By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2007
Benched late in last Sunday's 28-23 loss to Dallas, Washington Redskins second-year safety Reed Doughty remained upbeat on the sideline. Doughty encouraged teammates, discussed strategy with the other defensive backs and did whatever he could to help despite being disappointed about making costly mistakes in the second half of his first NFL start.
Focusing on the bigger picture has helped Doughty, a former sixth-round draft pick, defy the odds to this point while coping with the chronic kidney failure of his young son, Micah, who was born nearly six weeks prematurely. Doughty impressed enough to earn a starting assignment against Dallas in place of standout safety Sean Taylor, who is sidelined because of a sprained knee. Although he was removed at the end of the third quarter for veteran safety Pierson Prioleau, Doughty still is a favorite of many Redskins coaches because of his strong work ethic and ability to grasp things quickly.
And his son's health has improved. At almost 15 months, Micah has grown slowly but weighs almost enough to undergo a kidney transplant, Doughty said. Micah still takes a variety of medication and must undergo dialysis daily, but doctors are encouraged about his long-term prognosis. Helping his wife, Katie, care for their son while trying to establish himself in the NFL, Doughty is determined to make the most of his unexpected opportunity.
Washington (5-5) faces Tampa Bay (6-4) on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, and Doughty said he is eager to return to action after his poor finish against Dallas.
"All of us are together, honestly, so it didn't hurt my feelings" when he was removed at the end of the third quarter against the Cowboys, Doughty said. "If the coaches feel I'm not getting the job done, if they don't have the confidence in me, I want somebody else to get an opportunity. Obviously, I would have liked to have finished the game, won the game, made the big play instead of giving it up, but that didn't happen."
With Taylor inactive for the first time this season, the Redskins had glaring breakdowns in deep coverage. Safeties Doughty, Prioleau and LaRon Landry made mistakes that helped Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Terrell Owens team up for four touchdown passes -- including two in the fourth quarter -- as the NFC East-leading Cowboys rallied for a victory at Texas Stadium. Doughty had two significant errors during the Cowboys' touchdown drive in the third quarter.
Dallas trailed, 10-7, late in the quarter when Doughty was called for a 51-yard pass interference penalty on third down while covering wide receiver Patrick Crayton. "I backpedaled instead of turning and running, so off the bat I was a little bit behind," Doughty said. "I caught up, then I looked at the quarterback and got more behind. Then when I played the ball instead of knocking the ball down, I kind of just hit him. I would have been fine making two mistakes on the play, but I made three mistakes on the same play. You're probably not going to win on that situation."
Later in the drive, on third and 19 from the Redskins 31-yard line, Doughty and Landry, a rookie, were out of position as Owens caught the ball uncontested in the end zone. Landry came in rather than remaining deep, but "there was some miscommunication" between the defensive backs, Doughty said. "Rarely is any one play one person's fault. I definitely had a share in the blame."
After Prioleau replaced Doughty in the fourth, Romo and Owens combined on 46- and 52-yard touchdown passes. The Redskins' late rally ended when quarterback Jason Campbell threw an interception deep in Dallas territory with less than two minutes left. Doughty finished with five tackles (four unassisted) and also had a tackle on special teams. The mistakes were disappointing, Doughty said, but he learned a lot.
"I played really physical," he said. "I had a lot of good tackles. I really didn't miss any tackles in the run game. I had some good coverage on some of the man-to-man stuff. It was two plays that kind of defined the game for me. But that's what you know. You know there's going to be two, three, four critical plays that happen in a game and you need to make those plays.
"Nobody's going to see you hit somebody in the 'A' gap for a one-yard gain. But I know those are my strengths. I've got to keep working on the things that others perceive are my weaknesses. I don't feel that they are, but until I prove that they'll keep coming after it."
Doughty, 25, has made strides in less than two full seasons in the league, coaches said, reaching heights that few would have expected from someone who was the 173rd overall selection in the 2006 draft. The Redskins were impressed by the high football IQ Doughty, a coach's son, exhibited while at Northern Colorado, and he gained a strong knowledge of the offense, defense and special teams while playing mainly on special teams as a rookie last season.
In addition to the normal adjustments to life in the NFL for an unheralded rookie, Doughty also faced the burden of his son's poor health. Micah was born Aug. 30, 2006, in Colorado while Doughty was fighting to make the team. He missed a preseason game to be with his wife and child for a short visit, and several weeks passed before Katie and Micah could join him in the Washington area.
A cardiac nurse before Reed was drafted and Micah was born, Katie Doughty administers shots to keep Micah's kidneys functioning until he has surgery. Micah also undergoes dialysis each night at the Doughtys' home. During a recent checkup, Micah weighed 20.8 pounds, Doughty said. He must weigh at least 22 to have surgery.
Although Micah, who works with an occupational therapist, is a little behind the curve developmentally for children in his age group, "he's doing really good," Doughty said. "He crawls all over the place. He tries to get into stuff he's not supposed to just like every other little boy. It's discouraging only when you take him to the doctor and he hasn't gained weight that month. Otherwise, it's been pretty normal.
The doctors "feel he's doing really, really well and he'll catch up to speed and be fine," Doughty said. "He's close. Yeah, some kids walk at 10 months but that's not him and that's fine. If he ends up walking it doesn't really matter how fast he walked."
Doughty had a non-guaranteed base salary of $275,000 last season and received an $85,000 signing bonus. His salary, which still is non-guaranteed, increased to $360,000 for the 2007 season.
The lack of job security in the NFL takes on added significance for a player with the medical expenses of a special-needs child. Taylor is expected to miss at least one more game, and Doughty apparently did enough against Dallas to get another opportunity this week to show the coaches that he is capable of being a long-term contributor.
"There's always a play or two that you'd like to have back, those are things that you have to learn on the fly, and you've got to get experience in ballgames to do some of those things," said Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense. "But when I look back on the ballgame in a whole, 56, 57 plays are as good as we've played all year long.
"There were four plays in the ballgame we wish we had back. Those were the four that counted, and he was involved in a couple of 'em. He's come a long way. He's improved a lot. He's had a good week of practice. He's made some of the corrections that he needs to make going into this ballgame. He played well in a lot of aspects of the game."