The Redskins enter their final week of preparation for the regular season opener against the New York Giants, but a position once projected as a team strength still has many questions surrounding it.
Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, added as a free agent, and strong safety LaRon Landry were supposed to give the Redskins a dynamic tandem. Atogwe was to use his great range and strong coverage skills to thwart deep threats and serve as an insurance policy if cornerbacks gambled and whiffed. Meanwhile, Landry would be free to roam, play closer to the line of scrimmage and make plays all over the field.
But Atogwe and Landry spent most of the preseason rehabbing injuries and have yet to play together in a game or full-speed practice. Both were on the field at the same time during Monday’s practice – although Landry was limited – but will they play together Sunday against the Giants?
When asked Monday evening, Landry paused to think and Atogwe answered for him; “One day at a time.”
Landry nodded and said, “One day at a time. One day at a time.”
The fifth-year pro wants to play, but doesn’t know if the hamstring will let him. He’s in a contract year, and doesn’t want to endure on-again-off-again injury problems. Asked if he’d had a setback, Landry said, to the contrary, “every day is progress.”
Mike Shanahan said that he does expect Atogwe to play.
Conditions at cornerback are more certain with DeAngelo Hall back for another season, and new addition Josh Wilson healthy and expected to play. Wilson and Hall recorded interceptions in the preseason. But they haven’t played much with the starting safeties, so chemistry remains a work in progress.
The “nickel” or third cornerback is expected to be Kevin Barnes, who filled in at free safety down the stretch last season. He did cover the slot receiver a little in the next-to-last game of the season, and at that spot he recorded the interception that set up the winning field goal against Jacksonville.
But Barnes hasn’t been a full time player in his two previous seasons in the NFL. Byron Westbrook is another backup corner, but has had his struggles in coverage. Brandyn Thompson is listed at the bottom of the depth chart, and the rookie out of Boise State isn’t likely to see much action on defense.
At backup safety, the Redskins do have a solid guy in Reed Doughty, who very well could start in place of Landry this week, but he’s not the big-play threat that “Dirty 30” poses. DeJon Gomes did well during the preseason and will be called on to spell Atogwe, but he still has much to learn.
The Redskins need their defensive backs to get healthy or it could be a long season for the defense.