Voted as a team captain before ever playing a regular season snap for the Redskins, Swearinger has finally found a home where he can talk the talk, and walk the walk.
“I think my attitude comes from a part of my struggle, a part of my past, a part of my passion, a part of my love for the game,” Swearinger said. “Just put that all into one, and you get me.”
Swearinger, 26, spent his first four NFL seasons with three different teams. Jay Gruden is the fifth head coach he’s had in five years. While he’s lacked stability — bouncing from the Houston Texans, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to the Arizona Cardinals before signing with the Redskins during the offseason – Swearinger has gained multiple perspectives in the process.
As he attempted to establish himself in the league, Swearinger took the time to observe how different coaches and players lead at the professional level. He said he was still vocal behind the scenes, but understood he wouldn’t be “the guy” on teams like the Cardinals – his previous stop – with players like three-time All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson on defense.
“It’s definitely humbling, because everywhere else I’ve been, I’ve had to be patient,” Swearinger said. “I always questioned, ‘Why is this dude [doing this]? Why is that dude [doing that]?’ But it wasn’t my time yet.”
His time arrived in March, with the opportunity to reunite with Norman in the D.C. area. Swearinger arrived at Redskins Park wanting to not just bring his ability to the field, but his leadership as well. With Norman — the highest paid defensive player — as one of the most prominent faces on the team, Swearinger arrived with a certain level of comfort in Washington. But Swearigner knew he would have to take the time to get the know the players, particularly in the secondary, on a personal level for his voice to carry weight.
In his short time in Washington, the Redskins have praised the role Swearinger has played in mentoring other young safeties on the team, including rookie Montae Nicholson, who recorded his first career interception on the opening drive against the Raiders.
“[He’s] just a fiery guy – a guy that knows football across the board, and I love that,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky added. “I love his spirit, and he gets guys around him to rally behind him and taking us where we need to be.”
Swearinger got to know his teammates, but he also became well-versed in Manusky’s scheme. Gruden has been pleased with Swearinger’s versatility to play both inside the box as a run defender, while also lining up against tight ends and running backs in coverage. He has 11 combined tackles and one pass defended through three games, but stats don’t tell the whole story. Swearinger has helped establish an aggressive mindset on defense that smothered a talented Raiders offense in prime time. Oakland recorded just 128 total yards, and couldn’t convert a third down on 11 tries.
“It’s one thing being a vocal guy, but you have to back it up with production and sound play and know what you are talking about,” Gruden said. “I’ve had guys before that are talkers that don’t know what they are doing, but he brings both. He brings an edge to him that rubs off on people.”
It’s all starting to come together for Swearinger, who felt during training camp Washington would finally develop into his home. As the Redskins prepare for a Monday night contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he received his first career start during his rookie season in 2013, Swearinger’s production and attitude has given fans a belief he can be a mainstay in the secondary, too.
“[He’s] that type of guy that you need to spark things up; you look for that in your safety, and we haven’t had that,” Norman said. “Safeties sometimes, they’re the captain of the team as a quarterback would be for the offense. You look for that, you and see it and it’s like, ‘Okay.’ That’s what you want in a guy back there.”
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