Of all the positions on the Washington Redskins’ defense this season, safety has been the least stable.
Strong safety LaRon Landry missed the first two games of the season, battled Achilles’ tendon and groin injuries, and for a second straight season will end the year on injured reserve. Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe – whom the Redskins signed as a free agent during the offseason – has battled hamstring, knee and toe injuries and has been limited to 10 games, serving as a reserve in two of them.
The Redskins re-signed Doughty to back up Landry and Atogwe and to contribute on special teams. But because of their injuries, his role has expanded. Doughty has appeared in all 13 games this season, starting eight.
“You really don’t know what’s going to happen with injuries,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “We thought we were very deep at that position, and I think we were. You know, you lose a great player like [Landry] and you have a guy like [Atogwe] that can’t play, yet you’re still productive at the safety position. Not very many teams have that type of depth. Do we wish we would have stayed healthy? Sure, because we were very strong at that position. But I still thought we did some good things or we have done some good things throughout the year with the safeties that have played.”
This is the the third straight season that Doughty has started at least seven games despite beginning the year as a backup. It’s a role he’s used to. As a second-year player in 2007, he had to take over as starter following the death of Sean Taylor. In 2009, Doughty started seven games with Chris Horton injured. Last season, with Landry and Kareem Moore both battling injuries, Doughty wound up starting nine games, some at free safety, some at strong safety.
Based on that history, Doughty believed that although the Redskins had other players projected as starters and had drafted safety DeJon Gomes in the fifth round, he still would receive an opportunity to log significant minutes.
“That’s precisely why I came back here,” said Doughty, who signed a three-year, $3.02 million contract. “The opportunity to play, I knew was there, whether if it was going to be special teams, or – you never know what’s going to happen – but if someone went down, I knew I’d have the opportunity to play either safety position. ... And I think they knew that, too, that I knew the system, that I’d be plugged in, and that I could help give the team an opportunity to win.”
Doughty has spent time at both strong and free safety, but most recently, the majority of his action has come at free safety. He ranks third on the team with 63 tackles, and has forced a fumble.
“I know what Reed can do [and] we know what we’re going to get,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said, explaining his confidence in Doughty. “Reed’s going to give you everything he’s got every snap. Whatever you ask him to do, he’s going to do to a T.”
The Redskins have benefited from Doughty’s toughness with Landry and Atogwe hobbled, but Doughty – who has played despite nursing rib and chest injuries – says there’s no secret to his durability.
“Some of it’s being blessed, being lucky, taking care of your body,” Doughty says. “You get banged up every week. It’s a matter of ‘Can I go, or not?’ There’s a difference between being hurt and injured. I’ve been hurt a lot of the weeks, going in, but it hasn’t been enough to derail my plans to play, and play well. But sometimes you get injured and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just kind of luck of the draw.
“I’ve been [injured like Landry and Atogwe], it’s not fun to be banged up like that and to try to play, it’s hard,” said Doughty, who ended the 2008 season on injured reserve with a back injury, and had his 2009 season cut short by a knee injury. “I knew coming in those were my opportunities, but I’m just trying to help this team win. If they play, they play and I’ll still do what I can. If they can’t play, I’ll try to help this team win.”