The Washington Redskins on Sunday did some shuffling in the secondary, starting Byron Westbrook at nickelback over Kevin Barnes. Also, the team started rookie safety DeJon Gomes, whom defensive coordinator Jim Haslett declared the starter for the remainder of the season, but eventually replaced him with Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said that he and Haslett made the move because Barnes struggled last week against the New England Patriots’ slot receivers.
Westbrook, who previously had spent most of his team playing special teams and filling in at cornerback if DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson or Barnes were banged up, recorded two tackles and two pass deflections.
Westbrook got beat a couple of times, and Barnes eventually took his place and recorded three tackles.
“We went with Westbrook starting the nickel this week over Barnes to see what [Westbrook] can do,” Shanahan said. “Barnes probably didn’t play as well as he had last week and gave Westbrook a chance. Barnes went back in and played pretty good, too. You just never know. You’re always evaluating these guys to see what they can do.”
At safety, the Redskins started Reed Doughty at strong safety and Gomes at free safety, but Gomes ended up making way for Atogwe, who opened the year as the starter but had been relegated to a backup role lately with various injuries.
Atogwe, whom Washington signed as a free agent this spring, ended up playing the bulk of the game and recorded six tackles, an interception and two pass breakups.
Shanahan praised Atogwe’s play and said his improved health was a big key for the veteran’s resurgence.
“We thought O.J. felt pretty good and wanted to make sure he got a lot more reps than he had been getting,” Shanahan said. “He took advantage of those opportunities today. He told me yesterday that he felt good, and I said, ‘Hey, if you feel as good as you’re telling me, you’re going to get an opportunity. We didn’t bring you here not to play.’
“Throughout the year, he’s been banged up. Any time you have a hamstring, you have a knee, you have an ankle and you’ve got a toe, you want to fight through it, and you see that he can’t, you don’t want to throw him out there if he’s not 100 percent or not even close to it. But you could see he played very well last week and deserved to be out there and I was pleased with how he played.”