The injury woes that have plagued the Redskins‘ safeties the past two seasons seem to have continued as Coach Mike Shanahan announced Wednesday that the team will open the year with Brandon Meriweather sidelined for two to four weeks with sprained medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee.
The 2010 season saw Washington endure significant stretches without both starting strong safety LaRon Landry and starting free safety Kareem Moore. Landry missed time with a bad Achilles’ tendon, while Moore was hobbled by a balky knee.
Then last season, Landry missed the first two games with a hamstring injury and lasted only eight games before his Achilles’ tendon landed him on injured reserve again. Meanwhile, 2011 free agent addition Oshiomogho Atogwe was limited to 13 games by hamstring, knee and toe injuries.
The Redskins let Landry depart via free agency and released Atogwe after last season. The team hoped the safety injury bug was behind them. But Meriweather aggravated the knee injury he suffered during the preseason when he laneded awkwardly on his left leg during practice Monday. Meriweather’s injury was only the latest misfortune at safety for the Redskins, who on Friday lost Tanard Jackson – the player that would’ve started at strong safety instead – to an indefinite drug suspension.
“You’re obviously disappointed when you lose two safeties or two guys you thought could start,” Shanahan said. “Of course, you are obviously disappointed with Tanard Jackson and Brandon, but that’s why we have depth. We feel like we had six safeties that could play. We felt like we had some depth there, and we went out and got an extra corner because we needed some depth at the corner position. You never know when those things happen, but when they do, obviously you adjust.”
Asked about his contingency plan at strong safety, Shanahan declined to go into detail.
“We have four safeties left and five corners so we’ll come up with the best combination to try to slow down the Saints” on Sunday, said Shanahan, whose defense will face Drew Brees, who last season led the NFL in passing, setting a single-season record with 5,476 yards to go with 46 touchdowns.
Second-year pro DeJon Gomes is being considered to start alongside free safety Madieu Williams. The Nebraska product — drafted in the fifth round in 2011 — said he saw significant time with the first team defense on Wednesday, but didn’t yet know if he would start. On Monday, veteran Reed Doughty said he was preparing in the event that he is given the chance to start.
Gomes started five games as a rookie, recording 35 tackles and two pass breakups. Gomes believes that he is up to task despite facing a stiff challenge Sunday.
“It’s only Wednesday, so we just really put the defense in today, but by Sunday, after everything’s installed and after a good week of practice, I feel like I should pretty comfortable,” Gomes said before discussing the improvements he has made in the last year. “I made a lot of strides. I don’t know if it’s just coverage, or understanding of the defense that’s greater. But any time you’re around a good group of DBs, you want to elevate your game. The last couple years, that’s what I’ve been around, so I’ve just steadily improved.”
Said Shanahan: “It’s always easier going into your second year, and D.J.’s a football player; natural football player, very smart, very heady, and he’s improved a lot since last year.”