up a big play. Still, the playmaking skills that Taylor dazzled fans with are not yet a staple of Landry’s game.
It is important to note that the coaching staff played Landry thirty yards off the ball for much of the season. That kind of overly-conservative approach hindered Landry from making as much of an impact.
Landry proved he can be an effective safety net (no pun intended), but with his athleticism and strength, he could be making a much greater impact closer to the line of scrimmage. Last year he had just 65 tackles, 11 passes deflections, two INTs and a pair of forced fumbles. That’s below my expectations.
The addition of Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo should bolster an anemic pass rush, which in turn, will allow the secondary to play more aggressively. Greg Blache would be making a big mistake to not take full advantage of his front four and play with a little reckless abandon.
The offense needs every break it can get, and so the defense must play with more tenacity rather than it’s typical bend-but-don’t-break style. Landry could be a turnover machine if Blache lets him play up and freelance a bit.
Horton was one of the steals of the 2008 draft as he quickly made an impact at SS. He was ferocious in run support and reliable against the pass.
In 2008, Horton recorded 76 tackles to go along with three INTs, and was a critical element of the defensive chemistry. He often played in the box, but on passing downs he was far from a liability.
The depth at safety is adequate. Kareem Moore is entering his second year and will back up Landry at FS while Reed Doughty returns from an injury to back up Horton.
Moore showed he can play center field in spot duty last year. He started the final game of the year against San Francisco and played solidly. He isn’t a game-changer, but as a backup he is more than capable.
Doughty has been through some tough times. He injured his back and missed most of 2008. However, Doughty shrugged that off and is back to play some SS in 2009.
Doughty is almost totally deaf and also had to deal with a family tragedy the past few years. His son, Micah, suffered a kidney failure and needed a transplant to stay alive. Micah is not well, but it was yet another issue Doughty has had to deal with during the past few seasons.
Despite all the hardship, Doughty is tough-as-nails. His pass coverage has dramatically improved during camp, and he has always been good against the run.
Doughty will probably play special teams and fill in for Horton on some passing downs. He will be an emotional leader and rock for the whole defense so his health will be important.
Michael Grant played some CB the other night, but is listed as a safety. Either way, he won’t make the team giving up 64-yard pass plays. Grant tried to jump a route, but missed and the Ravens receiver had plenty of room to operate after that gaffe.
Lendy Holmes is the final safety on the roster. Though a longshot, he played well Thursday night against the Ravens, logging six tackles. Should the ‘Skins want a fifth safety (unlikely), Holmes will be the guy.
Overall Grade: B
This would be higher, but we have yet to see how aggressively Blache will play Landry. The secondary will go as far as Landry carries them. He certainly can’t carry them as far when he’s standing 30 yards off the ball.
Horton and Doughty will combine to form a good SS tandem. Both can play the position well.
If Landry goes down, I doubt Moore would survive for very long. The depth is decent, but unspectacular.