Redskins Have a Hit At Safety

laron landry - washington redskins
Since signing with the Redskins, LaRon Landry has kept a low profile, with his biggest headlines involving an errant shot to his pelvic area in a team paintball outing that caused him to miss mini-camp. (Joe Murphy - Getty Images)

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By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007

The first signature moment for the Washington Redskins' defense this season came from a rookie.

On a third-and-five play from the Washington 23-yard line in the preseason opener two weeks ago, safety LaRon Landry burst through the line on a blitz and drilled Tennessee quarterback Kerry Collins in the backfield, forcing an errant throw that ended a Titans drive. It was the kind of aggressive play the Redskins' defense hopes to be known for this year.

Landry's appearance with the starting defense is notable, since Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense, is known for burying younger players on the bench. Landry, the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft, is primed to be that rare rookie who starts immediately for the Redskins.

Williams and his assistants are intent on fostering a chemistry between Landry, 22, and fellow safety Sean Taylor, 24.

"He's a good player and everybody knows that," safeties coach Steve Jackson said. "We're getting him in there to see where we are with him, where he is, what we need to work on, and things he's got to do get better."

Despite his ability to get to the passer and make plays, coaches have detected signs of Landry's inexperience during their review of film of the team's first two games. For now, though, they can live with that.

"He didn't have the best [film] grade of the group after the first game, and pretty close to the worst grade, but as a young guy you've got to expect that," Jackson said. "There are things he couldn't know, and things that you only learn with experience that he learned, little things you don't see on tape. You have to experience it for yourself, and that will make us better as a defense."

Landry has all the intangibles that Williams looks for in his stripped-down defensive system. The coaches would like to station him as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and use him to stop the run and the pass. That role allows Landry to concentrate on attacking the football, but he must also learn not to over-pursue, how to slide into position and what it takes to perform consistently.

Landry (6 feet, 213 pounds) has no choice but to check his ego, accept some verbal bludgeoning with a smile and heed the advice of veterans. None of that is a surprise to him. He came of age on LSU's national championship team playing for Nick Saban, another tough coach. Saban's defense mirrored the innovations of the pro game, giving Landry knowledge and experience to draw on. In college, there was no tolerance for making the same mistake twice. The same is true under Williams.

"He always feels there's something else he can learn, and when you tell him something he accepts it and goes out and corrects it," Jackson said. "You don't have to worry about it happening again. He learns from his mistakes; he's not a repeat-mistake offender."

After last week's game against Pittsburgh, there were again moments to savor as Landry plowed through blocks to get into the backfield, attacked the ball and showed the ferocity Williams likes to see. "That's why we brought him here," Jackson said.

Not that Landry didn't falter. "There were new mistakes," Jackson said. "Not a lot of mental mistakes. He's a little bit more behind everyone else, but he also has some gifts not a lot of other guys have."


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