The Washington Redskins started Reed Doughty at strong safety Sunday, with LaRon Landry still sidelined with a groin injury, and rookie DeJon Gomes got the nod at free safety though veteran Oshiomogho Atogwe dressed for the game.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said the team went with Gomes – Washington’s fifth-round pick out of Nebraska – because Atogwe remained hobbled by knee, hamstring, toe and ankle injuries.
It marked the second time this season that Atogwe – signed this offseason to a five-year, $26-million contract -- has come off the bench. The first was against Seattle. He practiced fully every day this past week, but Shanahan said Atogwe can’t play full-speed.
“O.J. keeps on trying to go out there and play at a high level, but he’s playing injured,” Shanahan said of Atogwe, who missed time during the preseason because of a hamstring strain, and during the season suffered the knee, toe and ankle injuries. “He’s never been able to get back to full speed with the start and with the knee, and the ankle and the hamstring. But it’s good to have him up, because with Landry being down, we’re a little short on depth.
Gomes, who started one game at strong safety this season and has substituted at both positions, recorded five tackles and a pass deflection against the Patriots. The rookie didn’t regard his performance very well, however. He missed tackling tight end Rob Gronkowski, who dove for a catch, got up and broke a second, joint tackling effort by Gomes and Doughty, before running for a 49-yard gain.
“At first, when the play first happened, I wasn’t sure if he caught the ball or not,” Gomes said. “I realized he caught the ball and couldn’t touch him in time before he got up. I should’ve made the tackle. He got up and gained about another 40 yards.”
On the next play, the 6-foot-6 Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass over the 6-foot Gomes. Gronkowski finished the game with six catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns (the second while covered by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan).
“I don’t think I played too well, honestly,” Gomes said before later adding, “He’s a big guy, but I can’t really make an excuse. We should’ve had him down, especially because it was both of us, and it was my man, so I should’ve made a tackle, and I should’ve put a hand on him so he couldn’t have gotten up.”
Gomes later leveled a big hit on Gronkowski in the interception, breaking up a would-be touchdown pass.