It’s an annual ritual of preseason, choosing “Players To Watch” in the games. I’ve been asked this question a few times already — on the radio, on Redskins Nation, via email — and I’ve given a different answer each time. Not because I have difficulty making up my mind, but because just about EVERYONE on the Redskins is competing for something — playing time, respect, redemption, validation, whatever.
There’s going to be live pregame show (cleverly titled Redskins Pre-game Live, sponsored by Verizon Fios) on Redskins.com tonight at 6:30; I’ll be on it, and I fully expect to be asked AGAIN for a Player To Watch. This time, I’m going to say LaRon Landry, and the more I think about it the more convinced I am that he’s the correct answer.
Landry had a rough year last year, and is already being considered a draft bust by some. He displayed a tendency to go for the explosive killshot rather than the sure tackle, and he also had some problems getting beaten in coverage. But he’s an exceedingly gifted athlete, and it’s always looked like — if he could just put everything together — he could be dominating force in the secondary.
This year looks like his chance. The new, attacking defensive scheme should accentuate Landry’s strong points, and being positioned closer to the line of scrimmage might make better use of his strength and power. And, perhaps most importantly, he’s approaching the season with a renewed sense of seriousness and focus.
After a practice that saw Landry recognize and blow up a screen pass last week, safeties coach Steve Jackson was asked what had made the most difference in Landry’s play this year. “Focus, focus, focus,” Jackson said. “Now as opposed to just going out and trying to make plays, he wants to understand ‘What happened on that play’, ‘What did I do wrong’, ‘What do I need to fix so that the next play I get even that much closer to the ball and that much closer to the tackle.’ And, I mean, it’s every play.”
And this, Jackson made clear, is new behavior: “He wasn’t like that last year,” Jackson said. “He relied more on his athletic ability.”
So that’s why LaRon Landry is my player to watch tonight. Now, all that having been said, he certainly hasn’t dialed down the unique personality he brings to practice. Like the thing hanging off his uniform in the picture above. “That’s my tiger tail,” he says.
Ask if it’s somehow related to mascot at LSU, his alma mater, and Landry shrugs. “I’m just accustomed to the tiger tail,” he says. “I always do the tiger tail.”
Then there are the shoes:
Customized NikeID shoes made by Landry’s brother, they’re not all THAT surprising: Dirty 30 is a nickname he’s gone by. But … why the extra R in Dirrty?
“When he did it, he said they didn’t let him spell it out,” Landry explains, “like they thought it was derogatory or something, so he had to add the extra R.”
Well, okay then. And then there’s Landry’s workout attire. In a weight room that’s generally full of guys in gray T-shirts, Landry stands out by working out while wearing a white Redskins polo shirt. For his entire workout.
“It takes a grown man to lift the amount of weight I lift,” Landry says, “so I’ve gotta wear grown man attire. So I go in there with a collared shirt on.”
“Grown man weight,” he repeats, before starting his set. He’s not going to have the collared shirt on the field, but tonight will offer the first chance to see just how much he’s grown there as well.
Heading into tonight’s game, do you think Donovan McNabb will hear any booing? Vote here!
Tags: LaRon Landry, preseason game 1, training camp 2010
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