Back in August when the Washington Redskins’ season still held promise, defensive coordinator Greg Blache forecast a breakout year for free safety LaRon Landry.
Safeties coach Steve Jackson went even further, saying he would take Landry over Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh’s perennial Pro Bowl safety, “any day.”
“It’s not even close, in my humble opinion,” Jackson said.
Jackson got that part right: Polamalu clearly has outstripped Landry on the field this season. Landry has defensed just one pass and intercepted none in eight games; Polamalu has defensed seven passes and intercepted three in just four games.
“It’s not the season that I was looking for,” Landry said Thursday. “I came into the season with high expectations. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. We’re 2-6, and we’re at the point of the season where we just need a win. All those goals and aspirations I had are more like, let’s just win a ballgame. The big plays I was looking for, Pro Bowl… realistically, probably that won’t happen.”
Landry appears to be miscast as an Ed Reed-type ballhawk. Secondary coach Jerry Gray said Landry is “more like a [strongside] linebacker where you really don’t hear about him unless [opponents] get outside on the edge.”
Landry was drafted sixth in 2007 to play strong safety next to Pro Bowl free safety Sean Taylor. But he moved to free safety last season in the wake of Taylor’s death.
The move hasn’t really worked. Landry intercepted 12 passes while shifting between the safety spots at LSU, but he has picked off only two in 40 regular-season games for the Redskins.
Unfortunately for Landry, strong safeties Chris Horton and Reed Doughty play better against the run than in downfield coverage. Horton started five games at strong safety but is done for the year after toe surgery. Doughty now starts in his place.
Jackson and Gray said Landry belongs at free safety for the Redskins, one of three teams whose safeties don’t have an interception. (The others are Carolina and Kansas City.)
“He is our best free, a guy that can go from sideline to sideline,” Gray said. “He just happens to be our best strong, too. We’ve got to put him in what’s good for us, and right now it’s free safety.”
“For me to make plays, to get interceptions, I would really be out of position,” he said.
Landry said he’s still comfortable at either safety spot.
“That whole big controversy - I don’t know where it started,” he said. “I played free and strong [in college]. I play whatever package is called. Sometimes I be at strong; sometimes I be at free. It’s really not a big deal.”
Although he tackled poorly last week at Atlanta - his gaffe allowed Michael Turner to tear off a 58-yard, game-sealing touchdown run - Landry remains a hitter.
Just ask Matt Ryan. Landry nailed the Falcons quarterback out of bounds, sparking a scuffle on the Atlanta sideline for which he was fined $5,000 by the NFL. Neither the late hit nor the fine was a first for Landry.
“If I see the opportunity to make a phenomenal hit and knock somebody out, I’m going to go for the knockout shot,” he said. “That’s been a knock on me, too.”