During the offseason, the Washington Redskins signed free agent safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who over seven years has ranked among the top turnover-forcing defensive backs in the NFL with 22 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. But through four games, Atogwe has yet to force a turnover and has broken up only one pass.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he isn’t concerned, however. He believes that Atogwe spent the first few weeks of the season working his way back into form after missing most of the preseason with a strained hamstring.
“I think ‘O.J.’ was struggling, I would say, with his hamstring and he’s been fighting through it,” Haslett said Thursday. “So far this week, I think we’re finally breaking through it and he’s looking a lot better to me. He’s not so much concerned with the hamstring, just playing now.”
Atogwe declined to discuss improvements in his health or breakthroughs he has achieved, but did say he is feeling better.
“Every day I’m better,” he said.
Asked if he agreed with the coach’s notion that he had played hurt the first four games of the season, Atogwe said, “I wouldn’t say I was playing through pain, I was playing with my teammates to win. No one is going to be 100 percent at any time in the season. Everyone has to fight through their adversity to play, and that’s what I was doing. … I’ll just say every day I’m better.”
The Redskins will rely heavily on Atogwe this week to ensure that the Philadelphia Eagles – particularly speedy receiver DeSean Jackson -- don’t beat them deep. As the Redskins and their fans remember well, Jackson dusted both DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry to connect with Michael Vick on an 88-yard touchdown pass on the first play of last season’s meeting at FedEx Field. Jackson has burned the Redskins deep in previous meetings as well, so he certainly will be a marked man Sunday.
Blessed with good range and ball-hawking skills, Atogwe will be charged most of the time with playing centerfield and tracking down receivers running downfield.
“I’m going to do my best to prepare and be where I need to be so when the opportunity presents itself, I can make a play or prevent a play from happening,” Atogwe said. “You definitely want to be disciplined in your coverage. If you’re deep, stay deep. If you’re underneath, stay underneath. But you can’t do anything too crazy because they have other players that will kill you, too. So we have to be responsible in our coverage and our techniques and let the defense work.”