- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 20, 2009

The comparisons were inevitable after LaRon Landry succeeded Sean Taylor as the Washington Redskins’ free safety two seasons ago.

Taylor, the fifth pick in the 2004 draft, was in the midst of a second straight Pro Bowl season when he was shot and killed at his Florida home in November 2007.

Landry, drafted sixth overall in 2007 to play strong safety alongside Taylor, took over Taylor’s spot. He was a Pro Bowl alternate last year despite missing most of training camp with a pulled hamstring that lingered until midseason.

In his first two seasons, Taylor intercepted six passes, forced five fumbles and recorded two sacks for a top-10 defense. Landry’s line: two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two sacks in his first two seasons - also for a top-10 defense.

Steady, certainly, but players aren’t drafted sixth overall just to be steady.

“This could be a real breakout year for him,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “We’d like to see the big plays. We’d like to see LaRon with six, eight picks, with some of those big hits, with some big [pass] breakups. We’d like to see LaRon really create fear in the hearts of quarterbacks where they don’t want to throw the ball deep down the middle or even down the sideline.”

To safeties coach Steve Jackson, those who say Landry doesn’t stack up with Taylor or Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu don’t understand what his protege provides the Redskins.

“Sean made a lot of explosive plays, but he also gave up a lot of explosive plays,” Jackson said. “LaRon hasn’t made a lot of those plays that are shown over and over again on ‘SportsCenter.’ He does the dirty work that doesn’t really show up on the stat sheets. LaRon’s got a knack for when to break, when to go get it and when to hold back. …

“I’d take LaRon over [Polamalu] any day. When you watch him play true free safety, it’s not even close in my humble opinion.”

For his part, Landry said he doesn’t care about not getting the hype of Taylor, Polamalu or Baltimore’s Ed Reed. He is hardly concerned that he spends most of his time on the field using his 6-foot, 210-pound frame doing the little things rather than playing like Superman.

“I don’t really compete for statistics or [publicity],” the 24-year-old Landry said. “I do what I need to do to help my team win. It’s up to you guys in the media to put me on a pedestal or not. As long as I’m contributing to my team winning, that’s what I need to do.”

The addition of free agent Albert Haynesworth and top pick Brian Orakpo to the pass rush and the presence of cornerback DeAngelo Hall for a full season should create opportunities for Landry to make more big plays like the two dynamic interceptions in the 2007 playoff loss at Seattle.

Asked whether he saw that highlight-film scenario playing out this season, Landry chuckled and said, “You’re going to see us win ballgames.”

The Redskins’ crash during the second half of the season made 2008 even more of a downer for Landry, whose brother Dawan and college roommate Craig Davis both played on teams that won postseason games. The sting was made worse by the fact that the Redskins went 3-0 against the teams that met for the NFC title, the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I really hated last season,” Landry said. “I had high expectations, and the injury [changed them]. It felt like a tweak at first, but it wouldn’t heal. I rehabbed, but it got worse and worse. It didn’t really heal until midway through the season. But coming into this camp, I felt good, in shape and ready to go.”

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