Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Redskins Pushing Safety Button With Reed Doughty, Chris Horton
By ZAC BOYER | email@example.com
This story appeared on page B1 of Wednesday’s Free Lance-Star
ASHBURN–Reed Doughty knows the three-year contract he signed with the Washington Redskins a week into training camp wasn’t meant for him to show what he can do.
He’s not supposed to impress the coaching staff, or show any kind of flash and dash that might give rise to thoughts that he’d start the season at free safety ahead of Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Doughty’s simply supposed to be a reserve–a reserved reserve.
“As far as seeing something new, they’ve seen it,” Doughty said yesterday at Redskins Park. “I just like it because it gives me more opportunity to get out there with the ones and to really work on my craft.”
The Redskins wrapped up their 19 days of training camp having answered plenty of questions but left many lingering. Uncertainty at the quarterback position is the top concern, but the exact makeup of the secondary, while down the list in terms of excitement, may be as important.
Washington finished in the bottom of the league in several key defensive areas last season, including 31st in yards per game (389.3), 30th in yards per play (5.93) and tied for 21st at 23.6 points allowed per game.
Much of that was because of the adjustment to the 3-4 defensive scheme, in which the Redskins struggled to adapt. With regard to the secondary, whose players’ responsibilities remain unchanged, the Redskins were also 31st with 261.7 passing yards allowed a game.
“We can’t give up plays like we did last year,” said cornerback DeAngelo Hall. “We can’t be 31st in the league on defense if we want to win ball games. You’ve got to correct it out here on the field.”
To do so, the Redskins signed Atogwe to a five-year, $26 million contract in March, before the lockout began, and later added Josh Wilson when he agreed to a three-year, $13.5 million deal.
Coach Mike Shanahan envisions starting Atogwe alongside LaRon Landry and putting Wilson and Hall at the corners.
With Landry still out after sustaining an injury to his left Achilles’ tendon last season and Atogwe limited for the past week after straining a hamstring, that hasn’t happened yet.
That means Doughty and Chris Horton, who has filled in for Landry at strong safety, have been pressed into more action than was originally hoped.
“They’re getting mental reps, which is good,” Shanahan said of Atogwe and Landry, who should be available by the time season starts on Sept. 11. “They can kind of walk through some scenarios. I feel good about both of them being ready.”
The 6-foot-1, 221-pound Horton, in his fourth year out of UCLA, has played in 29 games over the past three years but hasn’t been a routine starter since 2008, when he was the top safety in 10 of 14 games. He’s battled injuries–a stinger during his rookie year and a torn ligament in his toe in 2009–then fell out of the rotation by last season.
“My main goal is after coming back from injury finally feeling healthy, [and] with the guys being out, I get an opportunity to actually show the coaches what I can do and that I’m 100 percent,” Horton said.
Doughty, an on-again, off-again starter since 2007, had 93 tackles while starting nine games last year, missing the last because of a concussion. His ability as a run stopper, and his toughness, have earned him praise among his teammates.
“He’s very much a student of the game and he’s a detailist, if that’s even a word,” Atogwe said. “He wants to know the minute details of his job, his responsibilities, so he can play to his highest ability, his highest potential. Those are the types of people that you want to be around, because if you pick stuff like that up, it will only help you be a better person, be a better player.”
“I’m looking forward to someday having that whole group together,” said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. “It’s been a while. Halfway through the season last year we lost LaRon. I’m looking forward to them all playing together.”
So is Doughty. When Atogwe and Landry are back, he’ll go back to being out of the spotlight–just where he wants it.
“They signed me to do exactly what I’m doing right now,” Doughty said. “They know with LaRon maybe nicked up, or something happens to O.J. [Atogwe], that’s why I came back. It’s an opportunity for me obviously to play, and that’s what I love to do.”