One of the major changes in the Redskins defense this season will be at the safety position, where players no longer will fall into the traditional roles of “free” or “strong” safety.
Instead, they will be expected to perform at both positions and likely will rotate between the two from play to play, even as the opposing team motions in and out of different formations. The hope is to counter with enough pre-snap movement and disguise that the offense is not sure which defense it is seeing, and prevent pre-snap reads on where to go with the ball.
While much of the attention has been on LaRon Landry and the prospects of moving him closer to the line of scrimmage, every safety on the team said he is excited about the versatility of the position in this defense.
“I think schematically it’s not as hard,” safety Chris Horton said. “You don’t have to play so many coverages, but now it’s all about the disguise. It’s all about what kind of look you’re giving the offense to make them play kind of into your hands.
“As far as playing the defense, I like it.” he added. “It’s not hard. it’s a lot of information to learn, but you can pick that up over these next couple months.”
Horton said he is nearly recovered from toe surgery that has limited him this offseason, and will spend much of the break working on getting back up to speed.
“I’ve been off for a while, so I got a lot of stuff to catch up on, technique stuff,” he said. “It’s like trying to start up that old car again that hasn’t been used for a while. So I got some work to do and those are going to be my plans over the next month.”
Landry, meanwhile, continues to voice his excitement about playing closer to the line of scrimmage this season. The 2007 first round pick has bulked up this and said he was excited about playing for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, whom he watched as head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Landry would give few details about his role or how much he might be involved in blitz packages and a more aggressive scheme.
“Can’t wait,” he said. “That’s all I’m telling you.”
On the Washington Redskins’ two biggest defensive plays, safety Chris Horton found himself right in the middle of the action. He made great reads and executed great plays.
On the team’s worst defensive play, though, Horton was right there, too, watching as Rams running back Steven Jackson scampered deep into Redskins territory.
“His game’s improved, but I wish he had a great read on that 58-yard run, too,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “That’s his gap. That was on him.”
Such is life for the second-year safety — as capable of making a game-changing play that helps his team as he is of one that hurts. In Sunday’s 9-7 win over the Rams, though, the good outweighed the bad.
With the Redskins protecting a narrow lead with 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Horton single-handedly halted the Rams’ drive, forcing a St. Louis fumble with the Rams just five yards from the end zone.
The Redskins’ safeties had noticed similar plays on tape. The tight end leans one way. The quarterback’s eyes go straight to the outside wide receiver. That wideout runs a hair inside.
Horton said he read the play instantly when it began to unfold two minutes into the final quarter. St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger hit his top wide receiver, Donnie Avery. Cornerback Carlos Rogers was a foot behind and off balance, so he wasn’t in position to make the play. But he didn’t need to. Horton jumped, hitting Avery squarely and forcing the ball loose. Rogers was nearby to recover the fumble for the Redskins, halting the Rams’ drive and giving Washington possession.
“I was just running to the ball and thinking to myself, ‘Get this guy down,’ ” Horton said. ” ‘Make them kick a field goal. We don’t want to give up seven points.’ “
“I guess it was the way I hit him,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to force a fumble. But I forced it. It was just me running to the ball. Whenever I run to the ball, something good always happens for me.”
Watching from the sideline, fellow safety Reed Doughty saw the play unfold and knew something big was about to happen.
“Any time you’ve got a player running inside-out on the ball and you’re running hard, you have a chance to make a big play,” Doughty said. “I think all of us safeties like to headhunt and like to hit. He weighs 220 pounds, so when he hits, you’re going to feel it.”
As they prepared to return to St. Louis, the Rams were still smarting from the effects of the play. The Redskins took possession and St. Louis didn’t get even a whiff of the red zone after that.
“DB made a good play on the ball. I know better than that,” Avery said. “Should have had it high and tight. It’s all on me. I lost it for the team.”
Horton stood out on a defense that held St. Louis to 243 yards of offense and a single touchdown. Washington was No. 4 in the league a season ago in yardage allowed, but entered this season determined to make more big plays — the exact sort that Horton came up with down by the goal line on Sunday. It was the game’s lone turnover, but it also might have been the difference between a win and a loss for the Redskins.
The offense is eventually “going to score points,” Horton said. “It’s just one of those things where as a defense, we don’t want to allow people to score points. If we can win every game, hey, we’re going to try to win every game, regardless of what our offense does.”
On their final possession, the Rams were trapped inside their 10-yard line. Bulger threw three straight incompletions and had no choice but to try to convert fourth and 10 from their 4-yard line. Working out of zone coverage, Horton found Avery again, this time streaking down the sideline. The coverage was tight and Horton stayed between Avery and the ball the whole way. It fell incomplete, the Rams’ final chance at scoring.
“I was just thinking, ‘Whatever you do, don’t let this guy catch the ball,’ ” Horton said. ” ‘Or get a pass interference.’ “
On Sundays, for at least one play, Horton still feels like a rookie. Fortunately for the Redskins’ defense, on most of them he rarely plays like one.
“At the start of the game, I still got my jitters going,” Horton said. “But after that first play, everything slows down.”
A seventh-round draft pick out of UCLA and the surprise of last year’s rookie class, Horton solidified his role in the starting lineup during the preseason and is quickly asserting himself as a potential impact player on a defensive unit that has no shortage of talent. Even as coaches rave that Doughty is playing the best football of his career, Horton is the one who plays the majority of downs.
“Horton came in here with the right attitude,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “That was one of the most pleasant things about him: his attitude. He had a great sense of humbleness. Not all rookies are like that. Guys like Horton, you want them to do well. And they tend to do well because of their attitude.”
Blache says it’s that eagerness and work ethic that will allow Horton to learn from Sunday’s biggest mistake. Starting from the Rams 16-yard line, Jackson emerged from a pile of jerseys, sprinting with the ball. He zipped through Horton and didn’t stop until he was pushed out of bounds at the Redskins 22-yard line.
“He’s a good running back,” Horton said of Jackson. “He’s one of the best in this league. He just pounded me. It was one of those things where, hey, it happens. But I don’t let that one play dictate how I’m going to come out and finish the game.”
Blache said Horton acts like a professional and rarely repeats mistakes.
“Chris is doing a great job,” Blache said. “You can see that Chris is growing up. But I like to say, there’s good and there’s bad each day we go through this.”
ASHBURN, VA. - The projected starting defensive lineup for the Washington Redskins’ season opener includes six players acquired as free agents, all signed to impressive, big-money contracts.
There are also four blue-chip draft picks, three taken in the first round and one in the second. No wonder there’s a lot of confidence in Washington that this could be the best defense in the league.
Then there’s Chris Horton. A seventh-round draft pick in 2008 out of UCLA, with a contract so modest it was worthy of the NFL’s version of pity pay last year — a $342,197 performance bonus because his playing time was so disproportionate to his salary.
A strong safety determined not to be the weak link.
“Last year I was just trying to come in and learn as much as possible as quickly as possible and get on the field in some kind of way,” Horton said. “This year I know the defense, I know everything, and it’s about making plays, do whatever I’ve got to do to make those same plays I made last year.”
Only three players were taken lower than UCLA’s Horton in last year’s draft. The rookie with the plentiful dreadlocks made a good impression with a pair of sacks in the first exhibition game, earned a roster spot, then had one of those out-of-nowhere performances in his first regular-season start. With Reed Doughty out with a stomach virus, Horton started Week 2 vs. New Orleans and snared three turnovers: two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
When Doughty was later lost for the season with a back injury, Horton became the regular starter. He still has the job.
“I don’t think it’s a fluke that he’s our starting strong safety,” Coach Jim Zorn said. “I think he’s a football-savvy guy. He’s not afraid to hit. I think he’s still learning, but he’s so much more comfortable this year, and he’s going to start Game 1 instead moving into that. Drafting a guy that low and have him come in and be a solid player is pretty remarkable.”
Coaches tempered their praise of Horton during his rapid ascent last year, noting that he didn’t have full command of the defense. His takeaways were more opportunistic than anything, and his production tailed off in November.
“He went through a drought; that’s the rookie wall they talk about,” safeties coach Steve Jackson said. “But he’s doing things a little bit different as far as taking care of his body, doing things more mentally opposed to physically.”
Part of the mental work is knowing the playbook. As Horton noted: “I wouldn’t be in the right spot always at the right time” last year.
“It becomes being able to anticipate plays versus reacting to plays,” Jackson said. “Now he’s better at anticipating things because there’s only so many ways you can run the ball, so many different ways you can throw it. When you’ve seen it for 800-and-some plays, it’s not like you’ve seen it eight plays, which was the case last year.”
With a starting job comes the inevitable nickname. A fan suggested that Horton call himself “Predator.” Teammates liked it, and now Horton offers “Predator48″ T-shirts on his Web site.
“I took it and ran with it,” Horton said, “and it became a big hit.”
But nothing about Horton stands out like his hair. He might have the least glamorous resume on the defense, but the lush dreadlocks are the envy of teammates and coaches.
“I love his hair,” said Jackson, removing his cap to reveal a bald head. “They say he has the most luxurious hair on the Washington Redskins.”
Most plays during training camp don’t mean much, but Colt Brennan managed to throw a costly interception Tuesday morning - to the tune of $100.
Brennan, trying to overtake Todd Collins as the Redskins’ backup quarterback, made it through the first 12 days of camp without throwing a single interception, a fact that he mentioned to the Redskins’ defensive backs on a daily basis.
“That was my way of talking trash,” Brennan said. “‘For God’s sake, will you guys pick me?!”
Brennan and cornerback Fred Smoot got to talking and the pair worked out a deal. If Brennan could get through all of training camp interception-free, the defensive backs would give him $20 for each day. But if Brennan threw an interception, he’d have to pull out a crisp Benjamin Franklin to whichever player picked him off.
“I just kept telling them over and over that I want to get that monkey off my back before we went to Baltimore,” said Brennan, noting that he’d rather throw his first interception in practice rather than a preseason game.
On Tuesday, the team was going 9-on-9 when Brennan faced a rush and scrambled outside. He lost track of coverage and threw the ball about 10 yards downfield. That’s where Chris Horton stepped in front of the pass, catching the ball mid-stride and making Brennan’s wallet a little bit lighter.
“It actually put a smile on my face,” Brennan said later. “Part of being a quarterback is making mistakes and bouncing back. I’ve taken a lot of chances out here. I’ve had a good little camp, but I hadn’t throw a pick yet.
“So now, in the end, I guess Chris Horton and the defense get a nice little afternoon lunchbreak on me.”
Washington Redskins safety Chris Horton is ready to hunt. Last year’s seventh-round sensation became an instant cult figure with three turnovers in his first start. A blogger hung the nickname on Horton and it has more than stuck. He now sells merchandise on predator48.com.
“People yell, ‘Hey, Predator, Predator,’” Horton said. “It’s fun. I enjoy making people happy. All [the movie character] did was hunt and that’s how I play football. I’m just looking to hunt.”
There’s some truth to the moniker. Horton has a swagger — a quiet demeanor in dreadlocks daring to be tested. Horton is an equal member of a secondary that stars DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry, but doesn’t drop off with Horton.
Horton has always been a ballhawk with a penchant for being in the right place. His two interceptions and fumble recovery against New Orleans helped him earn both NFC Defensive Player of the Week and Defensive Rookie of the Month honors. He led the team with three interceptions overall.
A franchise known for weak drafts, especially in the late rounds, found the most productive rookie last season with its final selection. Horton was also the lowest drafted player to make the Pro Football Weekly All-Pro Team.
Ironically, Horton was never truly comfortable in the scheme. Good things just came to him.
“Last year I was all over the place,” he said. “Sometimes I was in the right place, sometimes I wasn’t.
“This year I know the defense so let’s find a way to make plays. I’m definitely not thinking a lot when I’m out there. I’ve slowed the game down and now it’s just making sure I’m always in the right spot.”
It would easy for Horton to get a big head. He wouldn’t be the first young player to believe the hype. But Horton merely needs to remember he was drafted 249th overall last year. Former starter Reed Doughty also is having a good training camp after losing his job to Horton because of back problems that required surgery.
“I’m not going to let down,” Horton said. “It’s a good start. Now I just have to better my craft. I have a lot more to do and show.”
Meanwhile, the Predator is stalking. Horton doesn’t enter the field in character, but the Alien better not cross him should the two villains make another movie.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Safeties coach Steve Jackson considers the Washington Redskins defensive backs to be ardent students of the game, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that during their spare time, some players have started studying film of the New York Giants, their Week 1 opponent.
“It’s what I love about these guys. When the season — it’s over — they don’t just shut it off. It’s part of them,” Jackson said. “They would like nothing more than to put that Riddell on every day of the year, all day long. Walk around, drive their car to and from work, do it all with that helmet on.”
But what has Jackson and other coaches especially excited is the development of their soft-spoken second-year strong safety. The continuing education of Chris Horton, though, calls for a new classroom this training camp.
As a seventh-round draft pick in 2008 — only three players out of 252 draft picks were selected lower — Horton entered camp a year ago relatively unnoticed. During his unexpectedly productive rookie season, Horton was a bookworm. During team meetings, he’d scribble notes, then go back to his room and stay up late studying everything.
“We’d meet on certain defenses, and I’d have three pages of notes on one defense,” Horton said. “Coach would walk by and say: ‘Man, you need to stop writing that whole time. You wrote way too much. If you take all that to the field, the game will move too fast.’ ”
In Year 2 with increased expectations, he’s still taking note of the details, but he’s doing more of his learning on the practice field than in the meeting room.
It’s an important change for the Redskins, who are counting on Horton and the secondary to contribute more high-impact, game-changing plays this season. As strong as the defensive unit seemed at times — only six teams allowed fewer passing yards — it tallied only 18 takeaways. Only two teams in the league had fewer.
Addressing this shortcoming will be a major goal for the new season, and a player such as Horton, who often finds himself near the ball, has been preparing all offseason so when he’s on the field, his reactions are more instinctual.
“I used to be all over the place. I’d just be running around like I had no clue. I knew what I was doing, but I wasn’t really slowing the game down. I was thinking too much,” said Horton, who led the Redskins last year with three interceptions. “Now I go to meeting rooms, try to focus on a couple of points and stick with that. So when you get out there, you can see the game better. I can see it all happening now and just kind of know what to do.”
Aiding Horton in that preparation is the same man who helped prepare him for the starting lineup last season — Reed Doughty, the man whose job Horton took in Week 2 last year. Doughty went down with the flu, and Horton came up with the starting job.
A year later, when it comes to football, the two are perfect study partners. They talk technique, formations and coverages year-round.
“We have very similar personalities,” Doughty said. “We’re very meticulous, we’re very analytical, we want to know how the defense works — not just what our job is. So we have the same mind-set, and we get along great.”
So in the weeks and months before their Nov. 15 game against the Broncos, Horton thought they also should study some film of the New England Patriots, where Josh McDaniels formerly coached.
“From the day he got here, you could tell he wanted to do everything right,” Doughty said. “He was never just trying to get by.”
A year ago, Horton had no choice but to outwork others. As a seventh-round pick, nearly an afterthought in the draft, no one knew whether he’d even earn a roster spot. Before long, though, he proved to be the only one of the team’s 10-player draft class to contribute significantly.
While Horton’s enthusiasm raised eyebrows when he arrived as an unheralded safety out of UCLA, coaches are even more impressed this year, after he spent the offseason watching film, studying coverages and picking his coach’s brain on how he could improve.
Though Horton’s role in the defense and in the locker room won’t significantly change this season, coaches do anticipate a slow shifting of responsibilities in the near future.
“He’s what I’d consider a football-savvy guy,” Coach Jim Zorn said. “He really likes to play, he understands the concepts. The guys around him notice that, and I suspect that at some point soon, things will flip, and he’ll be one of the real leaders on this team. So I have real high expectations of him, as I know he does of himself.”
Horton said he’s brought the same work ethic and enthusiasm into camp this year. The main difference is that everyone actually knows his name this time around, and he has a solid foundation on which to build. As a rookie, everything was new, from the routines to the drills to the plays.
“I don’t have to spend near as much time trying to learn the playbook,” he said. “Before it was like, ‘Oh, I got to know everything about every defense.’ I know all of that. I’ve been here a year. Now it’s just learning more of the offensive stuff.”
The more he understands what offenses will be throwing at him, the better Horton can position himself on the field. The differences can be subtle, but anticipation is key to his position.
Doughty remembers back to Horton’s first game in an NFL jersey, last year’s preseason opener against Indianapolis. Buried on the depth chart, Horton registered a pair of sacks, and suddenly fans and league observers took notice.
“But he was unblocked,” Doughty said, “so that might’ve impressed the media, but that didn’t impress me as much. What impresses me is when he reads the coverage and puts himself in the right place. Maybe he doesn’t even make the tackle, but he puts himself in the right position. I think he’s able to do that much better now that he’s got a few games under his belt.”
Jackson is not worried about Horton’s preparedness, his understanding of the games or even his quarterback reads. When the season starts — and especially as it progresses — Jackson said he wants to see a more consistent Horton than a year ago.
“Last year he kind of faded as the season went on, like most rookies do,” Jackson said. “We needed him to be stronger, to finish the season off the way he started this year.”
Though Doughty has looked impressive early in camp, Horton is expected to enter the season as the starting strong safety, the team’s third since Sean Taylor’s death from a gunshot wound in November 2007. Horton said he feels pressure entering a second year, but it’s surpassed by his own motivation to improve on last season.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Horton said. “I was named the starter, but you got to come out here and always play every day like your back is against the wall, like you’re always striving for something. That’s the only way I know how to play.”
Safety Chris Horton was the standout of the Redskins’ 10-member 2008 draft class. While most in the group were ineffective as rookies, Horton, the team’s final selection of that draft, quickly emerged as an effective member of the secondary
Now, no longer a rookie, Horton has worked hard to improve for the upcoming season, he said, concentrating on his technique. After a surprising start in the NFL, Horton wants to do more for the Redskins, who today will conduct their final organized team activity of this month at Redskins Park.
“It’s just a little bit more pressure,” Horton said. “I feel I got a fair opportunity to go out there and try to do a lot of stuff, and I’m just going to continue to work hard. I know a little bit more than I knew last year. On the field is easy. That’s the easy part. It’s what you do off the field in the classroom.”
Horton performed well on the field shortly after arriving at the complex as a rookie, coaches said. A seventh-round pick (No. 249 overall) from UCLA, Horton retained instruction well during organized team activities, safeties coach Steve Jackson said last season.
With starting strong safety Reed Doughty sidelined because of flulike symptoms in Week 2, Horton intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints at FedEx Field. Horton permanently replaced Doughty (he played in only four games and finished the season on injured reserve because of a nerve problem in his back that required surgery) as a starter during a Week 4 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
Horton finished third on the team in tackles, according to the Redskins’ statistics, with 76, including 57 unassisted, and led the Redskins with three interceptions. Horton’s fast start last season improved his standing on the team, “but I always feel I’m going to have to prove myself everyday. I’m just that kind of guy.
“Once you start letting yourself get too comfortable, your game starts to slip a little. At the same time, coming in and making those plays early, it kind of gave me confidence and really reassured myself that, ‘Hey, this is easy. This really is what I’ve been doing for a long time. There’s no difference.’”
Horton is guaranteed nothing. He is expected to compete with Doughty, who appears to have recovered well from surgery, for a first-string assignment. “We’re out here making each other work,” said Horton, the NFC defensive rookie of the month for September. “We’re not going to let each other shortchange one another. It’s just one of those things. We’ve got a lot of respect for each other. It’s just a group of guys out there fighting.
“We all know only two guys could start at the safety spot. We’re just out there trying to make each other better. We help each other. It’s not like on some teams. I’ve heard guys, on other teams, they won’t even help each other. All of us out there, man, we’re just like, ‘If this is what you need help on, we’ll help you out.’ It’s that comfort level, too. You’ve got to feel like, ‘I tell this guy everything I know because it’s going to bring more competition. It’s just going to make each other better.’”
Only when the Denver Broncos used the 220th pick in last year’s draft on a safety did Chris Horton really start to worry.
Before Arizona State’s Josh Barrett was selected, Horton remained convinced his name would appear at the bottom of the television, finally allowing him to exhale and then start preparing to make an NFL roster.
But then Barrett’s name appeared. Only 31 picks remained.
“I actually know Josh, and I would have taken a chance on a guy like that, but what some of the other teams were doing, I was asking myself, ‘How? What more could I have done in college to be drafted a little higher?’ ” Horton said. “All I wanted to see was my name go across the screen.”
Finally, with the 249th pick, Horton got the call. The Washington Redskins, who had drafted a safety earlier in the day, were his new team.
The phone call moments earlier from the Buffalo Bills asking whether he wanted to sign as an undrafted free agent and then covert to linebacker became a memory, as did queries from the Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants.
Horton was a Redskins safety… and developed into the best seventh-round pick of 2008.
It was yet another example of how teams - thanks to private knowledge and a little bit of luck - can find gold in the seventh round.
Because of compensatory picks awarded for losing free agents, last year’s seventh round consisted of 45 picks. Twenty-four players appeared in at least one game, but only three - Horton (10), Indianapolis guard Jamey Richard (seven) and St. Louis linebacker David Vobora (one) - started a game. Horton finished with 76 tackles.
“I told Chris what I tell all my guys - all you want is a helmet,” said DeWayne Walker, a former Redskins assistant who was Horton’s defensive coordinator at UCLA. “It’s all about the opportunity - as a draft pick or as a free agent - and he took advantage.”
Pac-10, not SEC
Just as he would defy expectations by quickly working his way from seventh-round pick to NFL starter, Horton made the unconventional decision to head west after graduating from De La Salle High School.
“I could have gone to some school in the SEC where they pound the ball all day and had 300 or 400 tackles,” he said. “But I figured, why not go to UCLA? I knew I could tackle. It’s what I do. But I wanted to enhance my game and learn how to cover.”
The Pac-10 is a pass-first conference, and Horton was able to round out his game.
“It helped him tremendously,” said Walker, the new coach at New Mexico State. “The run game was never his problem. The Pac-10 is similar to the NFL in terms of the pro-style offense, so we really tried to help Chris in the passing game.”
Horton made 238 tackles in 41 college games, including a 90-tackle senior year that earned him all-conference recognition. He was invited to the scouting combine and ran a 4.51-second 40-yard dash.
Although he wasn’t invited to any individual workouts by teams, he was confident of being drafted - but not early because he figured teams would gloss over how he wasn’t the flashiest player on the field. But he was one of the most productive ones.
“A lot of people said I couldn’t run fast and I had tight hips and things like that,” Horton said. “If I was a model, then you could judge on those kinds of things. But I’m a football player. When you turn on the film and look at me, you see a productive player in a conference where they throw the ball.”
Horton spent draft weekend at his mother’s house in New Orleans. Like most players, he vowed not to watch the draft. Of course, he couldn’t take his eyes off the screen.
Watching with him during various points of the weekend were his brother, an aunt and several cousins. Saturday was low-stress because Horton knew he wouldn’t go in the first two rounds. The family feasted on turkey wings, corn bread, gumbo and baked macaroni and cheese.
In the picks leading up to No. 249, Horton was on the phone with a Buffalo coach. The linebacker idea didn’t appeal to him. On the other line was a call from the 703 area code (Northern Virginia).
“I thought it was going to be another free agent call,” he said.
Redskins safeties coach Steve Jackson wasn’t surprised Horton was still on the board come the final round.
“Most people are looking for production - he should have this many interceptions, this many tackles, he should do this, he should do that,” Jackson said. “A lot of times, playing safety is really boring, but you need a guy who, when he gets the action, isn’t wrong. A linebacker can miss a tackle, and the safety is there. A safety can’t miss.”
The Redskins also drafted safety Kareem Moore, but knowledge of how Horton played on the field would help them select an instant playmaker.
Horton materialized as part of the Redskins’ plans because of his connection to Walker.
A Redskins assistant from 2004 to 2005, Walker used a system at UCLA that had several similarities to the Redskins’, and he thought Horton would be a good fit. When asked, he gave high reviews of Horton to the front office and scouting staff. Jackson also spoke with former UCLA running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who recruited Horton out of New Orleans.
“DeWayne’s insight was the system and the technical stuff and how he picked things up,” Jackson said. “Eric gave insight because he knew Chris when he was in high school and what he was like as a person.”
Said Walker: “Once he got used to the speed of the game, he felt he knew what he would be doing.”
Especially when the Redskins draft in the seventh round Sunday, just that morsel of information could decide whom they select.
“If he plays for a guy I trust, I’ll introduce him, and even though you see things you may not particularly like, you give him the benefit of the doubt based on the recommendation,” Jackson said.
Late in the draft, the Redskins’ philosophy is to take a player that Jackson said “has at least one redeeming quality. … He has to have something, and then you work on the other things.”
Horton’s qualities were his coverage ability and competitiveness. His study habits made an immediate impression.
“As soon as Chris got here and we started meeting, the guys have notebooks but his would be filled - not just two, three lines,” Jackson said. “He would have a full page of notes and then questions. When he got here, he would do ugly things, but the next thing I knew, he would be taking an interception the other way.”
Horton wound up with a team-high three interceptions. Now a player with starting experience, Horton said second-day prospects shouldn’t watch the draft. Once they do get picked, he said they should forget about when they got selected.
“I was bummed that I went No. 249, but I was happy because I’ll always be remembered as a seventh-round pick that made a team and played,” he said. “You can’t worry about where you’re picked because there’s no pressure. If you come out every day and go to work, the coaches will notice.”
Good day to all of you out there fighting to keep hope alive. Time to dust off the ol’ series that serves up the tastiest Kool-Aid in town. Time to dig deep for reasons why our beloved Redskins remain in the hunt for a Super Bowl sooner rather than later. Time to break out the italics, because the latest chapter in the Boldly Hoping saga continues now.
I have been dreading this look at our secondary. Like many of you out there, spending more than 2 seconds thinking about the state of our defensive backfield is impossible without re-visiting the tragic death of Sean Taylor. Laron Landry and Sean Taylor were a wet dream standing back there. There is no need for me to further spell out the destruction they would have brought to this league, as we all dwell on it still. Let’s move that to the side for the moment and look at who is there now.
I am continually surprised when I find myself in an actual debate about the skills and impact of Laron Landry on our defense. People whose opinions I don’t easily dismiss argue he just isn’t a force and doesn’t make enough plays to be considered an elite player.Â They argue that he doesn’t seem to be around the ball the way Taylor always was and that he doesn’t change the game the way Taylor always did from a turnovers perspective. I get names thrown at me…Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, etc. To be frank, they have a point. But this debate is not one-sided. First thing first–the Reeds, Polamalus, and Sean Taylors of the world are beyond elite. They are otherworldlyÂ and their greatness is exceeded only by their scarcity. The point being that there are players in this league that are great players that aren’t on the same level as Ed Reed (for example.) So I am unprepared to judge Laron Landry by that standard today. It is easy to look great next to Sean Taylor, and then become invisible when it takes a 7th round draft choice playing beyond expectations to lock up the spot beside him. For the sake of registering an opinion, I do think Laron is a special player, capable of taking over games in the defensive backfield. He has the speed to impact the deep passing game, and the power to impact the running game (can we not talk about the Brandon Jacobs train that ran him over last season?) Most importantly, it seems to me that he has the mean streak in him necessary to want to be a physical, nasty presence back there. I believe he was making a large impact last season by taking away a side of the field for example against teams trying to flood intermediate and short zones. At FedEx, I watched him beforeÂ most plays and witnessed how he played mind games with the opposing quarterbacks, starting up and moving back, or starting on one side and sliding over, or up. I do think his presence was the determining factor in a few games last season, and what at times seemed like his disappearance was nothing more than the offense going away from him. However, to make the leap to elite status he has to turn up the heat in the turnover department. He was tied for 5th among defensive backs last season in forced fumbles. But his INT total–2–is not where we need it to be. In the opener last season, Eli threw one right through his arms. That play (that kind of play) simply has to be made. Ed Reed does not drop that ball…EVER. And the exciting thing about Landry is that with the ball in his hands, he is as explosive of an athlete as there is on the field. He has to put himself in that position more. Because even with relatively young, talented corners on the field for us next year, it will be Landry that will have to dictate to opposing offenses what is there and what isn’t. While you may argue the point, you can’t argue that some bold hoping is starting to take place here!
Speaking of our corners, let’s get past whether DeAngelo Hall is overpaid or not. It doesn’t matter. He’s 25, a starting talentÂ for most teams (including ours), and he is a Redskins fan. That is enough for me to trot out some serious hope. Hall and Carlos Rogers theoretically represent one of the better CB tandems in the league. Rogers turned the corner last year and despite showing a few signs of ego/attitude at the end of last year when it came to playing time and his contract, he remains someone we will have to count on to lock down the bigger, physical receivers in this league. It is my hope that the Redskins lock this player up long-term in the course of this season. Cornerbacks with the ability to cover man-to-man are a valuable commodity in this league, and especially in a year when there does not appear to be much in the way of top-tier talent coming out of the draft, securing the position is imperative.
And don’t think I have forgotten about Captain Steubing. Smoot is a fan favorite, and as a 3rd corner, is a luxury that a lot of teams don’t have. He is no up-and-comer that is trying to work his way into the top two. He is an established veteran used to being a starter. If our top two corners do their jobs, it will be Smoot that gets thrown at most, and that is something that should favor the Redskins. He has proven he is able to catch the ball and he has exhibited the kind of toughness and mental resolve that you wish every player had. Plus he is an absolute riot jawing with opposing players, fans, his own teammates, refs, himself, etc.
Finally, back to where we started–safety. IS Chris Horton for real? For aÂ front officeÂ that stupidly prides itself on paying whatever it takes to land splashy, big-name players, Horton was an absolute breath of fresh air. A 7th rounder that gets named NFC Defensive Player of the Week in week 2? It took him a while to be in the right place on the majority of plays, but his ability to be in the right place when turnovers were at stake (especially early in the season) is something that some players just have. Personally, it gives me great pleasure to see a guy play his way into our starting lineup that wasn’t the focus of some huge off-season saga. Really harkens back to the days where homegrown talent was the rule, not the exception. Year two will hopefully be the pudding that bears the proof that he belongs on the field now and for a long time to come.
The Redskins were #4 in team defense last season. Turnovers, sacks, “big plays”…all still largely elude this unit and ultimately tell the tale of why they are not perceived by many to be a truly great defense. The addition of Haynesworth should help the secondary as much as anyone else on this defense if he does in fact increase the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Another pass-rushing LB would do the same thing. As we sit right now though, our defensive secondary is as sound as we could hope for, and has the juice to rank as one of the best in 2009. You asked for it and you got it…Boldly Hoping where no hope has helped before.
WASHINGTON (AP) â€” NFL players are coming to Capitol Hill to tackle an important issue â€” physical education in schools.
The football players are getting behind legislation that is intended to improve phys ed. They are set to appear at a news conference Thursday in support of the FIT Kids Act and also plan to lead youngsters in fitness activities at the Capitol.
The bill would require schools, districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, and to provide health and nutritional information to kids.
Some of the players expected to attend are DeAngelo Hall, Chris Horton and Fred Smoot of the Washington Redskins and Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens.