Red­skins Se­lect Landry At No. 6

Safety’s Ar­rival A Bit Un­ex­pected

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Ja­son La Can­fora

Af­ter ex­plor­ing trade op­tions for their sixth-over­all pick in the NFL draft, the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins se­lected safety LaRon Landry with their first-round pick yes­ter­day. Landry, 22, was the high­est-rated de­fen­sive player on their draft board, ac­cord­ing to sources, and will be called on to help im­prove a strug­gling sec­ondary.

The Red­skins at­tempted to ac­quire Chicago line­backer Lance Briggs, and spoke to a few teams about their top pick in the min­utes be­fore se­lect­ing Landry, but there was min­i­mal in­ter­est from other clubs to move up, league sources said, even with two top of­fen­sive play­ers still avail­able. There was sig­nif­i­cant sup­port within the or­ga­ni­za­tion to push for a trade down, as the Red­skins did not have a pick in the sec­ond, third or fourth rounds, but no match could be found.

Team of­fi­cials en­tered yes­ter­day morn­ing fully ex­pect­ing they would have to use the sixth pick them­selves, and af­ter some early de­bate con­cern­ing Landry and Louisville de­fen­sive tackle Amobi Okoye, the Red­skins set­tled on Landry, who had an im­pres­sive work­out for team of­fi­cials at Louisiana State a few weeks ago. Landry is the third de­fen­sive back to be se­lected by Wash­ing-

ton in the top 10 since Coach Joe Gibbs re­turned to the fran­chise in 2004.

“The sixth pick in the coun­try is some­body who, to be truth­ful, a big part of the salary cap will go to this per­son,” Gibbs said. “And as I said be­fore, our feel­ing was with this pick we need to pick some­one we feel like is go­ing to play for a long time and has a chance to do some out­stand­ing things. I would say most peo­ple in the league did their home­work and most peo­ple in the league felt like this guy was go­ing to be a high pick.”

Safety Sean Tay­lor was picked fifth over­all in 2004 — like Landry he is among the high­est-drafted safeties in NFL his­tory — and cor­ner­back Car­los Rogers was taken ninth over­all in 2005, but Gibbs said the team was not overly con­cerned with the trend. The Red­skins’ de­fen­sive backs were unim­pres­sive last sea­son as the de­fense slipped to 31st in the league. The team was beaten re­peat­edly for deep passes, in­ter­cepted only six passes and forced the fewest num­ber of turnovers in league his­tory. They yielded 54 passes of 20 yards or longer and have signed two free agent corner­backs (Fred Smoot and David Mack­lin) this off­sea­son.

Sev­eral scouts and per­son­nel ex­ec­u­tives ques­tioned how Tay­lor and Landry will fit to­gether, given their youth, ten­den­cies and sim­i­lar­i­ties. As Gibbs said yes­ter­day, both are ag­gres­sive, heavy hit­ters; Tay­lor has faced a steep learn­ing curve ad­just­ing his cov­er­age skills to the NFL, of­ten sac­ri­fic­ing po­si­tion­ing for the big hit and mak­ing mis­takes. Landry re­port­edly is more of a film­room fix­ture than Tay­lor, but all young safeties must make ad­just­ments and the Red­skins have needed a calm­ing pres­ence to play with Tay­lor in the past.

“It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how he fits in with Sean,” Gibbs said.

Landry, whose brother Dawan is a start­ing safety with Bal­ti­more, said he is a fan of Tay­lor’s and has stud­ied his film from high school and col­lege. Landry can play ei­ther safety po­si­tion, hang deep as a “cen­ter fielder,” stick to one-half of the field in a cover-2 scheme or play near the line to aid the pass rush.

“I’m the com­plete pack­age,” Landry said yes­ter­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call when asked for a self-eval­u­a­tion.

Should Landry land a con­tract big­ger than the one that Tay­lor signed in 2004 — which is highly prob­a­ble — that could be­come an is­sue. (Tay­lor has two years left on his deal, and be­gan ex­press­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion with that rookie con­tract shortly af­ter sign­ing it.) Tay­lor’s play slipped in 2006 — along with that of the en­tire de­fense — and Gibbs hopes Landry’s tal­ent brings out the best in Tay­lor. “We need to get [Tay­lor] back to pick­ing balls off,” Gibbs said.

Said Landry: “I just give 110 per­cent ef­fort. I have a very great mind-set, an ed­u­cated mind for the game. I’m a stu­dent of the game and I try to get other guys to match my in­ten­sity. I lead by ex­am­ple. I’m not re­ally a talker. I lead by ex­am­ple and try to get other guys to get on the same page as me.”

While Landry, in time, could lead an elite sec­ondary, the Red­skins have yet to bol­ster their de­fen­sive line through free agency, trades or the draft. Cre­at­ing turnovers — some­thing the team has not done much in Gibbs’s sec­ond ten­ure — starts in the trenches, and the Red­skins have an ag­ing line de­void of much in­di­vid­ual flair or ends who cause matchup prob­lems for op­po­nents. They have lacked a home­grown im­pact pass rusher since tak­ing Charles Mann in 1983, yet have not taken one in the first round since 1997 (Ke­nard Lang).

Gibbs said the fran­chise felt no par­tic­u­lar pres­sure to take a de­fen­sive line­man and has con­tin­ued to praise the unit, say­ing yes­ter­day that de­fen­sive line coach Greg Blache “feels good about” the line. How­ever, team sources have said de­fen­sive end is in­deed an area of con­cern and ex­pect Gibbs and owner Daniel Sny­der to seek a trade for an es­tab­lished end.

The Red­skins will try to find a de­fen­sive line­man and a line­backer at least ca­pa­ble of mak­ing the ros­ter dur­ing to­day’s sec­ond ses­sion of the draft, hold­ing one pick in the fifth and sev­enth rounds, and two in the sixth. There are con­cerns that linebackers Mar­cus Wash­ing­ton (hip) and Rocky McIn­tosh (knee) could face lin­ger­ing health prob­lems while vet­eran de­fen­sive line­men such as Re­naldo Wynn, Phillip Daniels, Cor­nelius Grif­fin and Joe Salave’a are ei­ther near­ing the end of their ca­reers or have been dogged by in­jury prob­lems the last two years.

Find­ing a star at any po­si­tion that late will be dif­fi­cult, how­ever.

“[Sun­day] is go­ing to be very im­por­tant for us,” Gibbs said of the lat­ter rounds. “We’ve spent a lot of time on it.”


Red­skins Coach Joe Gibbs ad­dresses fans at FedEx Field dur­ing the first day of the draft. “Sun­day is go­ing to be very im­por­tant for us,” he said.


LaRon Landry, knock­ing down Alabama quar­ter­back Brodie Croyle, is known as a hard hit­ter, sim­i­lar to fel­low Red­skins safety Sean Tay­lor. “It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how he fits in with Sean,” Gibbs said.


Landry, next to his agent, Joel Se­gal, cel­e­brates af­ter get­ting word by phone in Ken­ner, La., that he has been drafted, as the an­nounce­ment takes place on television. “I’m the com­plete pack­age,” Landry said.

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