Reed Doughty tried to list them all. Of course, there was Adam Archuleta and Sean Taylor. Omar Stoutmire and Pierson Prioleau. Add Oshiomogho Atogwe and DeJon Gomes to the list now, too. In all, he could barely rattle off half their names.
From Archuleta and Taylor to Atogwe and LaRon Landry, Doughty has played with 17 safeties since joining the Washington Redskins. With few exceptions, most didn’t hang around Washington for very long.
“That sounds like 25 years worth of guys,” Doughty said. “It’s only been six.”
Doughty has been a mainstay — and with good reason. As has been the case so many times in the past few years, when a player goes down, Doughty is ready to step up.
“That’s what they signed me to do,” said Doughty, who re-signed with the team last month. “That’s what I knew I was coming back for.”
Landry says he’ll miss Sunday’s season opener against the New York Giants, which means Doughty will get the start at strong safety. Rarely pegged as the preseason starter, Doughty always seems to find his way into the lineup. Last year, he also was No. 2 on the depth chart but started nine games total, most after Landry went on injured reserve with an injured Achilles’ tendon.
Doughty isn’t a physical specimen like Landry and doesn’t have the superstar credentials Taylor had. Yet he has been an important cog on the team. He has survived two coaching changes and has been part of the defense as long as anyone (Rocky McIntosh and Kedric Golston were fellow 2006 draft picks).
“A guy like Reed, you don’t miss until you don’t have him,” linebacker London Fletcher said.
Doughty, 28, will be lined up Sunday in the defensive backfield alongside Atogwe, who will be making his debut as a Redskin. While that tandem isn’t exactly what Redskins fans have been salivating about for the past several months, it’s going to be at least one more week before Atogwe can be paired with Landry.
“We’re all eager to have LaRon back on the field because he makes us a better defense,” Atogwe said. “When he’s ready to get on the field, it’s going to be something to see.”
Doughty has been practicing with the starters since training camp opened. Though Landry’s hamstring injury has limited him in practice, Coach Mike Shanahan has yet to formally rule him out of Sunday’s game.
“It’s frustrating for everybody,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “He’s a heck of a football player. We’d love to have him out there. Obviously, he’s had a couple setbacks. When he’s ready to go, he’ll get out there.”
But coaches say they’re confident in Doughty. And like so many players on the defensive side of the ball, Doughty thinks he’ll show huge improvements in his second year in Haslett’s system.
“Just more comfortable,” he said. “I can feel it. It feels second nature. I’m paying attention to what the offense is doing, what the reads are doing — not figuring out exactly my technique and where I’m supposed to end up. I’m definitely more comfortable.”
Doughty’s game film might not blow away pro scouts from opposing teams, but Redskins coaches rave about his work ethic and his eagerness to learn. Doughty was a free agent after the 2010 season, and Haslett said coaches made clear to the team’s front office they hoped Doughty would be re-signed. With Landry still recovering from the Achilles’ injury, bringing Doughty back was a must, and the team told Doughty before the lockout that he would be targeted for a return.
“He’s been able to fill a number of voids for us,” Fletcher said. “He started at strong safety for us, he’s started at free safety, he’s come in to play some nickel linebacker for us, he does a lot on special teams. You can’t say enough about him. He definitely plays a big role in our defense.”
With Landry expected to be sidelined and free safety Kareem Moore stuck on the physically-unable-to-perform list for the season’s first six weeks, the Redskins are thin at safety. Aside from Atogwe and Doughty, the only other healthy safety on the roster is Gomes, the team’s fifth-round draft pick this spring. The Nebraska product is raw, but coaches were impressed with his preseason progress.
“Some things don’t come fast right off the bat,” Haslett said. “But once he sees it once, he’s right in tune with everybody.”
The team could slide cornerback Kevin Barnes to safety in a pinch. But for the most part, the team is relying on Atogwe and Doughty to carry the load.
It’s not how the Redskins imagined starting the season, but it’s also why re-signing Doughty was important: For the past five years, he’s been the team’s most reliable contingency plan.