By Rick Maese
Friday, September 24, 2010; D1
With top free safety Kareem Moore expected to see his first action of the season, the Washington Redskins will enter Sunday's game at St. Louis with a defensive backfield many have been waiting to see since the offseason. Others have been waiting even longer.
A sixth-round draft pick in 2008, Moore was a little-used reserve whose playing time mostly came on special teams. While he has just two career starts, teammates have seen his athleticism shine in practice and thought he would be an ideal complement to strong safety LaRon Landry.
"Unfortunately, some of the coaches in the past couldn't see it," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "But he got his opportunity this year. There's a lot of change around here, and he took advantage of it."
The current staff has envisioned Moore and Landry patrolling the backfield since offseason workouts, when Moore quickly separated himself from the other safeties. But Moore suffered a knee injury in the preseason game against Baltimore and had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 23.
While Landry has had an impressive start to the season, Moore has watched from the side as the Washington defense has struggled. The Redskins rank last in the league, giving up an average of 453 yards per game, more than Baltimore's and Tennessee's defenses combined. No other team has given up more first-down plays. The 38 passing first downs the Redskins have allowed is 17 more than the league average. And only the Houston Texans have allowed more passing yards per game.
"All day and night, it's killing me," Moore said. "I just want to go out there and play, get out there with the guys."
Coaches hope that adding Moore to the mix will change the secondary's fortunes, beginning this weekend.
"People want to talk about what me and Sean [Taylor] would have done, how we played," Landry said recently. "I think me and Kareem can do some stuff out there. I think we can make some stuff happen."
While Moore has watched, Landry has turned in a pair of strong games. He leads the NFL with 28 tackles (the team's film review credits him with 31). Two of those tackles are for losses, plus he has four quarterback hurries and a sack.
Moore is the only natural free safety on the roster. While Reed Doughty has posted 18 tackles in two games (according to the coaches' film), the free safety position requires more athleticism. Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson had no trouble leaping over Doughty last Sunday to catch a game-tying pass in the end zone.
"Kareem can run sideline to sideline," Rogers said. "He's a faster guy. He's smart back there. He's an athletic guy. So it gives us an advantage to play a lot more different defenses."
Because Moore is so quick, the Redskins should be able to disguise their defenses more this week. Prior to a snap, Moore can lurk around the line of scrimmage before dropping back into position as the play begins. Facing a rookie quarterback such as the Rams' Sam Bradford, those disguises could prove to be essential.
The defensive backs have been reviewing film of Bradford, and they've noticed some tendencies that are common for young quarterbacks. He doesn't always go through all of his progressions; he rushes throws when he feels pressure; and he might be more predictable than a seasoned veteran.
"Most of the time when he drops back, if he's looking left, he's going to throw left," Landry said.
Despite the defense's propensity to give up big plays early in the season - opponents have managed 12 pass plays of 20 or more yards - Landry has raised eyebrows. Since moving to strong safety in the offseason, he's made big hits and shown a knack for gravitating toward the ball.
"I feel fine in this scheme and it allows me to make plays and it allows me to fly around the way I do," Landry said.
The current crop of safeties is close-knit, but Landry says he feels especially comfortable with Moore back there with him. Defensive backs had waited so long for Moore to be a regular contributor, which is why it was so frustrating when the knee injury sidelined him for four weeks.
"It was just tough because you knew he was ready. You saw it out there everyday," Landry said. "And with us together, I mean, we definitely had it going to where we just knew."
Moore said he's "very anxious to get out there and show everybody what I can do - everybody who doubted me. Just go out there and work hard. Just prove all of them wrong."
Rather than sit in a suite with some of the other inactive players, Moore watched the first two regular season games from the sidelines because he wanted to remain close to the action. This Sunday, he plans to be a lot closer.
"I can't wait to get that first hit on somebody," he said. "Get me a tackle, get a stat or something. I just want to go out there and have fun."
Staff writer Jason Reid contributed to this report.