- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2016

ASHBURN — Dashon Goldson likes to think he knew Quinton Dunbar before he was “Dunny.”

Quinton Dunbar is the identity of the fresh-faced wide receiver the Washington Redskins signed as an undrafted free agent, whose only chance at making the team stemmed from an unconventional switch to cornerback. “Dunny” is the identity of the rookie cornerback who gained notoriety after he intercepted Eli Manning in the end zone to help preserve a 20-14 win against the New York Giants — a moment that cemented his transition to the Redskins‘ defense.

During the grueling days of training camp, when Dunbar embarked on that transition as a rather unknown player, Goldson constantly picked his brain. The nine-year veteran free safety was fascinated by the switch, but more importantly, wanted to make sure Dunbar felt comfortable in the Redskins‘ secondary, because that’s what he felt great leaders should do.

“I talk to guys — I understand what it’s like to be an outsider,” Goldson said. “I [talk] with the rookies, no matter who you are, I’ll pull you to the side and talk to you about football. I’ve been a part of teams where guys were put in that position as a leader based on how much money they make or what kind of name they had. Not the guys that really led. Like guys, you don’t know them, they can pass through and a vet wouldn’t even know who the rookie is that’s practicing or who was playing. It don’t got to be like that. Know your teammates.”

Whether he’s helping a rookie such as Dunbar, or a 12-year veteran such as DeAngelo Hall navigate the transition from cornerback to safety, Goldson has had a sprawling reach as a leader in the Redskins‘ locker room. It’s how he has helped unite a secondary that has been ravished by injuries, one that’s used 13 different players since the start of the season.

Goldson will be leaned on heavily again this week as the Redskins‘ secondary attempts to overcome another injury — this one to rookie nickelback and free safety Kyshoen Jarrett — in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.

SEE ALSO: Packers hope playoff know-how, positivity push them past woeful finish

The Redskins signed veteran cornerback Cary Williams on Tuesday, and he could be pressed into significant playing time despite having just five days to prepare.

“Every guy that came through that group, [Goldson] can coach them, he can tell them our scheme, he can bring them on real quick and have them learn what to do, what not to do,” defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said. “To be able to do that and be able to his job at 100 percent, those are guys you’ve got to keep around for a long time.”

As soon as Goldson was acquired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his impact was immediate. There was no need for an acclimation period, no time required to adjust to the variety of personalities in a new locker room. Goldson’s resume spoke for itself. He, along with Jean Francois, had played a key role on the San Francisco 49ers’ defense when the team made it to the NFC championship in 2011 and Super Bowl in 2012.

For the Redskins, a team that was desperate to improve after winning seven games in two seasons, that experience was invaluable. Goldson was named the defensive captain before the regular season began. Hall, who had been the defensive captain last season and the incumbent veteran of the Redskins‘ secondary, had no qualms about relinquishing that role.

“He’s been in every situation,” Hall said. “He’s played in more playoff games than I’ve had. He’s been in the Super Bowl. It’s those things a lot of us don’t have on our resume, so we pull information and knowledge from him. He’s done a great job teaching me some things at safety. When he came in, it wasn’t a personality conflict between me and him. I didn’t mind taking a back seat.”

Goldson’s reach is not limited to the defensive side of the ball. It was hardly a surprise when he called a players-only meeting before the Redskins‘ win over the Giants. That meeting was a chance for players to get anything off their chests, but also when Goldson challenged the Redskins to step up their effort and believe in themselves.

Before Wednesday’s practice, Goldson pulled the team together in a huddle like he’s done so many times this year. As the Redskins ready for their first playoff game in three seasons, there is no question everybody was listening.

Dashon Goldson has been a great leader for us all season long,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “You can tell he’s been a part of teams that have won and won consistently. He’s been a great personality in our locker room to help from that standpoint, and he’s been a great leader for us.”

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