- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 18, 2002

The Washington Redskins have been looking at free-agent safeties, but it doesn't matter to current starter Sam Shade. He thinks he's fighting for a job regardless.
"I feel like that every year," Shade said this week. "That's what I learned early on. I had the privilege of not starting from Day 1 in this league. I had to push myself and work hard and realize that I was competing and the job wasn't handed to me."
Shade and David Terrell both return as starters from a 2001 unit that ranked 10th, including sixth against the pass. But the Redskins have looked to upgrade the position this offseason, talking to free agents like Corey Harris and Damon Moore and considering drafting a safety as high as the second round.
Now it is unclear whether Washington will add another safety with its limited salary cap space. The Redskins have unproven starters at defensive tackle and left guard and might address those positions first. They also must think about extending the final year of tackle Jon Jansen's contract.
Coaches say they are very happy with the current top four safeties: Shade, Terrell, 2001 undrafted rookie Ifeanyi Ohalete and fifth-round draft pick Andre Lott of Tennessee. But NFL sources confirmed this week that Washington has expressed interest in Moore, a former Philadelphia Eagles starter.
Moore, 25, was expected to be an Eagles mainstay before tearing an ACL late last season. Philadelphia had offered him a long-term contract, but he didn't like the terms and decided to see what he could get in free agency. After the injury, the Eagles backed off and signed former Tennessee Titans standout Blaine Bishop.
There are other talented players besides Moore available at safety, a position that receives little premium in the NFL marketplace. Pat Tillman (Arizona Cardinals), Eric Brown (Denver Broncos), Victor Green (New York Jets) and Chad Cota (Indianapolis Colts) all are potential starters who remain available.
Shade's mediocre coverage skills and the other three safeties' inexperience led Washington into the market. However, one Redskins coach said none of the available players is any better than the safeties Washington already has.
The new staff also feels that Shade, 28, is shoring up his skills in current offseason practices as he prepares for a fourth straight season as a Redskins starter. A hard hitter who is solid in run support, Shade led Washington in tackles in 1999 and 2000 and ranked third last season. This staff believes his coverage skills are adequate and improving.
"Anybody has certain limitations on certain things," defensive backs coach George Catavolos said. "I think Sam has worked hard on his weaknesses and showed improvement. He's very smart, athletic. He plays hard. He's doing very well. You can see the improvement in each practice. He's very dedicated to the game."
Terrell, 26, made great strides in 2001 in his first year as a starter. He struggled early but consistently impressed former coach Marty Schottenheimer with his athleticism and potential. Now, coaches aren't deterred by his limited playing time.
"I don't really feel his inexperience during the camps that we've had," Catavolos said. "He's back there making all the checks. He's very knowledgeable, and he understands the leverage of the defense. He does a good job."
At 6-foot-1, 187 pounds, Terrell plays free safety while Shade (6-foot, 205 pounds) works at strong safety. But defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis downplays the difference, trying to make the tandem interchangeable and more able to surprise opponents.
"[In this defense,] you might see a corner doing what a safety does on one coverage, or a safety doing what a corner might do," Shade said. "The way the game plays out nowadays, the free safety has to be able to do some of the things the strong safety does, and the strong safety, like myself, you have to be able to play the deep middle of the field sometimes."
Ohalete and Lott are getting a chance to show they can do those things, too. Lewis made clear that all four safeties are competing for starting time.
"It's the same as any other position," Lewis said. "We want to put the best 11 guys on the field each down that gives us a chance to win that down."
Notes Tackle Chris Samuels sat out practice with a twisted ankle. Eleven rookies joined practice, bringing the total participating so far to 12. Among those on hand were draft picks Lott and tackle Reggie Coleman. First-round pick Patrick Ramsey is expected next week.
Cornerback Darrell Green will receive an honorary degree from George Washington University in public service tomorrow. About half the Redskins coaching staff will participate in a coaching clinic being given by the Baltimore Ravens today. Lewis, who spent the past six years with the Ravens, will not be among the Redskins coaches there.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide