July 23, 2010

The Hot Seat: LaRon Landry

With training camp just a mere six days away, several members of the Washington Redskins are facing make or break seasons.

A productive season would solidify the status of any of these players as core Redskins. A poor season, and they could be out the door.

The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league.  A player only receives so many chances. Possessing talent isn't everything; it might buy you an extra season or two, but if you don't produce, you won't make it.

I scoured the roster to come up with some players who might find themselves out a job if they can't deliver this season and I'll reveal them throughout the next week before camp begins.

LaRon Landry, S

Easily the biggest enigma on the roster, Landry has the physical tools to be a top safety in the league yet he has not made the leap in terms of putting all his abilities together and becoming a top flight centerfielder.

Landry has speed, he can hit, and he can intimidate. However, Landry also lacks good instincts, has poor tackling technique, and has a tendency to give up big plays.

Maybe it's a lack of focus or perhaps a struggle to adapt to the rigors of the pro game. But whatever the reason Landry has yet to translate his incredible athleticism into success on an NFL football field. In short, he hasn't lived up to the hype from when the Redskins drafted him in the first round in 2007.

Landry is caught up in a dangerous love affair with the kill shot, which of course leads to highlight reel tackles and also the many blown hits that lead to big plays for the opposition.

Landry had 90 tackles, six passes defensed, a sack, and an interception to go along with a pair of forced fumbles in 2009. Those numbers look like those of a strong safety's, but Landry played free safety last season.

A good free safety is expected have more than one interception. To put it in perspective, Darren Sharper had nine while Nick Collins had six. Ed Reed played in just 12 games and had three picks. Troy Polamalu also had three picks, but in just five games. Let me reiterate: Landry had just one interception last year in 16 starts.

Not only did Landry struggle to generate turnovers, but he bit constantly on double moves and playaction while blowing coverage far too often. He just wasn't mentally prepared to take on the role of the last line of defense.

Despite his struggles at FS, Landry has never had a problem being physical. In 2007, his rookie year, Landry played at strong safety and had 95 tackles. Though he misses his fair share of tackles, Landry is still active in terms of sticking his nose into the play and putting a body on the ballcarrier.

However, Landry has yet to achieve the balance necessary to be a true free safety. He isn't interested in sitting back. He wants to be involved in the action. The defensive coordinator in 2009, Greg Blache, failed to understand this and refused to play to Landry's strengths.

Blache overloaded Landry with a laundry list of responsibilities, which Landry just wasn't able to handle. Landry appeared to be over-thinking on the field instead of instinctively making plays. The turbulent relationship Blache had with his defense led to uneven play from everyone, but especially Landry.

While Blache wanted Landry to sit back and prevent the big play through the air, Landry was concerned with establishing contact in the box. Opposing offenses realized Landry didn't have the patience to sit back and so they beat Landry over the top on a weekly basis.

Now under new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Landry will often be playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The new 3-4 defense doesn't distinguish between free and strong safety, but Haslett is aware that Landry is better suited to playing more an SS role.

Under Haslett, Landry may have found that coach who can emphasize his strengths, helping him live up to the hype surrounding him throughout his short professional career.

Landry may not ever develop into the playmaker the Redskins were hoping for when they drafted him, but if he can settle into a role where he his can play aggressive game without having extensive responsibilities in coverage, then he will salvage his career.

Landry is an immensely talented athlete who can still succeed in the NFL. All he needs is a coach who understands his skill set and works with it rather than trying to add dimensions that simply aren't compatible with Landry's playing style.

Let's just hope Haslett is that coach.

1 comment:

Allen said...

Landry needs to play with his body and someone else's brain.