- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Turns out the Washington Redskins weren’t bluffing after all about taking the best player available. After toying with trading up and trading down, the Redskins ignored their troublesome defensive line, stayed put at No. 6 and chose LSU safety LaRon Landry in the first round of yesterday’s NFL draft.

“With this pick you need to pick someone that we feel like will play for a long time and have a chance to do some outstanding things,” said coach Joe Gibbs, who had attended the four-time All-SEC selection’s on-campus workout along with team owner Daniel Snyder and several Redskins coaches and scouts. “You’re talking about someone who takes a big portion of our salary cap.”

Landry, 22, is the third defensive back that Washington has taken with a top 10 choice in the four years since Gibbs returned in 2004, following safety Sean Taylor (fifth pick, 2004) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (ninth, 2005). With Pierson Prioleau — who has played for assistant head coach Gregg Williams in Buffalo and Washington — on hand, Landry might well follow Taylor and Rogers in not starting from Day One, but could be in the lineup soon.

“There are definite similarities with Sean,” Gibbs added. “They can both really run. They can cover a lot of field. They’re both ballhawks. They’re big and really good tacklers. LaRon’s very aggressive. When he makes up his mind to go, there’s not a lot of hesitation. He’s gone. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with Sean.”

Landry said he and the talented but volatile Taylor will be “the best safety combination ever. … Sean reminds me a lot of my idol [Hall of Fame safety] Ronnie Lott, a very physical hitter.”

Landry’s brother Dawan started at safety for AFC North champion Baltimore last year as a fifth-round choice . Gibbs said the Ravens’ coaches raved about Dawan and said they would “be surprised if the apple fell very far from the tree.”

Landry — who said Dawan has told him that mind-set, studying the game and intensity can trump physical ability in the NFL — was excited about winding up in such close proximity to his older brother.

“My agent [Joel Segal] and I went over a mock draft with the greatest things that could happen and the worst things that could happen,” Landry said. “This was one of the best ones. My brother and I will spend a lot of time together.”

Despite defensive linemen Amobi Okoye of Louisville and Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas still on the board, the Redskins — as vice president for player personnel Vinny Cerrato promised on Tuesday — went for the highest-rated player on their board rather than filling their biggest needs.

“[Defensive line coach] Greg Blache feels good about [the line],” said Gibbs, citing the expected improvement of 2006 rookie tackles Kedric Golston and Anthony Montgomery and left end Phillip Daniels, who is recovering from offseason surgeries on both ankles and a wrist. “There wasn’t pressure for us to do something there.”

But the Redskins’ line combined for just 13 sacks last season as the defense plunged from ninth in 2005 to 31st last year. While Washington signed middle linebacker London Fletcher, and added Landry and veterans Fred Smoot, David Macklin and Omar Stoutmire to the secondary — a unit that allowed 20 passes of at least 20 yards last season — the Redskins still have yet to enhance their line. According to Gibbs, a trade down in the first round that would have landed a lineman along with extra picks never came close to happening.

“We had charts, lists, scenarios, all the things that could happen,” said Gibbs, who didn’t have another choice until today’s fifth round thanks to 2006 trades for linebacker Rocky McIntosh, running back T.J. Duckett and receiver Brandon Lloyd. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on, a few phone calls. But everybody was pretty happy staying pat. It’s very hard to get something done. [A possible trade for unhappy Chicago Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs] kind of died off.”

Indeed, there were no trades among the top 13 picks.

“Tomorrow will be very important for us,” Gibbs said of rounds five through seven during which Washington has four choices. “We’ve spent a lot of time on it. We’re hoping we can get some players later in the draft who have a real good chance of making our club.”

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