ASHBURN, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — On an improved defense last season, the Washington Redskins’ safety play was still a weak link.
Strong side starter LaRon Landry never truly recovered from the Achilles injury that ended his 2010 season prematurely, and newcomer Oshiomogho Atogwe was often ailing and wasn’t the playmaker he had been during his best years with the St. Louis Rams.
Exit Landry and Atogwe. Enter free agents Brandon Meriweather, Madieu Williams and Tanard Jackson as well as new secondary coach Raheem Morris. The Redskins swooped in and offered Morris the job shortly after his dismissal from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
The 28-year-old Meriweather was a Pro Bowl player in New England in 2009 and 2010. He was let go by the Patriots last summer and not re-signed by Chicago this winter because of his often undisciplined style.
Now he is trying to teach his new teammates to keep their feelings in check.
When Brandon Banks couldn’t hold a pass along the sideline early during Tuesday’s practice and kicked the ball into the crowd in frustration, Meriweather scolded him, saying, “Control your emotions. That’s 15 yards.”
The 30-year-old Williams, a seven-year regular with Cincinnati and Minnesota, was a backup last year in San Francisco and might no longer be considered starter material by many teams.
The 27-year-old Jackson was suspended twice for a total of 20 games for multiple failed drug tests while with Tampa Bay, which cut him in April.
“We always joke with each other that we got a secondary full of misfits,” said cornerback DeAngelo Hall. “We got guys that I feel like nobody else wanted in this league. We might look bad on paper and guys might rank us bad. But at the end of the day, you got to go out and play, and we definitely feel like we’re ready to go.”
Last year’s safeties — Landry, Atogwe, longtime backup Reed Doughty and rookie DeJon Gomes — combined for just three interceptions (all by Atogwe).
“We held our own, but there could have been a higher level of play, for sure,” said Doughty, who started a career-high 11 games in 2011 and is the only one of the current safeties who was in Washington before last year. “We need to make more plays on the back end.”
That’s what the Redskins expect from Meriweather, Jackson and Williams, who combined for 10 interceptions in 2009, the last season in which all three were full-time starters.
“We’ve got a bunch of playmakers back there,” Hall said. “T-Jack is a physical guy. I’m looking at him like, ‘You’re smaller than me,’ but somehow he sticks his head in there. He’s always there to make a play. Brandon is probably the most complete of all of ’em. He’s a guy that’ll fill a hole (against the run).”
Hall said he had talked to former Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers, now with the 49ers, about Williams.
“‘Los loved him to death,” Hall said, “and I feel the same way about the guy.”
Williams has been working with the starters because Jackson missed time in the spring recovering from knee and shoulder injuries and started training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He’ll return to action Thursday.
“It’s a setback, but we’ve got a lot of opportunities to get out there and still compete,” Jackson said. “We’ve all got chips on our shoulders, so the Redskins are going to get the best out of all of us.”
Notes: Practice was halted about two thirds of the way through because of thunder and lightning. It finished in the team’s new bubble, the first such transfer in Redskins history. … There was no update on right tackle Jammal Brown, who was supposed to see his personal doctor late Tuesday about his chronically ailing left hip that has him on the physically-unable-to-perform list. … Fullback Darrel Young and receiver Josh Morgan didn’t practice because of strained hamstrings sustained on Monday. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan expects Young to miss a week or two, and Morgan to be out a couple of days.
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