Safety In Numbers
When the Washington Redskins square off against the Jacksonville Jaguars tonight at Municipal Stadium, both teams will be taking some long hard looks at certain positional battles. For the Redskins, one of the most difficult decisions will come at safety.
The starting safety jobs are locked up. Sean Taylor will start at free, and rookie first round draft pick Laron Landry will start at strong. Even if Gregg Williams gives Landry a game or two to settle in before starting, it won't be long before the sixth overall pick out of LSU is on the starters' roster. Pierson Prioleau is also a lock. If Williams decides to keep Landry back the first few games, Prioleau would be the de facto starter.
What about after that? Washington has three players vying for safety depth - Omar Stoutmire, Reed Doughty, and Vernon Fox. All three incumbents have played for the Redskins in the recent past, and know Williams' defense.
Stoutmire is an eleven year veteran and played for Washington in 2005 as a backup. In 2006, he moved to New Orleans and started nine games at safety where he logged 56 tackles and two interceptions on the season. He would seem to be the front-runner for the job as he has the most NFL experience.
Fox played well in relief of the failed 'Adam Archuletta experiment' for the Redskins last season. Though he was thrust into the limelight unceremoniously, Fox managed to nestle in and play well enough to kep the job. Having another year to learn the intricacies of Williams' defense will only help his cause.
Lastly, there's Doughty. A sixth round draft pick of the Redskins in 2006, it was a bit of a surprise that he managed to hang around last year, but will he this year with the additional bodies at the position? Doughty is a character player, and moreover, established himself as a good special teams player last season. He may not be the best safety candidate for the backup spot (yet), but he may have the most up-side of any of the three. He's also on a rookie contract that is very cap-friendly.
So who will it be?
That's what they play the pre-season games for. Tonight's game against the Jags will be the coaching staff's last chance to get a look at the three of them and make their decision before final roster cut downs. You can bet that there will be more than one set of eyes affixed firmly at whomever is playing safety.
One thing's for sure, with a stable that already includes Taylor, Landry and Prioleau - the 'winner' of this safety battle will likely be seeing spot duty at best.
Then again, it looked that way last year as well, didn't it?
This article was released on 2007-08-30.
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