Sunday’s meeting between the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers carries great importance for the Redskins, who aim to snap a two-game losing streak and enter the bye week with a 4-5 record rather than 3-6.
But the game carries additional significance for safety Jordan Pugh, who spent the first two seasons of his NFL career with the Panthers but didn’t survive final roster cuts on Aug. 31.
“It means a lot, but, you know, it’s a game, though,” Pugh said. “But of course, it means a lot, playing against your old team. I’m excited about it, to get to play against the guys you played with. So, yeah, it means a lot.”
A sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2010, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Pugh appeared in 27 games for the Panthers in two seasons, starting three of them. During his stint with Carolina, Pugh recorded 37 tackles, an interception, one forced fumble and four pass breakups. In four preseason games, Pugh recorded eight tackles and a pass breakup as a reserve, but didn’t figure into the team’s plans when Carolina finalized it’s 53-man roster.
“Honestly, I don’t know why. I guess, it was just my time to go,” Pugh said. “No hard feelings, no personal vendettas against them. You know it’s just a part of the game. Now, I’m on a different team, and I love my new team. It was just one of those things that didn’t work out.”
When Washington rookie safety Jordan Bernstine was lost for the season after tearing ligaments in his knee in the Sept. 9 season opener, the Redskins signed Pugh the next day.
After seeing time only on special teams in his first three games with Washington while still learning the defense, Pugh has seen his playing time gradually increase. Coaches like his athleticism, coverage skills and versatility (Pugh played cornerback as a freshman and junior at Texas A&M, and played safety as a sophomore and senior).
“He’s an athletic guy. … We’ll work him in to get more work on [base packages], and more on the [passing downs],” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said two weeks ago. “He’s a really athletic guy, smart guy. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to make plays in the two games he’s played, but hopefully in these next couple games, he’ll have some opportunities to be involved and we’ll see if he’s a playmaker.”
Reed Doughty has started the last four games at strong safety. But in the last three games, Pugh has consistently rotated with Doughty, playing roughly 50 percent of the defensive snaps.
“I feel good. I feel comfortable. Every week is a building process,” says Pugh, who has recorded six tackles and a pass breakup in the last three games. “You get to the point now where it’s second nature. You’ve got your feet wet and now you’re starting to stand firm. It’s been a good process, and I’m getting better day-by-day.”
Pugh has been solid in his limited action, but is still seeking his first impact play. He hopes it can come Sunday against the Panthers for more than one reason.
“Yeah, you have it,” he said when asked about additional motivation this week. “But you know the most important thing is just playing your game. You can’t have any out of body experiences. You have to go out there, play your game, have fun, and most importantly, win the game.”