While Landry has been building up strength in his injured Achilles’ tendon and Atogwe has allowed a sore hamstring to heal, the Redskins have yet to get a good look at their top two safeties playing together. Neither was dressed for last Friday’s preseason opener and their practice participation has been mostly limited to mental repetitions and mimicking the moves of teammates.
The Redskins hope that will soon change. While Atogwe’s status is day-to-day — he hasn’t practiced since Aug. 6 — Landry is expected to come off the physically unable to perform list Wednesday and could be fully practicing this weekend.
“Like I’ve been saying. . . I was looking forward to getting it stronger, and seeing how it reacts,” Landry said. “Well, it’s getting stronger and it’s actually responding quite well.”
Coaches hope that accelerates the relationship-building between Landry and the newly acquired Atogwe. They are considered potential Pro Bowlers, but the two must learn each other’s quirks, rhythms and tendencies. Perhaps no two positions on the defensive side of the ball are as closely tied as the strong and free safety.
“They have to be on the exact same page,” said safeties coach Steven Jackson. “If they're not, when safeties mess up, that equals touchdowns because there’s nobody behind them but the referee.”
And that's why Landry and Atogwe have been more active than other injured players during training camp, which formally concludes Tuesday at Redskins Park. They study receivers, watch the quarterback, spot the man in motion and call out play-action fakes.
“A lot of playing with somebody is just communicating,” Atogwe said. “In any relationship, the more you talk, the more you get the know them, the more you have conversations about what you're seeing. That's what is really going to develop the relationship.”
During team drills, they’re always deep in the secondary; rarely sitting idle on the sideline. As the quarterback approaches the line, Atogwe and Landry start chattering, swapping sides, moving into position and shadowing the play from afar.
“It's that rapport — Do you see what I see? Am I seeing what you're seeing? Are we communicating on the same page? — that's really going to strengthen the bond,” said Atogwe, who spent his first six seasons in the NFL in St. Louis.
“In this situation, it's the best that you can do: take your mental reps in practice, take more reps when you're watching the film,” he continued. “It's a value because you're still putting your mind in a position to react to what you see. Maybe physically you can't do it, but mentally you're still preparing yourself to play the game.”