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LaRon Landry To Be Strong Safety In A Defense Without Strong Safeties

Posted by Matt Terl on April 18, 2010 – 6:25 pm

One of the most repeated questions of the offseason was answered today, with a resounding yes … and no.

The question seems simple: will LaRon Landry be moved to strong safety, where he can use his strength and hitting ability in close quarters, rather than spending time in coverage as a free safety?

On a basic level, the answer is yes: Landry told reporters today that he’d be “in the box a little bit more” this year, which also offers a reason for his increased bulk. (He claims to be shooting for an improbable-sounding 240 pounds, and is currently hovering around 230. “It ain’t never gonna stop,” Landry when asked about his muscle gain.)

But new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett raised an interesting point that clouds the waters a bit: there actually isn’t a strong safety in this defense as such.

“In our scheme we don’t have a strong and free,” Haslett said. “We have a left and right, open and closed. You can call it what you want. They have to know both spots because of motions and shifts. You can call it strong, free, it doesn’t really make a difference. They will all be in the box. They will all be in space. They will all blitz. They will all do a number of different things.” (This also squares with Chris Horton‘s description of the two positions to me a few weeks back.)

And here was Haslett’s analysis of Landry in particular: “I think you have to put him in the right spot. He is so, so fast that he doesn’t know how to temper his speed. The guy is unbelievably fast, and I think once we can harness that a little bit and get him to take some better angles, I think he is going to be a better football player. The scheme will help him and some of the things we will do will help him. He’s a talented kid, he really is. He has unbelievable speed. If we can take advantage of it and use it right, I think it will be to his best advantage and to ours. It will help us win more games.”

All of which suits Landry just fine. “I don’t wanna be put in a position like I was in last year,” Landry said. “It wasn’t — I can’t say it was the defensive scheme or anything like that — but I was free safety, more of a ‘savior’ of the defense, and my gameplay is more an aggressive-type style. And bein’ free safety, you’ve really gotta sit back and let things come to you, but in the defense this year, I’m down in more action.”

(For those of you who scoff at the “savior” line, it’s part of safeties coach Steve Jackson’s terminology for Landry’s role last year. When I interviewed Coach Jackson last offseason, he referred to Landry as traffic cop, angel, and — yes — savior.)

Landry had on a wide grin as he explained this. “It’s fun. It’ll be a fun year.”

(And — because I’ve been asked about this more than I care to acknowledge — Landry also said that his white-faced capuchin monkey Gucci is “doin’ great, man. Real great, and big,” and thanked everyone for their interest. Landry is one interesting guy, that’s for sure.)

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